Zack Metcalfe
Alternatives Journal: Voice of Canada’s Environment
October 25, 2021

Why Our Elections Need to be about Hectares, Not Just Climate Change

Originally published here

The relationship between land conservation and biodiversity is remarkably precise. Take any region and remove 90 per cent of its available habitat, by way of forestry, mining, development or whatever else, and you will reduce the species diversity of that region by roughly half. That is to say, if Canada were to protect only 13.2 per cent of its lands and waters (the actual figure at the end of 2020), then we can expect a significant minority of our native species (similar in size to the Liberal minority in the house of commons) to disappear in coming decades. If we were to protect 50 per cent of our lands and waters, however, we could reliably retain 85 per cent or more of our native species. Such is the strange math of biodiversity loss.

The issue, of course, is that government is very bad at land conservation, provincially and federally. In 1992, Prince Edward Island set the goal of protecting 7 per cent of the province and, since then, has only managed 4.4 per cent. After committing itself to protect a long list of wild spaces in 2013, successive Nova Scotian governments dragged their feet, leaving 150 properties to languish on that list to this day, and, in 2019, the reigning Liberals were caught trying to sell one of these properties – Owls Head Provincial Park – to a golf course developer. It’s one reason of many they lost re-election in August.

[…] Citizen conservation is in no way unusual. Point Pelee National Park in southern Ontario was established at the behest of birders. PEI National Park would have become an overpriced subdivision were it not for a band of scrappy locals who not only managed to establish the park, but went on to form the Island Nature Trust, conserving thousands of additional hectares across the province. In Nova Scotia, the St. Margaret’s Bay Stewardship Association has, since 2016, fought ferociously to establish the Ingram River Wilderness Area on the province’s eastern shore, and only this summer secured their first 5,000-hectare parcel. Without groups like these, nothing would get done.

We need to conserve this nation with every bit the vigor we apply to climate change, and our government will not – in fact it cannot – succeed in either case without robust public engagement. So, while each of us reconciles our carbon footprint, with electric cars, vegan diets, heat pumps and solar panels, we must also identify those remaining patches of wilderness we’re willing to fight for, and insist they one day constitute our 30 per cent by 2030. Then we need to go find more.

Read the full article here

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