Friday, July 1, 2011

Canada Lags Behind in Protected Land

Canada lags behind the US and the global average when it comes to setting aside wilderness for protection. This is the finding of a Global Forest Watch Canada report entitled Canada's Terrestrial Protected Areas Status Report. The mission of the Edmonton-based non-profit group, is to provide information about development activities in Canada's forests and their environmental impact.

In 2010, just 8.5 per cent of Canada's land mass was in permanent protected areas. This is more than four percent lower than the global average of 12.9 percent and more than six percent lower than the United States at 14.8 percent.

"We thought it was strange that Canada is so far below the global average given that we have all these large northern spaces that are essentially undisturbed," said Ryan Cheng, a Global Forest Watch Canada researcher who co-authored the report. "Also, as Canadians, we value nature."

Much of the undisturbed space is owned by the Crown, making it relatively easy to designate as protected, Cheng said. "Protected areas are essentially the global cornerstone for conserving biodiversity," he added, noting that they are used to measure and compare different jurisdictions' conservation efforts.

The researchers also found that more than half of the permanently protected areas were subject to human disturbance. A quarter of the protected land was within 500 metres of roads, power lines, mining, logging, hydro-power and oil and gas developments, and other human activity.

Many provinces allow resource exploitation within protected areas. For example, oil and gas development is allowed in some Alberta protected areas, and forestry is allowed in some Manitoba protected areas.

© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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