Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Canada needs to break its pattern of unfulfilled commitments to protect wildlife

The 2013 Fall Report of the Interim Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development finds that Canada has the legal framework and regulatory tools in place to meet the challenges of wildlife and habitat conservation but has been unable to translate this framework into success on the ground. A new and collaborative approach needs to be taken by all to help meet Canada's commitments to biodiversity conservation says Dr. David Browne, Director of Conservation for Canada's largest conservation organization, the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF).

"The greatest chance for success in ending the pattern of unfulfilled commitments is through collaboration between Governments, industry and society as a whole," says Dr. Browne. "Biodiversity is the base upon which Canada will build a prosperous and sustainable future. We can make progress if the federal government provides the necessary leadership and works together with other sectors of society."

The Commissioner highlights several shortcomings in the gathering of data and the scientific monitoring of species and habitats. Dr. Browne emphasizes that effective conservation cannot happen without strong science and monitoring of wildlife populations and their habitat. Knowing the status of the wildlife in the wilderness, our parks and protected areas, and understanding trends in migratory bird populations are critical to being able to manage human activities to ensure wildlife is conserved and biodiversity enhanced.

"We know collaboration supported by science on this scale works, because Canada has proven successes." Dr. Browne points to the international accomplishments with migratory bird conservation. "The actions of the public and governments over the past 50 years have been successful at conserving many species that were in decline due to pesticides and habitat loss. Birds of prey like bald eagles and peregrine falcons as well as most species of waterfowl have all recovered to healthy populations."

Canada's species at risk are of major concern for CWF. Dr. Browne notes funding is critical to improve our understanding of the threats and habitat needs faced by species at risk. CWF is encouraged to see that the Commissioner found federal funding programs for species at risk to be well run and effective. These programs should continue to grow and improve. CWF is also doing its part for species at risk; over the past three years, CWF's Endangered Species Fund has invested over $2 million supporting 110 diverse research projects on 77 species.

The pattern of unfulfilled commitments extends even to our most imperiled species where government has been unable to complete recovery strategies and action plans for hundreds of species. Completing this important work lays the framework for how conservation groups, industry and the Canadian public can work together to recover species at risk. Without a plan for action species will continue to decline. Indeed, this shortcoming was highlighted to the Minister of the Environment in a recent joint industry and environmental organization submission that CWF helped draft. The letter pointed out that most species listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) have not advanced beyond the preliminary stages of the process and have yet to proceed to the action planning stage where recovery activities and industry compliance mechanisms can be crafted. To some extent, this reflects the natural sequencing of SARA's process, but also a lack of policy, focus and resources. Fixing this problem - effectively using SARA's compliance and stewardship mechanisms - is critical to better implementing the Act. The letter can be seen in full at:

In his report, Commissioner Maxwell noted a "pattern of unfulfilled commitments and responsibilities" in conserving wildlife and habitat for future generations. Federal leadership and broad collaboration across sectors of Canadian society is needed to fulfill Canada's commitments to conserve biodiversity. To generate action on leadership, CWF is co-hosting a half-day seminar and panel discussion in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 19 from 8:30 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. EST to explore new ideas for how Canada can meet its commitments to conserve biodiversity. Details can be found at:

About the Canadian Wildlife Federation
The Canadian Wildlife Federation is a national charitable organization dedicated to ensuring an appreciation of our natural world and a lasting legacy of healthy wildlife and habitat. By spreading knowledge of human impacts on the environment, developing and delivering educational programs, recommending policy changes to benefit wildlife, and sponsoring research and stewardship CWF encourages a future in which Canadians can live in harmony with nature. For more information, visit

CWF's Endangered Species Program recently funded the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre for a project that aims to identify the critical habitat of northern resident killer whales. The Program is also funding the North Coast Cetacean Society for the Rennison Camp Project, which aims to identify critical habitat for northern resident killer whales in Caamano Sound.

SOURCE Canadian Wildlife Federation

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