The federal government has made a commitment, in cooperation with the provinces, territories, and Indigenous governments, to increase protected area coverage to at least 17% of terrestrial lands and waters, with particular attention to quality of protection for biodiversity. Too often, our existing parks and protected areas are small and isolated or cover less ecologically productive areas, such as high alpine areas. We need to shift our emphasis to protecting areas that are most valuable for biodiversity protection and that help to maintain or restore habitat connections. Ensuring that protected areas are large enough to accommodate large natural forces, such as fire, is also critical to the success of this work.
This pathway is Canada’s route to meeting our commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Our work on Key Biodiversity Areas (see next section) can contribute to Canada successfully reaching protected area targets with areas that meet strong ecological criteria that are directly relevant to biodiversity.
WCS Canada field research has helped inform the development or expansion of a number of protected areas:
- We have used field research to document the needs of wildlife in places such as the Nahanni National Park area and the Castle Wilderness and Bighorn Backcountry in Alberta. The evidence we developed on the need for larger protected habitat areas for key species in these areas led to a seven-fold expansion of Nahanni and the establishment of a new protected area in the Castle Wilderness and proposed new parks in the Bighorn.
- We have undertaken an innovative assessment of wild areas in Southern Yukon to map out the most important core wild areas and natural corridors across this landscape. We are optimistic that this work will be used as the foundation of a new connected and robust protected areas system in the region.