While not on the front pages of newspapers, responses from nature organizations to conservation commitments made by Finance Minister Bill Morneau in the recently tabled federal budget were highly favourable.
The government has earmarked $1.3 billion over the next five years to expand protection of the country’s ecosystems, landscapes and biodiversity, and to bolster protection of species at risk. This initiative was cheered by many leading national nature organizations.
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Steven Price, president of Bird Studies Canada, our leading national charitable organization dedicated to bird science and conservation, was greatly encouraged by the news. “Creating new protected areas helps stop habitat degradation and loss, saving birds and nature for future generations. We applaud the newly announced federal plans for meaningful investments in environmental conservation.”
Price also referred to the investment as historic in scope, and linked the commitment to conservation to the important work done not only by his organization’s scientists but also to citizen science work co-ordinated by BSC. “Results from our volunteer bird counts and targeted research help identify where protected areas are most needed.”
Nature Canada has been as enthusiastic in its response. Stephen Hazell, the organization’s Conservation Director, called the new commitment to conservation “a breakthrough for nature” and “a game-changer in recovering declining wildlife populations through protected area investments.”
He also linked this investment to the federal commitment made in 2010 by the Stephen Harper government to protect 17 per cent of the country’s lands and inland waters by 2020. Last year’s annual report from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society revealed that approximately 11 per cent of our land and water was protected, the lowest rate among G7 members.
Canada is home to 20 per cent of the planet’s forests and 24 per cent of its wetlands.
“Nature Canada and provincial and local nature groups are keen to work with governments, local and Indigenous communities, and industry to take full advantage of the opportunities to protect ecologically important places across the country,” added Hazell.
Ontario Nature was similarly pleased, describing the multi-year plan as “a home run for biodiversity conservation.” The organization’s executive director, Caroline Schultz, said, “This money is essential for protecting natural areas identified by Indigenous communities, provinces, territories, municipalities and private land conservancy organizations across Canada.”
Noting that 87 per cent of Canadians support the commitment to protect 17 per cent of the country’s lands and waters, Schultz also encouraged the government of Ontario “to do its part to protect the places that we all love.”
Other organizations that waded in with support for these provisions in the budget included the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Canada Parks and Wilderness Society. Steve Cornish, CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation, said “It’s great to see money for protected areas and species at risk.”
• Londoners are invited to participate in a free bird watching hike through Springbank Park at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Mar. 10. Meet the Nature London naturalist who will lead the hike in the Storybook Gardens parking lot.
• Community groups and organizations can apply to Nature London this month for an eco-grant in support of an environmental initiative. The range of grants to be awarded is from $500 to $10,000. For details, visit naturelondon.com.
• Tundra swans are now flying through in large numbers. I was at the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area recently and as well as seeing tundra swans I saw snow geese and a greater white-fronted goose. The Elgin Stewardship Council puts grain out for the swans each day and will be co-ordinating volunteer interpreters until Easter weekend. For a daily update on their birds, dial the swan line at (519) 773-SWAN. There were also many duck species in the Aylmer lagoon area.
• London wildlife photographer Diane Weiler presents many of her beautiful images of flora and fauna of the London region at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Mar. 16 at the London Civic Garden Centre on Springbank Dr. The cost is $5 for those who are not members of Nature London.
• The Centre for Environment and Sustainability’s Graduate Collaborative Program presents its annual EnviroCon on Friday, March 16 at Western University. Interdisciplinary presentations will be made by students, faculty, and community members. The event is free but preregistration is encouraged. Search on Envirocon 2018 for details.