Establishing protected areas is key to safeguarding biodiversity

Establishing protected areas is key to safeguarding biodiversity

From the Making Biodiversity Count Series

Establishing protected areas is key to safeguarding biodiversity

From the Making Biodiversity Count Series

By Jeremy Guth, trustee of the Woodcock Foundation and chair of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative development committee

Biodiversity Action Agenda Item 4.4

Lead the national implementation of the 20 AICHI Targets from the Convention on Biological Diversity, with clear timelines, by establishing a high-level multi-stakeholder task force reporting to the Prime Minister, moving beyond the usual suspects.

What are the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and where do we fit in?

Canada is going to need an extension for achieving Target 11 of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. More specifically, we’re going to need more time to fulfill our commitment of conserving at least 17% of terrestrial and inland waters by 2020.

To give you a little context, during the 2010 Conference of the Parties for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a Strategic Plan for Biodiversity was adopted by the signatories (including Canada). Referred to as the Aichi Targets, this plan outlined 20 global biodiversity targets. Target 11 states: “by 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.”

Deer in forest
Photo by Abben S on Unsplash

As we track our progress in achieving Target 11 during the first quarter of 2020, the latest estimates put our percentage at a @2.5 increase from 10% in 2010. Included in that percentage are some impressive landscapes including the establishment of the Edéhzhíe Protected Area in the Northwest Territories, totaling 14,218 square km, the protection of the 67,431 square km Peel Watershed in the Yukon and the 700 sq. km Qat’Muk (the Jumbo Valley) in British Columbia. 2.5% may not seem like much, but as the second-largest country in the world by territory, A SINGLE PERCENTAGE POINT FORWARD REPRESENTS A WHOPPING @93,000 SQUARE KM IN AREA.

This is certainly hard enough to complete in the less densely populated northern regions of the country. But to achieve protection at this scale in a way that represents the full suite of the country’s ecosystems and species, both resident and migratory, while connecting those species and their ecosystems will require far more than a “high-level multi-stakeholder task force”.

It will require something like a CULTURAL REVOLUTION.

Such a revolution would have us replace values and an identity that goes back to our beginnings as a European colony in which vast natural assets were considered something solely to be extracted and converted into the wealth. That wealth may have brought us global significance as a member of the “G7” group of the world’s largest economies, but the transformation of our values and the reforming of our identity and relationship to the natural sources of that wealth could give us even greater global significance. As Canadians, we could become stewards of some of the planet’s greatest reservoirs of life and its natural systems upon which we all depend. To bring about such a cultural revolution would be no insignificant challenge. And it would need to address our fears as much as our aspirations: all Canadians will need to see themselves making a living as much as living well within this new sustainable vision.

A sustainable relationship with the landscape

Fortunately, we can look for guidance from both the values and practice of Indigenous inhabitants of Canada. Most First Nations have retained cultural values for a sustainable relationship with the landscape. The resident Nations of the Edéhzhíe and Qat’Muk, will be directly applying their values as both places have been designated using the Convention for Biological Diversity’s (CBD’s) criteria for Indigenous Protected Areas (IPA’s). There is also a precedent for the Indigenous management of protected areas in BC; conceived well ahead of the setting of the Aichi Targets.

Painting of Black bear cub crossing river
Black bear cub crossing river, by Leanne Cadden, watercolour

In 2006, the Great Bear Rainforest was established as a vast protected area on the northern coast of the province (64,000 sq. km.) to sustain both nature and its guardians – as the Indigenous stewards are called. The balance is sought through the use of Ecosystem Based Managements (EBM). Great Bear’s EBM’s are co-created by the governments of BC and the resident First Nations partners and: “…are monitored and fine-tuned over time to improve how human activities are managed to ensure the coexistence of healthy, fully functioning ecosystems and local communities.” Reconciliation for First Nations has been combined with protection of land and waters in the case of the IPA’s and the Great Bear Rainforest. As such, it can also do much to reconcile the rest of (non-indigenous) Canada to another and viable way to live within our natural means.

How can you make biodiversity count?

Check out the Indigenous Circle of Experts’ Report, We Rise Together, to learn all about Indigenous Protected Areas in Canada. You can also visit the Indigenous Leadership Initiative website to learn more about the Indigenous Guardians program. Also, check out the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative website to explore how you and your community can take action.

About Making Biodiversity Count Series

In February 2019, the Biodiversity Action Agenda, authored by Women for Nature was published. It asks all Canadians to take immediate action on biodiversity loss as there is no recovery from extinction. As a 24-point action agenda, it offers a combination of actions, including low-hanging fruit as well as long-term systemic changes. Follow our blog for bi-weekly posts exploring each action.