Story | 07 Oct, 2022

Promising cross-government collaborations for conservation in Canada

As an inspiring example of collaboration across levels of government, Canada and the province of Nova Scotia are making important strides for conservation. Together, the federal and provincial governments have recently committed to establishing the province's first national urban park at Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes in Halifax. At the same time, the Federal and Provincial Environment Ministers announced a series of agreements aimed at protecting old-growth forests, improving ecological corridors, conserving coastal lands and creating an Atlantic archipelago national wildlife area by late 2024. Nova Scotia has also recently protected government-owned coastal land at Owls Head as a provincial park.

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Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes in Halifax is the first national urban park in Nova Scotia and among the first in Canada

Photo: Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society - Nova Scotia Chapter

These areas will contribute to Nova Scotia’s plans to conserve at least 20 per cent of its land and water areas by 2030, which is part of Canada's goal of protecting 30 per cent of the country's land and inland waters by 2030. They are welcome developments for conservationists amidst a concurrent flurry of fast-tracked approvals of urban residential expansions in Halifax and open-pit gold mines in the province.

Nova Scotia’s updated old-growth forest protection policy now applies to all old-growth forests on Crown (public) land. While commercial and industrial activities are prohibited in the protected areas, hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, and harvesting plants for cultural uses are still permitted. Earlier this year, updated silvicultural practices guidelines were also approved for all forests on Crown (public) land. Both advancements are part of the ongoing to work to create an ecological approach to forestry in Nova Scotia. If judiciously applied, such policies should improve the quality and quantity of older-aged forest in the province.

The new National Program for Ecological Corridors is led by Parks Canada and will support the identification of key ecological corridors to connect habitats and conserve biodiversity. It will enable other jurisdictions and organizations to develop better ecological connections between protected and conserved areas. In their announcement, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, who is also responsible for Parks Canada, stated,

Parks Canada will collaborate with other levels of government and a wide range of partners, experts, and stakeholders to develop criteria and map areas where these corridors would have the greatest positive effects for biodiversity conservation in key areas across Canada. This will include working with Indigenous partners to ensure that the program is informed by Indigenous Knowledge and contributes to reconciliation, through land stewardship and connection opportunities.

The National Program for Ecological Corridors is supported with an investment of 60.6 million Canadian dollars (CAD) over five years. It is part of an historic 2.3 billion CAD investment in natural legacy announced in Canada’s Budget 2021. The stated aim is to accelerate action to reduce biodiversity loss, protect ecosystems, and help Canada adapt to climate change.  

Ideally, these collaborative agreements will leverage programs such as national urban parks and corridors and provincial protection and ecological forestry initiatives to conserve connected ecological networks across urban and rural lands and broad landscapes and coastal seascapes.

Efforts such as these represent the most crucial work and investments of our times, directly addressing crises of dramatic biodiversity declines, climate change and social-ecological justice, through nature-based solutions. I applaud these forward-looking initiatives and encourage further collaborations to a healthier shared future for all of life on earth.

 

Prof. Karen F. Beazley

School for Resource and Environmental Studies,

Dalhousie University,

Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Canada