Thank you very much.
Good afternoon, members of the committee. It's my pleasure to be back here with you.
My name is Sue Milburn-Hopwood. I am the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Canadian Wildlife Service.
I appeared before this Committee in May when I outlined the full range of federal protected areas and how they are integrated to achieve national and international conservation targets.
I am here today with my colleagues from Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, and Indigenous and Northern Affairs to build on that presentation and to answer your request to describe the progress that has been made in establishing protected areas, as well as to give you an update on our plans to meet Canada’s protected areas target:
By 2020, at least 17 percent of terrestrial areas and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, are conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.
With regard to the other questions we received from the committee, I anticipate that my remarks will answer those directed at Environment and Climate Change Canada, and I'll be happy to answer any follow-up questions you may have.
Since I was last here in May, the department published the third edition of “Canadian Protected Areas Status Report”, which covers the period from January 2012 to December 2015. I think the report was distributed to you with the remarks. I have a copy here. That's a really valuable document, with a lot of information in it. This report details the extent of protected areas across the country. It summarizes actions taken by governments to protect representative ecosystems, conserve biodiversity, safeguard ecosystem services, and improve connectivity. It also describes how we both plan and manage protected areas in co-operation with indigenous peoples and stakeholders. I would like to highlight some of the main findings from the report.
Protected areas have been established nationwide and can be found in each province and territory, as well as in all three oceans. The distribution of this protection varies across the country. For example, Canada comprises 18 terrestrial ecozones, 12 marine ecozones, and one freshwater ecozone, all of which have been protected to some degree. The percentage of protected terrestrial or marine area varies by ecozone, and in general terrestrial ecozones are more protected than marine ecozones. Additionally, southern regions of Canada have a higher concentration of small protected areas, while those in the north tend to be larger and more widely dispersed.
The establishment of protected areas continues to fall predominantly under government purview, with approximately 95% of Canada’s terrestrial and marine protected areas being governed by federal, provincial, or territorial governments. At the end of 2015, 10.6% of Canada's terrestrial area and 0.9% of its marine territory were recognized as protected. According to the report, Canadian governments have made firm commitments that are expected to increase these numbers to 11.8% and 2.3%, respectively.
For both terrestrial and marine areas, there are other opportunities to make further progress, but we don't yet have firm commitments. Since December 2015, new commitments have been made by the federal government with respect to marine protected areas. Philippe Morel of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Rob Prosper will speak to these later.
The report shows that over half of the reporting jurisdictions had strategies in place to guide the development and implementation of a network of protected areas. At the national level, there is a framework to guide the development and implementation of a network of marine protected areas; however, no such equivalent national framework exists for a terrestrial network. Rob Prosper will speak to efforts being made to develop such a framework for the terrestrial network.
Management planning, which is the setting of objectives and plans for achieving conservation targets within a protected area, is an important component of protected areas management. The report found that most governments made progress on the development and implementation of protected areas management, but the number of areas with up-to-date management plans remains low. Nearly all organizations identified challenges related to the management of protected areas, with the top challenges being a lack of staff for site management and a lack of resources for site monitoring in both the terrestrial and marine biomes.
Last, all governments emphasize the importance of collaboration with other governments, including indigenous governments and indigenous peoples, as well as with local communities and stakeholders in the establishment of protected areas. Notably, most had formal arrangements in place to engage these groups in the planning and management of protected areas.
At Environment and Climate Change Canada, we are continuing to work to establish two protected areas: the Edéhzhíe national wildlife area in the Northwest Territories and the Scott Islands marine national wildlife area off the northern tip of Vancouver Island.
Once established, the 14,250 square kilometre Edéhzhíe will be managed in co-operation with the Dehcho First Nation and the Government of the Northwest Territories.
Scott Islands will protect 11,546 square kilometres of marine habitat in one of the most productive and biologically diverse marine ecosystems, particularly for seabirds, on the Canadian Pacific coast.
While traditional protected areas such as ours play an important role in conserving Canada's biodiversity, actions taken by other sectors of society should not be overlooked. We recognize that other effective conservation measures could and should be counted toward Canada's terrestrial target, if these areas can be shown to effectively conserve biodiversity. For example, the conservation of privately owned land remains an important strategy, and it can be effective in conserving high-value land that is rich in biodiversity.
Environment and Climate Change Canada oversees the natural areas conservation program, which provides funding to the Nature Conservancy of Canada and other qualified organizations to acquire land for conservation purposes.
The government's habitat stewardship program for species at risk provides approximately $17 million every year to a number of organizations, including land trusts, to conserve, manage, and restore habitat.
The ecological gifts program offers tax benefits to land owners who donate land, or a partial interest in land, to a qualified conservation organization.
In addition to efforts of other sectors of society to conserve biodiversity, there is a global movement to create and recognize indigenous and community conservation areas, and Canada is well-positioned to make progress in this area. Since 1973, Canada has signed approximately 26 comprehensive land claim and self-government agreements, resulting in indigenous ownership of approximately 587,409 square kilometres of land, which is an area almost the size of Manitoba.
Indigenous peoples are increasingly playing a leadership role in the creation and management of protected areas. For example, the Wehexlaxodiale was established as a protected area in 2012 through the Tlicho land use plan law. Its 976 square kilometres are governed by the Tlicho people of the Northwest Territories and counts toward Canada's terrestrial targets.
At Environment and Climate Change Canada, all eight migratory bird sanctuaries and five national wildlife areas in the Nunavut settlement area are co-managed with Inuit people under the terms of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act and the Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement.
In addition, the Nisutlin River Delta national wildlife area in Yukon was established as a result of the Teslin Tlingit Council Final Agreement, and it is co-managed with the Teslin Tlingit people. We collaborate because of our mutual interest in wildlife conservation.
The 2020 biodiversity goals and targets for Canada were developed collaboratively with the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, with input from national indigenous organizations, non-government organizations, businesses, scholars, and individual members of the public. Reaching these targets will require contributions by all of these groups, and more. When we look forward to 2020, it is evident that a concerted effort by governments and other sectors will be needed to reach our protected areas biodiversity targets.
On that note of collaboration and collective action, I will now turn to my colleagues with the Parks Canada Agency, who will, among other topics, inform you of a federal, provincial and territorial process to develop a pathway to achieve target one of the 2020 biodiversity goals and targets for Canada.
Thank you, committee.