Evidence of meeting #70 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was areas.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Lisa King  Director, Industry Relations Corporation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
Larry Innes  Legal Counsel, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
Alison Woodley  National Conservation Director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
Ron Bonnett  President, Canadian Federation of Agriculture
Richard Phillips  Executive Director, Grain Growers of Canada

8:45 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

I'd like to call to order the 70th meeting of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

We have with us today four groups as witnesses.

From the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, we have Lisa King, director, and Larry Innes, legal counsel.

From the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, we have Alison Woodley, national conservation director.

From the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, we have Ron Bonnett, president.

And from the Grain Growers of Canada, we have Richard Phillips, executive director.

Welcome to all of our witnesses today. I think you're all familiar with the process. We have a 10-minute opening round for each group. Following that, each of our committee members will have an opportunity to ask questions. First is a seven-minute round of questioning, which includes both the questions and the answers, and we'll move to a five-minute round after that. We have a two-hour meeting this morning.

We'll begin with Lisa King, director, industry relations, from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

Welcome, Ms. King.

8:45 a.m.

Lisa King Director, Industry Relations Corporation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation

Edlanet'e. Good morning.

My name is Lisa King. I'm here with my co-worker, Larry Innes. My ancestral name is Deskelni, which means “keeper of the river”. I'm a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. We call ourselves the Denesuline people of the Dene nations in North America.

Most of our membership lives in Fort Chipewyan, a remote fly-in community 235 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, on the north shore of Lake Athabasca, where the Peace and the Athabasca rivers meet.

Our territory extends throughout the Alberta Athabasca oil sands region. It has been dramatically affected by the extensive exploration and development of the massive unconventional oil and bitumen reserves that have been under way for nearly 50 years.

Oil sands developments have been expanded dramatically over the past half decade, to over 1.7 million barrels per day. There are plans to more than double this production by 2021. This has significant implications for the habitat conservation in the region and for the aboriginal peoples who depend on the wildlife, fish, and medicines that this land provides, what we call the traditional resources.

Our first nation recognizes the importance of responsible development of these resources in our region, to Alberta and to Canada as a whole. But unlike government and corporate decision-makers in Calgary, Ottawa, Houston, Paris, and Beijing, our people are the ones who have to live with the consequences of rapid and reckless industrial expansion. ACFN members are the ones who directly experience those impacts.

For centuries, our ancestors thrived on the bountiful traditional resources of our land. Our territory, which is almost at the centre of the vast Mackenzie watershed, provided an abundance for our people. We harvested moose, caribou, and bison from massive herds. In the spring and fall we took what we needed from the delta, which even today supports one of the largest concentrations of migratory waterfowl in North America. We fished from the abundance of species in Lake Athabasca, traded with our neighbouring Dene and Cree nations, and more recently sold fur to the European fur trading companies. It is no accident that Fort Chipewyan became one of the most important posts in the North West Company's vast network and accounted for a significant portion of that company's fur business.

When Canada's commissioners for Treaty 8 came north to our territory, they observed the most extensive marshes and feeding grounds for game in all of Canada, far surpassing those in the east. Numerous surveys conducted by 20th century scientists have confirmed that our lands are, or were, among the most significant in North America in terms of quality of the wildlife habitat and the diversity of species it sustains.

It is also important to recognize that when our ancestors signed Treaty 8 over a century ago, it was at a time of massive change. The railroads had pushed west, bringing a wave of new settlers to our territory. Then, as now, government officials assured our people that our traditional livelihood would be protected, and that we would continue to live as our ancestors had always done, from the bounties of our land.

Both Canada and Alberta recognize the importance of our territory as wildlife habitat. Canada's largest national park, Wood Buffalo, was carved out of our lands in the 1920s. In the 1950s, the Government of Alberta declared much of our land to be a game preserve. These actions, even though they were intended to protect habitat, had impacts on our people. Our treaty rights were not respected, and many of our hunters were prosecuted by game officers while the hunters were trying to provide for their families.

Today we supposedly live in more enlightened times. We have a Constitution that guarantees that our aboriginal and treaty rights will be respected. Many of our young people are continuing to practise our traditions using the lands our ancestors had. We have always stewarded to nourishing not only the bodies but the spirits of our people. I am among those Denesuline who continue those same traditions throughout our lands. But in Canada and Alberta, our treaty partners are not honouring the promises that were made to our ancestors. They are failing to protect the wildlife and lands that sustain our livelihood.

I am here to tell you that all the things our people have experienced and endured—the closure of large parts of our territory to hunting, the establishment of a national park, the ongoing loss of productive hunting lands to settlement, the damming of the Peace River by the W.A.C. Bennett Dam, and the oil sands developments around Fort McMurray—have been nothing more than a prelude to the massive changes that industry and government have planned for our land.

My partner Larry will continue.

8:50 a.m.

Larry Innes Legal Counsel, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation

We believe it is important to inform the members of this committee, and government as a whole, about what we're seeing on the ground about the challenges for habitat conservation in this region, for there is nowhere else in the country that faces more difficult challenges. Decades of letting the market decide has resulted in the allocation of leases for development with little regard for the ecological and cultural values that are at stake.

To address this challenge, over the years, ACFN, together with industry, conservation groups, governments, and other first nations, has worked through a number of processes to develop recommendations on thresholds necessary to maintain species habitat and biodiversity within the region. Under one such process, conducted under the umbrella of the industry- and government-sponsored Cumulative Effects Management Association, or CEMA, there were recommendations that no more than 5% to 14%, at a maximum, of the regional municipality of Wood Buffalo should ever be under intensive development at any one time, and that the level of disturbance outside of those intensively disturbed areas should be limited to 10% of the range of natural variability through disturbances like fire or insect outbreaks. However, currently more than 14,500 square kilometres of the entirety of the 68,000-square-kilometre regional municipality of Wood Buffalo, or 21% of the region, is either already developed or approved for development. Some 51% of the region is under lease and is subject to both ongoing exploration and future development.

It's clear that the existing development footprint has now far exceeded the CEMA recommendations for habitat. This is going to have profound impacts for wildlife, for habitat, and of course for the aboriginal people who depend on them. In effect, government and industry are ignoring their own advice. The Government of Alberta's lower Athabasca regional plan is not yet a solution, as the province has yet to develop a biodiversity framework for managing habitat outside of the small core of existing and proposed protected areas.

What we're here to say is that it's simply not possible to talk about habitat or conservation in the oil sands without taking into account the pace of development and the degree to which restoration is lagging behind development within the region.

It's somewhat shocking that in Alberta, oil companies are not actually required to restore disturbed wildlife habitat to its original state. They are permitted to return it to what is called “equivalent land capacity”, which is a much lighter standard. It's under those regulations and under that lighter standard that they remove buildings, recontour some of the disturbance, stabilize the soil, and revegetate it. But this does not mean that they are in fact returning the land to the productive wildlife capability it had before. This is particularly true in the case of wetlands, which scientists tell us take thousands of years to regenerate, where they regenerate at all. Wetlands, as you know, are incredibly important for fresh water, for water fowl habitat, and indeed for carbon storage. It is this fact that needs to be taken into account when we hear the messages from industry and the Government of Alberta. Everyone acknowledges that disturbance is taking place, yet to place our hopes in yet unproven reclamation technology is perhaps, at this point, a leap too far.

These technologies have not been proven, and there is significant scientific uncertainty about whether the equivalent land capability standard, as currently practised, will ever support future traditional uses by aboriginal people. As such, future generations have no certainty that wildlife will be protected or that harvesting traditional resources, as guaranteed under the treaties, can continue forever.

We can't, as Canadians, afford to be wrong on something like this. We need better science, we need traditional knowledge, and we need informed policy that takes into account these facts, as they are, on the ground. In more than 40 years of oil sands operations, only 48 square kilometres have been restored. This is insufficient.

We've got about one minute, so I'll just turn it over—

8:55 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

You're over time, so could you wrap up quickly?

8:55 a.m.

Director, Industry Relations Corporation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation

Lisa King

We believe the only way forward is for our people to be essential in decisions that are made about the future of this region. This is what we understand our treaty with the crown to require. The treaty is about sharing a land, but it requires the crown to honour the promises it made to us.

The ACFN takes responsibility to protect land seriously. We have our own laws and traditional teachings to guide us. We have been bringing forward our solutions to the problems that government and industry are creating but seem unwilling or unable to address. We know there are solutions to the challenges we face, but they will require government and industry to take a different approach.

8:55 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you, and thank you, Mr. Innes. We're going to move now to Ms. Woodley.

If you have further comments to make, maybe you can weave them into some of the responses later on. We want to honour the time of all our witnesses today.

We're at about 11:30, so we'll move ahead.

Ms. Woodley.

8:55 a.m.

Alison Woodley National Conservation Director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society

Thank you very much.

Good morning, and thank you for the opportunity to share our recommendations on terrestrial habitat conservation in Canada with the committee.

My name is Alison Woodley. I’m the national conservation director at CPAWS.

CPAWS is Canada's voice for public wilderness protection. Since our creation in 1963, we've played a key role in the establishment of over two-thirds of Canada’s protected areas. We have 13 regional chapters in nearly every province and territory, as well as a national office here in Ottawa, and over 50,000 active supporters across the country.

Our goal is to ensure that at least half of Canada's public lands, fresh waters, and ocean environments remain permanently wild for the public trust. We are involved in efforts to create and manage parks and protected areas and in landscape-scale conservation initiatives in all regions of the country.

Today I'd like to focus on three key points.

First, Canada needs to complete an effective network of protected areas, and this should be the cornerstone of the national conservation plan. The federal government can participate in that by completing the national parks system and by leading a nationwide effort to complete a national protected areas network.

Second, protected areas should be integrated into the sustainable management of the broader landscape through land use planning and through other landscape-scale initiatives. One example I'll speak to is the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement.

Third, the national conservation plan should enable progress on conservation in all regions of Canada by supporting a suite of tools and approaches. For example, the tools that are needed on the 10% of Canada that is private land are different from the tools and approaches that work in the 90% of Canada that is public land. We need to support a full suite of tools to ensure that our national conservation plan and our habitat conservation efforts work in all regions of the country.

But I'd like to start by just making a few remarks about why habitat conservation matters.

Habitat conservation is about protecting life. It's about protecting the full diversity of life on earth, the very life support system of the planet.

Biodiversity provides fundamental services to people, like clean drinking water. It decomposes our waste, pollinates our crops, and buffers us from natural disasters. It provides medicine, food, clothing, building materials, and much, much more. It supports our health, our cultures, our economy. Biodiversity provides significant economic benefits from both ecosystem services and the nature-based tourism industry that relies on it.

The Northwest Territories protected areas strategy, which I was involved with for many years, has a motto that says, “The land takes care of us, we take care of the land”. To me, this captures the essence of why habitat conservation and protected areas are so important. If we want the land to take care of us, we must take care of the land.

The primary threat to biodiversity, both globally and in Canada, is habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation. Action to protect and restore habitat is fundamental to conserving biodiversity, to conserving the life support system of the planet.

Yet, in spite of all of our efforts today, Canada and indeed the world's biodiversity continues to decline. It’s clear that we need to do more.

So what do we need to do?

I'm going to comment here on a few of the elements we need to do, not the full, comprehensive suite of everything we need to do, but the elements that we're involved with particularly.

There is agreement around the world, including by major international institutions, that protected areas are the cornerstone of conservation efforts. The World Bank said: “An ecologically-representative, diversified and well-managed protected areas system is the most effective way to safeguard biodiversity.”

While we have many spectacular parks and protected areas in Canada, and while our system does continue to grow, we still don't have an adequate protected areas system in place. There are many gaps. Less than 10% of our land in Canada is protected, and most of our protected areas are far too small and isolated to effectively protect healthy ecosystems.

We need to accelerate our efforts. There are opportunities, moving forward, and as we move forward, we really should be considering other potential models of protected areas. We need to incorporate our protected private lands and, in particular, indigenous protection models into our suite of tools that we recognize and pull into our reporting.

Australia has done a good job of integrating private and indigenous conserved lands into its national reserve system, and I think there is huge opportunity to do something similar here in Canada. There is lots of potential to accelerate our work on protected areas. There are national park proposals in the Northwest Territories, Labrador, B.C., Nova Scotia, and Nunavut. There are six national wildlife areas proposed and being worked on in the Northwest Territories and several territorial protected areas under consideration there as well. In Quebec and Ontario there are commitments to protect at least half of the northern territories. Manitoba, Quebec, and Nova Scotia are actively creating significant new protected areas. Getting these over the finish line and achieving this potential will depend on political will and on having adequate resources to complete the protected areas.

Accelerating our efforts to complete an effective nationwide network should be the cornerstone of a national conservation plan. Last year CPAWS recommended—and we continue to recommend—that setting a target of protecting 20% of our land by 2020 is both ambitious and achievable.

While protected areas are crucial, we know they alone will not be enough to achieve biodiversity conservation. Sustainably managing the working landscape is critical to ensure that wide-ranging species can move between protected areas and to enable plants and animals to shift in response to changing conditions. This connectivity will become more and more important in the face of a changing climate. Land-use planning is an important tool that can bring together protected areas and sustainable management of the working landscape.

An innovative project that we're involved with, which contributes to conservation of the working landscape and brings the protected areas and working landscape together on public lands, is the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. CPAWS is a partner in the CBFA, which covers a massive area of land—72 million hectares—under tenure to members of the Forest Products Association of Canada. Through the CBFA, CPAWS and our partners are working with the forest industry to develop protected areas and caribou conservation plans and to strengthen industry conservation practices. We are working with aboriginal communities, with provincial governments, and with mayors in various regions of the boreal forest. Our aim is to find solutions that address both conservation and economic goals, and to implement these solutions on the land.

Other projects we're involved with that bring together protected areas and the working landscape include the Forest Stewardship Council certification program, and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, which works to conserve the natural heritage of the western mountain landscape.

I'd like to make a few comments about using the right tools in the right places. Canada is a vast and diverse country, geographically and culturally, and different conservation tools and approaches are needed in different parts of the country. For example, land trusts, private stewardship initiatives, and programs like eco gifts are very important conservation tools in southern Canada, where there's a high percentage of privately owned land and a dense population.

As you move further north, into the 90% of Canada that is public land, different tools are needed. In the middle of Canada, where much of the landscape is allocated to resource harvesting, protected areas and land use planning combine with habitat protection under the Species at Risk Act, and initiatives like the CBFA and forest practices certification systems are important to tackle habitat conservation challenges.

Further north still, in the territories and the northern portions of many provinces, landscapes are still largely intact, but large-scale development proposals are very quickly emerging. In these areas there is an urgent need to identify and protect important conservation areas in advance of development. Conservation in these areas is often led by indigenous peoples and linked to land claim agreements. Land use planning and protected areas are key habitat conservation tools. A few examples include land use planning that's going on in the Dehcho and Sahtu regions of the Northwest Territories, land use plans led by the Innu of Labrador, the Northwest Territories protected areas strategy, and the establishment of large provincial protected areas proposed by indigenous communities in northern Quebec and Manitoba.

I'd like to end with just a few recommendations.

Specific recommendations for federal action that we're making include first of all completing Canada's network of protected areas. The federal government's role includes completing the national parks system and the six national wildlife areas currently proposed in the NWT and making sure existing parks and protected areas are well resourced and managed to protect their ecological integrity. The federal government can also play a role in leading this nationwide effort to complete an effective network of protected areas.

We also need to link protected areas in the working landscape, and the federal government can play an important role by supporting regional land use planning; supporting collaborative landscape-scale initiatives like the CBFA; maintaining a strong effective federal Species at Risk Act; implementing the boreal woodland caribou recovery strategy across the country; and leading the development of a nation-wide ecosystem health monitoring and reporting program linked to our protected areas system so that Canadians can better understand the conditions of wildlife habitat in Canada.

With that, I'll wrap it up. Thank you.

9:05 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you so much, Ms. Woodley.

We're going to move now to Ron Bonnett, from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

9:05 a.m.

Ron Bonnett President, Canadian Federation of Agriculture

Thank you, and thanks for the invitation to come and present to your committee.

As mentioned, my name is Ron Bonnett. In addition to being president of the CFA, I'm an active farmer near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

CFA has been long involved with a number of environmental initiatives, whether it be species at risk or the national conservation plan that's been announced. We have been supportive of the whole concept of developing a national conservation plan. That plan has to be based on the whole concept of sustainability that looks at economic, social, and environmental components in order that it be effective.

Canadian agriculture, in perspective, is a strong economic driver in the Canadian economy. We participate with 8% of the GDP, and we're the third-largest contributor to GDP after the finance sector and non-food manufacturing. One in eight Canadian jobs depends on agriculture, and our trade export has gone up to $40.3 billion in 2011, up 271%. Farmers now produce two times the output with only half the resources that we had in 1961. With respect to value added, it's 34% higher than it was in the previous five-year average.

I'm going to switch this around and put some of our recommendations right up front. The first is to ease the real and perceived regulatory burden that the species at risk and migratory bird acts place on private landowners. Second, focus on the management of critical habitat—“protected” is a result, not a state. Third, take steps to allow innovative and effective conservation and stewardship programs to thrive in the Species At Risk Act. Fourth, the national conservation plan should enhance the value placed on habitat by promoting innovative incentive programs for ecological goods and services. Finally, we need to complete the development of compensation regulations to really drive results.

Where does agriculture fit into this? Habitat in agriculture is part of a multi-faceted agricultural landscape. We're a major component of Canada's working landscape. We have 64.8 million hectares—7% of the farm land. I think when it comes to habitat protection, we bat above our weight, because a lot of those critters, we like to call them, love that interaction between the farm and the forest. They use agricultural land as part of the landscape they work on.

Agriculture provides this important habitat—550 species of terrestrial vertebrates utilize agricultural land. If you look at species at risk, over 220 species of terrestrial vertebrates on agricultural land are assessed as high risk nationally. What we need to look at with any national conservation plan is how to lever up this private land to get results for habitat protection.

That raises the question of how habitat is protected in agriculture now.

There are a number of federal and provincial agriculture department programs. Thirty-five percent of farms have developed an environmental farm plan; 74,000 farms—or 50% of the agricultural land—are covered by these plans. These plans go into looking at habitat protection and where your species are, trying to come up with solutions for those. Ninety-four percent of the farms with an environmental farm plan have implemented the beneficial management practices. There are a number of different programs in place. Alternative land use services programs in P.E.I and Manitoba are taking a look at how we can drive incentives in different regions.

We have the Environment Canada habitat stewardship program, which is in place to help drive stewardship initiatives.

With regard to conservation groups and programs, there are a number of partnerships that have been developed. I mentioned ALUS—alternate land use services. We have Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Wildlife Habitat Canada, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Cows and Fish—a number of different programs where farmers and other groups are finding common ground to meet some of the objectives of habitat protection. Some municipalities as well have local incentives to try to encourage different types of habitat protection.

The state of habitat, though, on agricultural land has declined in the last number of years. Part of that is driven by factors outside of agriculture, perhaps some land that was in pasture land before has gone into crop land, mainly because of economics. I think one of the things we have to look at when we're looking at putting programs in place is how we can make sure the incentive is there to encourage habitat protection.

One of the big challenges in conserving habitat on agricultural land is that most productive agricultural land coincides with areas of high biodiversity. The value for this land in production means that natural and semi-natural land moves to agricultural production, leading to loss of landscape. So we need to take a look at the economic aspect of it.

How can the national conservation plan improve habitat conservation efforts on private land? I think one of the quick ways is to ease the real and perceived regulatory burden that environmental legislation places on private land owners. Prohibitions on crucial habitat on private land for federal species should not be automatic, but should only occur after a consultation with landowners. The real focus behind that is to see if there are management practices that can be used to address the need, as opposed to an outright ban. It's fair to say, too, as a farmer, that if you come in with a regulation, there is immediately a pushback, but if you come in with a partnership, with an incentive, there's a willingness to try to cooperate.

Focus on the management of Canadian critical habitat. I made the statement to you before that “protected” is a result, not a state. I think all too often we start looking at specific items within habitat protection as to what the perceived result is that we want and how we get there.

We need to take steps to allow innovative and effective conservation and stewardship programs to thrive in the Species At Risk Act. Currently the terms “protection” and “effective protection” of critical habitat are not clearly defined. There's a lack of a definition for these terms, which impedes farmers, conservation groups, and governments from developing compliant stewardship programs. Once defined, existing programs—for example, environmental farm plans—could become species-at-risk compliant. We could build that in to the whole process. In the United States, they have the ability to develop conservation agreements with assurances to bring regulatory certainty to farmers, so that they know what they're facing.

The national conservation plan should promote innovative incentive programs for ecological goods and services to enhance the conservation value of habitat. By enhancing effective government programs like habitat stewardship programs, you will drive success and stimulate public-private and private-private partnerships between conservation groups and landowners. Modest amounts of government funding can incent tremendous conservation outcomes from conservation groups.

The final point would be to complete the development of compensation regulations. That focus should not necessarily be on compensating for lost land, but it should develop an appropriate compensation framework for incentives that guide landscape-based conservation programs. By guiding those programs, we get the outcomes we want without having to set aside all of the land.

That brings me to the conclusion of my comments. Again, going back to the first statement, there are five key points: ease the real and perceived regulatory burden; focus on management of critical habitat; take steps to allow innovative and effective conservation and stewardship programs; enhance value placed on habitat by promoting innovative incentive programs; and complete the development of compensation regulations.

Thank you.

9:15 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you very much, Mr. Bonnett. You have a full minute left.

I just want to point out to the committee that if you weren't following the outline that the Canadian Federation of Agriculture gave you, please make sure you refer to it. There are some excellent points in print for you to get back to later.

We're going to go now to Mr. Phillips, from the Grain Growers of Canada.

Welcome, Mr. Phillips.

9:15 a.m.

Richard Phillips Executive Director, Grain Growers of Canada

I'll just draw everyone's attention to the handout we have, with some photos. There were some captions, but unfortunately I didn't have time to get them all translated, so I will just speak to the actual photos.

9:15 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

I just figured you assumed that we wouldn't be able to read that well, Mr. Phillips. Thank you for the pictures. We enjoy them.

9:15 a.m.

Executive Director, Grain Growers of Canada

Richard Phillips

That's not the case for all members, but thank you for your honesty, Mr. Chair.

My name is Richard Phillips. I am with the Grain Growers of Canada.

In the first photo you'll see the smiling family with the children. This is Franck Groeneweg. Franck farms just outside of Regina, Saskatchewan, about three hours south of where my farm is.

Franck is originally from France. He comes from south of Paris, actually. Franck is a farmer with 7,500 acres to put in, in the spring, and 7,500 acres to take off in the fall.

Franck is a very modern farmer. He uses the most modern technologies and crops and machinery available to farm in as environmentally friendly and sustainable a way as possible.

The next photo there is a picture of a field. I just want to touch on some things there and point out some stuff to you. This is a half section, which is 120 acres, so it's one mile long and half a mile wide. And 283 acres are zero till. Zero till means that Franck just goes in and seeds directly and doesn't move the soil around, cultivating or working it up to control weeds.

That 283 acres you see is carbon sequestration. He has 37 acres, or about 11% of the land, set aside for wildlife conservation.

This is what a lot of farmers will do. I think you'll find most farmers, where there is a chance to preserve some habitat and farm efficiently, will do so.

There are some small lines indicated. This is where the water has been running across the field, and he's seeded some grass in there. When you seed the grass in there, you just go through with your machinery. You just lift your machinery up as you go over top of it and then you drop it down again. That allows you to go almost a full mile with your machinery.

Today's machines are much larger than the farm machinery we used to have. You simply can't be turning around the way we did when we used to farm, in and around all the potholes and all the slough. So most farmers have cleaned up their land to have these long runs, because they make efficient use of their machinery and their time.

In total, of Franck's 7,500 acres, he has just over 900 acres set aside for environmental purposes. Zero tillage, with less soil disturbance, provides for wildlife habitat conservation.

On the next page there is some stuff on Ducks Unlimited I want to go through with you. There is a partnership that we, as farmers, work with very carefully across Canada. It's not just on the prairies.

There is a photo here of what winter wheat stubble looks like. If you plant winter wheat in the winter, wheat stubble will trap snow through the winter, and in the spring you don't have to work the soil at all because the wheat just regenerates and comes up. That allows the wildlife to nest in there. There is a photo of an egg in a plant providing nesting cover for ducks there.

On the next page you'll see the eggs again. If you look closely, you can actually see a duck sitting in the wheat field there, in the photo on page 8.

That's the sort of stuff you get if you can avoid working your fields at all in the spring, but that's not reality for a lot of farmers because we don't have winter canola that we can plant in the fall, and we don't have a lot of winter crops, and even for winter wheat there is a limit to how many acres you can grow in there, because of winter hardiness, as you go further north.

There are also other things we do with Ducks Unlimited, such as delayed hay cuts, for example. If you have a forage crop and you leave it a little bit longer, there is a chance for the ducks to hatch out of their eggs and get back to the water before the hay is cut.

Those are the sorts of things we do. Again, it's an economic partnership with Ducks Unlimited.

The last photo is just of the ducks. I just want to say that farmers do like being good stewards of our land; we do like habitat, and we do like having water fowl and wildlife around.

As Mr. Bonnett mentioned, though, we need partnerships with society, because there are some areas in which society can play a role in helping us protect that land. He mentioned the ALUS program. You'll hear more about that on Thursday from Doug Chorney, from Keystone Agricultural Producers, with which society has partnered to preserve land and set it aside.

I also want to bring back a reality. I want to go back to this picture of the field and tell you a true story about some land I bought three years ago. Looking at how we can drive the tractor almost a mile up and down, I bought some land, and it had a lot of bigger trees and potholes. I could not find a single farmer to farm that land for me, because there was no place he could even drive a half a mile without turning the big machinery around.

All the farmers said, “I'm sorry, but even if you give it to me for free, I'm not going to farm it, because I don't like that much overlap in my chemicals and my fertilizers and my seed. It's just not worth the trouble, time, and hassle.”

We cleared off a bunch of the bush on the land so that people could make a half-mile run. Now, we did leave places for wildlife at the sides, but the reality today is that I see a lot of tree rows being knocked down so that people can make those longer runs. Just for the reality and the economics of farming, that's what's happening. I see this a lot in Ontario.

We did leave some bush, and I have some bees on my land, but at the end of the day, in order to allow farming to continue commercially, I couldn't find anybody to do it unless I did some clearing of land. That's the reality of what we face as farmers.

We want to be good stewards. If we can work with society in general to set aside more land for preservation, that's great.

Thank you very much. I look forward to the questions and some open discussion.

9:20 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you very much, Mr. Phillips.

Thanks to all our witnesses.

We're going to move now to the opening round of seven minutes each. We're going to begin with Mr. Sopuck.

Go ahead, Mr. Sopuck.

9:20 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Thanks to our witnesses for being here.

Ms. Woodley, what is your definition of “protected area”? What exactly do you mean by that?

9:20 a.m.

National Conservation Director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society

Alison Woodley

At CPAWS, and in Canada generally, we endorse the international definition for a protected area that's put forward under the convention on biodiversity and the IUCN, which has various elements. It's an area that is managed to protect biodiversity as a first priority.

It recognizes that there are many other benefits but that the management of nature, or the protection of nature, has to be the first priority. It has an element that says there needs to be a clearly defined area, so there need to be lines on a map of what area it includes. It needs to be protected in the long term. Those are the kinds of elements that are part of that definition, so we use that.

We also clarify. Because there can be discussions about what that means, at CPAWS we also have a clear definition that it's an area where there is no industrial development—no commercial forestry, no oil and gas exploration or development, no mining, no major hydro, that kind of thing.

9:25 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

In your comment about the World Bank, in talking about managed areas, I think this is an important point to make. You used the phrase that these areas are managed for biodiversity. We know that some kinds of forestry, such as commercial forestry, for example, can be used as a tool to enhance biodiversity. Don't you think that's kind of an artificial distinction to make when the actual goal is the conservation of biodiversity? What does it matter if it's commercial forestry or not? The whole point is biodiversity conservation.

I have come from the forest industry myself. Well-managed second-growth forests are incredibly diverse in terms of the wildlife they support.

9:25 a.m.

National Conservation Director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society

Alison Woodley

Yes, and obviously sustainable management of the broader landscape is absolutely important, and the forest industry plays an important role, but the protected areas are areas that are set aside from that level of impact. The forest industry recognizes as well the importance of protected areas. The Forest Stewardship Council certification has a methodology to identify protected areas within it. For example, one of the goals of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement is to jointly identify areas that should be set aside as protected areas.

9:25 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

One of the things under the Species at Risk Act, given its regulatory nature, or at least parts of it, Ms. Woodley, is that it potentially makes habitat for endangered species on the private landscape a liability to the private landowner. Don't you think we should be looking at this so that endangered species habitat on the private landscape could be considered an asset to the landowner?

9:25 a.m.

National Conservation Director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society

Alison Woodley

CPAWS works on public land. That's our niche, so we're not involved in private land as much. I will defer that question; however, I think that.... Well, I'll just defer the question.

9:25 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB


Again, Ms. Woodley, in terms of conservation agreements with private industry under SARA, for example, to conserve habitat for endangered species, the problem with those agreements under SARA is that these industrial proponents, even though they enter into good faith conservation agreements and do all the right things for endangered species in their areas, are still liable if something happens to an individual of that species.

There is a push to indemnify them from this so that they will even more eagerly embrace the notion of conservation agreements. Would you recommend that we go in that direction?

9:25 a.m.

National Conservation Director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society

Alison Woodley

Well, my understanding is that yes, the act certainly enables the signing of conservation agreements, both for that kind of voluntary stewardship initiative and for those under the permit section of the act. One of the challenges we see is that those stewardship tools, those tools to actually implement the act, have not been fully elaborated on.

The policy frameworks, the regulatory frameworks, haven't been created. There's a whole suite of tools for implementing the act that were envisioned in the design of the act, and they really aren't being fully used. There's a lot of work to be done to actually make those more usable and the act more implementable, using the tools that will incent people and help people to actually meet the requirements of the act.

9:25 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

That's not quite my point.

The point is that current legal advice is that no matter what a proponent does in terms of a conservation agreement.... The white sturgeon is a particular example. If an individual of that species is somehow harmed in spite of all the conservation work, the proponent is liable. The problem is that it makes them reluctant to enter into these agreements.

Mr. Bonnett, I'd like you to elaborate on the bobolink issue in Ontario. I know it's particularly vexing for producers there, given that they are creating the habitat for this SARA-listed species. Again, the regulatory approach has the potential to really inhibit their farming operations.

Could you elaborate on that one?

9:25 a.m.

President, Canadian Federation of Agriculture

Ron Bonnett


There were changes proposed for bobolink protection that would almost make it a crime to do any damage to the habitat. It goes against the economic side of farming. A lot of the harvesting of the hay and the harvesting of alfalfa, in particular, has to be done when it's at its prime state to get the maximum economic value. The issue is that when you're harvesting for hay, you could be damaging the bobolink at the time of nesting. The regulatory system doesn't really take a look at how to solve the problem. The reality is that solving the problem would be delaying the harvest of that crop or putting some other types of management processes in place.

I'd even go back to our own farm. We have livestock, and we set up a rotational grazing system where we have 30 different paddocks that we rotate the cattle through. At any given time during the year we've got all kinds of different habitat there at different stages. What we've seen is a lot more wildlife within that landscape. If you have a system that encourages late harvesting, maybe with an incentive program to do that, or encourages rotational grazing, which may require fencing and a watering system, that actually drives the result, as opposed to putting a regulatory system in place and hoping that solves the problem.

9:30 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you, Mr. Bonnett.

Thank you, Mr. Sopuck.

We'll move now to Madame Quach.