Making Peace with Nature, a United Nations report released earlier this year, underlines the urgency of expanding protected area networks to avoid the dire consequences of climate change and biodiversity loss. As Canada and other leading nations commit to protecting 25 percent of their lands and waters by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030, Ontario has a crucial role to play and plentiful opportunities to achieve these targets.
Ontario Nature and its partner organizations have identified hundreds of priority places for protection across the province.
“Without nature’s help, we will not thrive or even survive.” —United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres
As summer approaches, thousands of Canadians are making plans to visit protected areas to camp, hike, paddle, watch wildlife, and find peace. Protected areas provide invaluable ecological and economic benefits, including clean air, clean water, wild foods, and economic opportunities. They safeguard wildlife and habitats, increase our resilience to climate change, and when co-created and managed with Indigenous peoples, they can sustain and strengthen Indigenous knowledge systems and cultural practices. They also offer much-needed access to the outdoors, which is essential to our physical, mental, and spiritual health.
One of the lessons we have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that people need to connect with the natural world for their health, happiness, and well-being. Enhancing and safeguarding opportunities to do so is a responsibility that Ontario should embrace by expanding our protected areas system.
88 percent of Ontarians support protecting or conserving more natural spaces. – Abacus Data, 2019
“People want to preserve the places they love for the vital benefits they provide,” says Caroline Schultz, Ontario Nature’s Executive Director. “It’s time to make good on our commitments and responsibilities to protect the forests, wetlands, lakes, and rivers that sustain us.”
A 10-year international effort to protect at least 17 percent of our lands and inland waters ended in 2020. Slow out of the gate, Canada fell far short of meeting the target, with only about 12 percent protected. Ontario stalled at less than 11 percent. But Quebec showed us what is possible by reaching the 17 percent target in 2020 by protecting 12,600 square kilometres in 34 new protected areas.
The Government of Canada’s renewed commitments to achieve even more ambitious targets are cause for hope – hope bolstered when, on April 1, 2021, the Government of Ontario announced its intention to expand protected and conserved areas.
Learn more and take action: ontarionature.org/protected-places
Candidate Protected Places
There are ample opportunities for new protected areas in Ontario, including the establishment of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, and more conventional approaches, such as provincial parks and conservation reserves. But we need political will and investment.
Eagle Lake First Nation is calling for permanent protection of the peninsula, along with strong support from local residents and tourism operators. It is home to a 2,000-year-old archaeological site, 90 species of birds, and dozens of rare plant species—all of which are threatened by industrial logging.
Comprised of pine and oak forests, granite barrens, wetlands, lakes and small rivers, the wildlands harbour many species at risk and rare Atlantic Coastal Plain flora. They are threatened by roads, cottage development, and aggregate extraction.
The towering ancient red pines around Sudbury’s Wolf Lake have long beckoned wilderness enthusiasts. It is threatened by mining interests.
Home to moose, wolves, and many species at risk, the area holds immense cultural significance for First Nations. Jack Lake is threatened by mineral exploration and quarrying, climate change, and industrial forestry.
Ontario Nature protects wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement. Established in 1931, it is a charitable organization representing more than 30,000 members and supporters, and 150 member groups across Ontario.
Ontario Nature is a charity that has been protecting wild species and wild spaces through education, conservation and public engagement since 1931.