Canada-Ontario Nature Conservation Announcement Falls Short

Monday, March 18, 2024

Wilderness Committee

A shot of Wolf Lake. End of image description.
Wolf Lake. WC Files

Toronto | Traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat — Last week, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), along with the Ontario Minister of Environment Conservation and Parks (MECP), announced a federal investment of nearly $10 million over three years to support the expansion of protected areas in Ontario. The funds are part of the federal Enhanced Nature Legacy program, designed to fulfill Canada’s commitment to protect 30 per cent of lands and inland waters by 2030 (known as 30x30).

The Wilderness Committee is pleased to see the two governments promote nature conservation, but is concerned that this announcement falls short on both funding and ambition when compared to recent collaborations with other provinces, territories and First Nations. The announcement also falls short in comparison to recommendations from an Ontario-appointed Protected Areas Working Group. For example: 

  • A tripartite nature agreement, between Canada, British Columbia and First Nations committed a total of $1 billion to meet a provincial target of 30 by 30

  • Nature agreements with Nova Scotia and Yukon included $28.5 million and $20.6 million of federal funding respectively to meet targets towards 30 by 30

  • A total of $2.3 billion over five years was set aside in the 2021 federal budget for the Enhanced Nature Legacy program

  • A 2021 report by the Ontario-appointed Protected Areas Working Group recommended the government invest $100 million over four years to leverage federal funds and work with First Nations, the public, municipalities and conservation organizations to protect 30 per cent of provincial lands and waters by 2030

The Canada-Ontario announcement also lacks ambition. Ontario currently straggles behind most other provinces and territories, with less than 11 per cent protected areas, and has no 2030 targets in line with that of the federal government.

The 170,000 hectares of new and expanded protection the $10 million federal investment is predicted to expedite would represent only a 0.6 per cent increase, a mere drop in the bucket. The announcement also made no commitments or requirements for provincial collaboration with First Nations to establish Indigenous-led Protected and Conserved Areas, as recommended by the Protected Area Working Group.

Protecting and conserving natural areas from industry and development is critical to addressing accelerating biodiversity loss and climate change impacts. Protected places provide refuge, recreation and health benefits to people. They also offer potential for land-based reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. The Wilderness Committee urges the Federal and Ontario governments to develop a more comprehensive and ambitious strategy, with substantially increased funding, clear objectives and targets in line with 30 by 30.  

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For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Katie Krelove | Ontario Campaigner


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