Thank you, Mark.
For those of you reading along, I'll be doing a slightly shortened version of my presentation.
My name is Chloe O'Loughlin. I'm the director of terrestrial conservation at the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. We are Canada's voice for public wilderness protection. It's our vision to protect at least half of our public land and coastal waters. In Canada, 90% of the land and all of the oceans are public—they belong to the governments.
Today I will explain how a well-framed conservation plan would play out in British Columbia and give you on-the-ground examples at the provincial and community levels. My colleague, Alison Woodley, presented in Ottawa about the nationwide play-out, and I wanted to talk to you about how it would look in the small communities.
In 2009 and 2010, we celebrated with the federal government, the provincial government, and the related first nations two wonderful achievements. One was the establishment of the national marine conservation area around Haida Gwaii, and the other was the announcement of a national marine conservation area around the southern Gulf Islands. These are huge achievements that were received very well by the public, and there is lots more that needs to be done.
We believe that a successful national conservation plan should focus on four elements, at least. These are to protect, connect, restore, and engage the public.
Protection includes completing and caring for a network of protected areas for Canada, including the completion of the system of national parks and marine protected areas.
Connection means connecting the working landscape with these protected areas so that wildlife can move between the protected areas, through the managed landscape, and around industrial development. This is best achieved through regional land use and marine spatial planning, and then ensuring that there's a strong framework of environmental laws.
We strongly support the restoration of degraded ecosystems, and we encourage you to include Canadians, especially children and youth, in conserving nature. In British Columbia, we're working with the federal government in establishing new national parks in northern B.C., in the South Okanagan-Similkameen, and in the expansion of Waterton Lakes National Park into B.C.'s Flathead Valley.
Just yesterday we released our national report called “12 by 2012”, which assesses the degree of progress that has been made towards establishing 12 new key marine protected areas in our coastal waters, four of which we're working with you on in British Columbia.
National parks and marine protected areas are an important part of our national and provincial identity. They are as popular as hockey and the Canadian flag.
Around the world, protected areas are recognized as the cornerstone of conservation strategies. Our national parks and marine conservation areas are not only essential to achieving our mutual goals of protecting wildlife and healthy ecosystems for future generations, they are also immensely important to preserving Canadian identity and culture, supporting healthy citizens and communities, and providing substantial economic and job development benefits to local communities, the province, and the entire country.
In my position I have travelled all over the province and have met thousands of citizens from diverse backgrounds. I can tell you that the Government of Canada connects in a highly visible and positive way with citizens in the smaller communities through your national parks and marine protected areas.
In the face of a rapidly changing climate, it's also important to ensure that these protected areas are connected together in a way that allows plants and animals to move and shift in response to these changing conditions.
The national conservation plan can integrate two fundamental elements—the protected areas and the well-managed land and seascapes—under one framework. Success depends on doing both in a coordinated way. As I said before, the plan will only be successful if it is supported within a strong framework of environmental law.
Protected areas, such as national parks and marine protected areas, contribute significantly to our prosperity in British Columbia. According to the report, which is called Economic Impact of Parks Canada, in B.C., the established national parks like Mount Revelstoke National Park, on average, contribute $37.1 million per year to our province's GDP. They provide labour revenue of $25 million—this is per park, per year—and tax revenue of $3.5 million.
Visitor spending, which is very important in these communities, is on average $49 million per year. The economic benefits are enormous. In addition to that, each national park hires between 20 and 25 permanent jobs, and 570 spin-off jobs, such as extra people in the hotels and motels.
These parks and protected areas help our tourism sector immensely—locally, provincially, and across Canada—to gain international recognition, grow new emerging markets, increase our competitive advantage, expand the length of stay in the shoulder seasons, and significantly increase visitor spending.
Marine protected areas help support our sustainable fisheries in British Columbia, the province in which seafood production alone was valued at $1.4 billion in 2010. Marine protected areas act like fish nurseries, so the abundance of the fish increases significantly. They also tend to be larger and they have more successful reproduction. The marine protected areas are crucial to our fishing industry. They contribute as well to economic diversification, opportunities for investment, and population diversification.
I'm working to help establish a new national park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen, so I've talked a lot to the people in those communities. Oliver has no hotel, and they really would like to have a hotel. They believe that if there's a national park, they will be able to get investors to invest in a new hotel, which is important to their community.
In Penticton, they are always worried about losing their airport. They believe that if there's a national park they could encourage an additional carrier, which would ensure their local airport stays in place.
Osoyoos is comprised of a lot of retired people—a high percentage of retired people in the Okanagan—and at this point they're going to lose their high school. They believe, and it's been proven, that young people will move to be near a national park. The population diversification that's so important in the Okanagan could ensure that Osoyoos gets to keep a high school. The local citizens are really interested in the new permanent jobs that will result from the national park because this will allow their family members to stay in the community and their children to have summer jobs locally that will last the entire summer. These are important at the local level.
The national parks and marine protected areas help Canadians connect better to nature. Multiple independent studies have shown that spending time in nature improves both the mental and physical health of Canadians. We would support programs in the national conservation plan that would reconnect kids to nature. By working in partnerships with others, this is really possible.
In summary, the plan could make significant differences to conservation on the ground, provincially, and in the small communities across B.C. and across Canada, if it focuses on six outcomes.
One is to complete the network of protected areas for Canada, specifically completing all of the national parks in Canada and the marine protected areas that are part of the system's plan, ensuring that the protected areas are nested within the landscape and within seascapes that are managed to sustain wildlife and healthy ecosystems. In order to do this, we need to have regional planning and marine planning as well, throughout the country and on all three of our coasts.
It would position Canada as a global leader by committing to exceed the current international biodiversity targets of protecting 17% of land and 10% of the oceans by 2020. We have the opportunity to do this. We could be world leaders, ensuring that the conservation initiatives are grounded in strong science, traditional knowledge, good environmental laws. This should be a national conservation plan for all Canadians, inspiring all Canadians to participate in your plan, and then providing the programs and partnerships that reconnect our children and youth to nature. It could be inspirational in leadership and provide a legacy for generations to come.