Parks and Protected Areas
Protected areas are defined as specific geographical spaces, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.
International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
So many of us are passionate about national parks and the diversity of species that live there. Here in the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula, walking in the cedar woods, encountering an amazing animal like the Massasauga rattlesnake, or climbing rocks above clear Georgian Bay waters makes us happy that these areas are protected now and forever.
The Sources of Knowledge (SoK) organisation emerged from an interest in sharing learnings and passions for the two national parks, Bruce Peninsula National Park, and Fathom Five National Marine Park. The paragraphs below highlight the parks in the context of Canada’s protected areas strategy. It is an exciting time to love parks as Canadians have never been more passionate, visiting in record numbers, and supporting efforts to meet internal protection standards.
Protected Areas in the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula
The Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) are the original human inhabitants of these lands and waters. It is important to note that SON has a different worldview when it comes to nature and does not use words and concepts like protection and conservation. The Anishinaabek way of life does not separate humans from nature and follows a set of guiding principles referred to as the ‘Seven Grandfather Teachings’: honesty, respect, truth, love, humility, bravery, and wisdom. These teachings guide the Anishinaabek on how to be good human beings and how to care for Mother Earth and all of creation so the next seven generations may benefit from these lands and waters as we have. Parks Canada and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) are working together, known in Anishinabek as Wedokododwin, to develop a shared vision to care for Mother Earth, and are learning to walk together with a shared responsibility to honour this vision.
“The Saugeen Anishnaabek have been living in our home on and near the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula for as long as our history remembers. Through our treaties with the Crown, we agreed to share part of our land with people who have come from all around the world. As Anishnaabek people, we are subject to Anishnaabe law and are ever mindful of our duty to be stewards of our land. The people of Saugeen Ojibway Nation established the Environment Office to make it easier for us to fulfill this duty” (https://www.saugeenojibwaynation.ca/).
Noting the national and international protected area percentages listed above, how do we compare on the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula, and who is working on protection of parks and protected areas?
The Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association’s Community Conservation and Stewardship Plan (2014) reports that parks and protected areas comprise over 27% of the land base, stewarded by a variety of government and non-government agencies. The Wildlands League’s Northern Bruce Peninsula Ecosystem Community Atlas provides additional information on the significance of the peninsula.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada identifies the peninsula as one of the best hotspots for biodiversity in the Great Lakes, world-renowned for its diversity of orchids and ferns, home for 11 globally rare species, including the lakeside daisy and the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake. The peninsula has the most intact and connected habitat in southern Ontario, an important north-south bird migration corridor (including the protected Niagara Escarpment land feature), globally significant limestone alvars, and off-shore islands that link the peninsula to Manitoulin Island and the north shore of Lake Superior.
As noted, there are two national parks: Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park. Canada’s national parks are established to protect and present outstanding representative examples of natural landscapes and natural phenomena that occur in Canada’s 39 natural regions, National parks protect the habitats, wildlife and ecosystem diversity representative of — and sometime unique to — the natural regions. Similarly, National Marine Conservation Areas, or NMCA for short, are marine areas managed to protect and conserve representative marine ecosystems and key features, while ensuring the ecologically sustainable use of marine resources. They include the seabed and water column above it and may also take in wetlands, estuaries, islands and other coastal lands and are established to represent a marine region.
Bruce Peninsula National Park was established in 1987 to represent the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Lowlands region. Fathom Five National Marine Park was established in 1987 to represent the Georgian Bay and Lake Huron marine regions.
Together, Parks Canada and SON are working on the first Bruce Peninsula National Park/Fathom Five National Marine Park management plan to be developed in the spirit of shared responsibility or Wedokododwin by the Saugeen Ojibway Nation and Parks Canada.
Other Parks and Protected Areas on the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula
Given the significance of the peninsula, a number of government and non-government organizations steward important parks and protected areas. Table 2.3 on page 19 of the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association’s Conservation and Stewardship Plan listed above summarizes these groups.
Ontario Nature has six nature reserves on the Peninsula representing Great Lakes shorelines with globally unique forests, dunes, wetlands, and alvars (rare ecosystems of dolostone that are home to distinctive plants and animals, such as lakeside daisy).
Having over 27% of lands on the peninsula protected is a good start to the stewardship work needed to ensure ecological integrity. More work is needed to work on a landscape scale for large species such as black bears. Working with private landowners on stewardship efforts is the next logical step.
However, only protecting key natural heritage areas without engaging surrounding landowners engaged in agriculture, mining and forestry activities will not work. The University of British Columbia’s Land and Food Systems program notes that two-thirds of key natural areas overlap or are immediately adjacent to potentially incompatible land uses. In these cases, they advocate for innovative conservation approaches such as adding pollinator wildflower strips to fields, improving soil and water management and practicing land stewardship.
Land Use Planning and Stewardship
In Ontario, Section 2.1 of the Ontario Provincial Policy Statement requires municipalities to prepare natural heritage protection policies. Once these areas are identified, they are provided with protection through land use planning policies in municipal official plans.
The County of Bruce are updating their Official Plan and are required to produce a natural heritage system identifying a linked landscape of natural areas protected by municipal and provincial policies. The Nature Legacy options interim report will be available in the second quarter of 2021. Note that the County of Grey updated their official plan in 2017 – including a new natural heritage system, known as Green in Grey.
The Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act forms the legal basis for the Niagara Escarpment Plan – providing for the maintenance of this limestone ridge and adjacent lands substantially as a continuous natural environment and to ensure only such development occurs as is compatible with that natural environment.
As noted above, the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association is active in local conservation. Operating within the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve, they focus on stewardship projects in the “zone of co-operation” around core protected areas. Their Six Streams Project works with farmers to improve water quality and aquatic habitat while assisting farmers with funding to improve cattle health and manage water resources.
How Much is Enough?
As the second largest country in the world, what Canada chooses to do in protecting natural areas is important. Canada stewards 20% of the Earth’s wild forests, 24% of its wetlands, almost one third of its land-stored carbon, over 243,000 km of coastline along three oceans and another 9,500 km along the Great Lakes – the longest coastline in the world.
In their Healthy Nature, Healthy People: A Call to Put Nature Protection at the Heart of Canada’s Covid-19 Recovery Strategy report the Canadian Parks and
Wilderness Society notes that Canada should join the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People comprised of the EU, New Zealand, and others in putting nature and ecological transformation at the heart of strategies and investments, as we recover from the COVID-19 crisis.
Evidence shows that at least 30% and up to 70% of land and ocean ecosystems need to be protected to sustain a healthy planet and secure essential ecosystem services for people, which means Canada and the global community need to significantly scale up efforts to protect and restore nature. There is also clear evidence that focusing only on how much area should be protected is not enough to deliver conservation outcomes and other societal benefits. Protected area networks also need to be designed and effectively managed based on science and Indigenous knowledge. They go on to report that a March 2020 Abacus poll found that nine out of 10 Canadians support the federal government’s pledge to protect 30% of our land and seascape by 2030, 80% expect Canada to be a global leader in protecting land and water, and three quarters support expanding funding to create more protected areas”.
In their 2019 Parks report, Canada’s Nature Emergency: Scaling up Solutions for Land and Freshwater, CPAWS calls for protecting half of Canada’s public lands and freshwater by 2050, with a milestone target of protecting 30% by 2030, outlining a 10-step plan to put Canada on the path to reaching those targets. They go on to say that scientists are increasingly coming to the conclusion that protecting and restoring around half of the Earth’s land and freshwater is necessary to sustain nature, as well as the essential ecosystem services it provides to people. The proposal to conserve half the Earth’s land extends back to at least 1972 in the scientific literature. Since then, a variety of scientific analyses have led to the conclusion that this scale of land protection is necessary.
How is Canada Doing in Protected Areas Work?
In 2010, a Strategic Plan for Biodiversity was adopted at the Conference of the Parties for the Convention on Biological Diversity. This plan includes 20 global biodiversity targets, known as the Aichi Targets, which each party to the convention has agreed to contribute to achieving by the year 2020.
In response, Canada adopted a suite of national targets known as the “2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada”. These four goals and 19 targets cover issues ranging from species at risk to sustainable forestry to connecting Canadians to nature. The Pathway initiative focuses on the terrestrial and inland waters aspects of Canada Target 1, based on Aichi Target 11.
The Pathway to Canada Target 1 has produced the One with Nature: A Renewed Approach to Land and Freshwater in Canada report, which provides broad guidance to meet the terrestrial and inland water elements of Canada Target 1. The Pathway commits Canada by 2020, to protect at least 17% of terrestrial areas and inland water, and 10% of marine and coastal areas of Canada are conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based measures. More recently, Canada has committed to protecting 25% of the country’s land and ocean by 2025 and 30% by 2030.
The guidance includes four priorities:
- Expand the systems of federal, provincial and territorial protected and conserved areas.
- Promote greater recognition and support for existing Indigenous rights, responsibilities, and priorities in conservation.
- Maximize conservation outcomes.
- Build support and participation for conservation with a broader community
These priorities are designed to address three key challenges to biodiversity conservation in Canada:
- protecting the right amount of habitat to support viable populations of all species;
- protecting the right areas so protected and conserved areas can function as a representative ecological network, not simply as “islands of green;” and
- managing areas in the right way—a way that looks for cooperation across jurisdictional boundaries, and respects natural boundaries where possible.
The Indigenous Circle of Experts is also leading the Pathway, positing that the time has come for Indigenous knowledge systems, legal traditions, and customary and cultural practices to be appropriately recognized as equally valid and binding versus other frameworks. To achieve this, they outline an important aspect of such appropriate recognition: Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs). They state that through their articulation of IPCAs, Indigenous People can contribute to a more hopeful vision of the future—a future where Indigenous Peoples decide what conservation and protection means to them and to the lands and waters and are given the space to lead its implementation in their territories.
In order to achieve the goal of protecting 25% of terrestrial lands and 25% of oceans, Canada has established the Nature Legacy program investing $1.35 B in Budget 2018 to create healthier habitats for species at risk and protect natural terrestrial landscapes and aquatic ecosystems. Canada added to this commitment in Budget 2021 with an additional $2.3 billion committed to protect one million km2 of land and freshwater, and $976.8 million to protect 25% of Canada’s oceans through marine protected areas.
While the Pathway to Canada Target 1 initiative is more ambitious than previous efforts, others are suggesting that in order to adequately protect species at risk, critical habitats, ecosystem services (including many that assist in climate change adaptation), reduce the risk of another pandemic, and prepare for the new green economy, more protection is needed.
We are hoping that you learned more and join SoK in loving parks! Enjoy the links to the many hard-working nature protection organisations across Canada.
Watch the SoK News section for updates on protecting and stewarding parks and protected areas on the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula.
Written by Brian McHattie