Protecting nature across Canada


Our achievements, direction, and plan

Protecting Canada’s nature supports healthy communities, a strong economy, and a sustainable future. That’s why the Government of Canada has worked with partners across Canada, since 2015, to protect an additional 530,000 km2 of our lands and oceans—an area a little bigger than the Yukon.


In 2010, Canada and 195 other parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity agreed to the  Strategic Plan for Biodiversity for 2011–2020 and committed to the global Aichi Biodiversity Targets to protect more of the world’s nature and help reverse the dramatic decline in biodiversity. In 2015, Canada developed its own biodiversity goals and nineteen targets that support progress toward our global commitments. These nationwide goals and targets rely on actions by all governments, sectors, and Canadians.


Canada is working ambitiously toward protecting and conserving 17 percent of land and fresh water and 10 percent of our marine and coastal areas by 2020, in keeping with our biodiversity target 1 commitments. That means protecting 2.3 million km2 of land, lakes, and oceans—an area a little bigger than Nunavut.

Meeting that 2020 goal requires doubling the amount of nature that was protected across Canada’s lands and oceans in 2015, and we are making significant progress. The Government of Canada has designated new federal protected areas, such as the Edéhzhíe Protected Area, Scott Islands Marine National Wildlife Area, and Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area. The federal government is also supporting ongoing work to create new provincial, territorial, and Indigenous protected areas, as well as areas protected by land trusts and communities. (For further details on recent success stories and ongoing work, please see the appendix.)

Since 2015, Canada has added over 130,000 km2 to the network of protected areas across the country. In other words, 11.8 percent of Canada’s land and fresh water are now protected. Canada has also made major progress in marine conservation since 2015. While less than 1 percent of our marine and coastal areas was protected in 2015, Canada exceeded the target to protect 5 percent of Canada’s oceans by 2017, conserving 8.27 percent of our marine and coastal areas to date.

We will continue to make progress toward our 2020 goals, with support from the Government of Canada’s commitment of $1.3 billion in Budget 2018—the single-largest investment to protect nature in Canadian history.

Ongoing work

The new $500 million Canada Nature Fund leverages an additional $500 million from partners to raise at least $1 billion toward the conservation of Canada’s nature. The Canada Nature Fund is comprised of a number of funding programs:

  • The Target 1 Challenge will provide up to $175 million over the next four years to help establish new provincial, territorial, municipal, and Indigenous protected and conserved areas. It will also support ecological integrity and the connectivity of Canada’s network of protected and conserved areas, identify areas of importance for biodiversity, and help raise Canadians’ awareness of the value of biodiversity.
  • The Natural Heritage Conservation Program has allocated $100 million over four years to support conservation efforts across the country. This funding will help land trusts across Canada secure private lands and private interests in lands to establish new protected and conserved areas.
  • Earlier this year, the Community-Nominated Priority Places for Species at Risk was launched, providing up to $15.6 million over four years to support projects in communities that are bringing people together to protect species at risk. This funding is part of over $150 million over five years for various funding initiatives to help with the protection and recovery of species at risk.

The Canada Nature Fund is beginning to generate results. For example, the Canada Nature Fund funded the creation of the Edéhzhíe Protected Area, by the Dehcho First Nations in the Northwest Territories. More than 14,000 km2 in size, the Edéhzhíe Protected Area is an important new addition to Canada’s network of protected and conserved areas. Work is also ongoing—in partnership with provinces, territories, and Indigenous Peoples—to establish new national park reserves in Thaidene Nëné and the South Okanagan–Similkameen, and on the intent to establish new protected areas in Eastern James Bay and the Magdalen Islands. Protecting these areas and others will help to preserve Canada’s natural places and wildlife for future generations.

In June 2018, federal, provincial, and territorial governments (with the exception of Quebec)  agreed to implement a new Pan-Canadian Approach to Transforming Species at Risk Conservation in Canada, intended to achieve better outcomes for species at risk; improve the return on investment; and increase co-benefits for biodiversity and ecosystems. With advice from the Pathway to Canada Target 1 National Advisory Panel and the Indigenous Circle of Experts, federal, provincial, and territorial conservation departments published One with Nature: A Renewed Approach to Land and Freshwater Conservation in Canada. This report offers guidance and opportunities to support progress toward achieving the terrestrial and inland water components of Canada target 1.

Canada continues to protect and conserve nature through partnerships with provinces, territories, municipalities, private landowners, philanthropic foundations, land trusts, and Indigenous communities. Indigenous Peoples are key partners in conserving and protecting nature: they have unique perspectives, knowledge, rights, and responsibilities, which can inspire all and improve conservation outcomes.


  • Edéhzhíe Protected Area is the first Indigenous protected area established under Canada’s Nature Legacy. On October 11 2018, the Government of Canada and the Dehcho First Nations entered into an agreement to protect 14,258 km2 of the Dehcho region of the Northwest Territories (NWT). Edéhzhíe is a spiritual place that is ecologically and physically unique. Its lands, waters and wildlife are integral to the Dehcho Dene culture, language and way of life. It contains the headwaters for a large swath of southwestern NWT and critical habitat for boreal caribou. Indigenous protected areas are a new, innovative model of conservation in which Indigenous peoples lead in the planning, stewardship, and management of the protected area. A consensus-based management board is responsible for management. Edéhzhíe is to be designated as a National Wildlife Area in 2020.
  • Scott Islands Marine National Wildlife Area is one of the most diverse marine ecosystems on Canada’s Pacific coast. The designation of 11,546 km2 of the Pacific Ocean off the northern tip of Vancouver Island is complementary to the terrestrial protected areas work. The marine National Wildlife Area comprises the marine waters off the northwestern tip of Vancouver Island, British Columbia that surround the five Scott Islands. The marine area around the Scott Islands is an Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area, rich in seabirds’ favourite food sources, such as various small fish species and zooplankton. The area attracts 5 to10 million migratory birds each year. Many birds travel vast distances across the Pacific to feed in the area. Some, such as the Sooty Shearwater, are at risk globally.
  • Qausuittuq National Park is composed of a cluster of islands in the High Arctic and has been a significant historical site for Inuit dating back 4,500 years. Although it is one of the harshest and driest places in the world, a surprising number of wildlife have adapted to this particular environment, including the endangered Peary caribou, muskoxen, arctic wolf and fox, collared lemming and the arctic hare. The national park is cooperatively managed with Inuit. Qausuittuq National Park officially opened on August 10, 2017.
  • Rouge National Urban Park, a first of its kind in Canada, protects nature, culture, and agriculture in an integrated way. The park stretches from Lake Ontario to the Oak Ridges Moraine across the cities of Toronto, Markham, and Pickering, and the township of Uxbridge. In June 2017, the Government reached an important milestone in fulfilling its commitment to strengthen ecological protections for the Rouge. Bill C-18, an Act to Amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, received Royal Assent, thereby helping to protect the Rouge's important ecosystems and ensure that ecological integrity is the first priority when managing the Park. Lands transferred from the Government of Ontario, Transport Canada, and local municipalities have contributed to establishing one of the largest urban parks of its kind in North America, which once completed, will be 19 times bigger than Vancouver’s Stanley Park and 23 times bigger than New York’s Central Park.
  • The High Arctic Basin, known as Tuvaijuittuq in Inuktitut (which means “the ice never melts”), is the last portion of the Canada’s High Arctic region expected to retain summer sea ice until at least 2050. The Government of Canada, the Government of Nunavut and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, are working together to explore the potential protection of areas in the High Arctic Basin or Tuvaijuittuq, while supporting the development of a conservation economy in the region.
  • Anguniaqvia niqiqyuam Marine Protected Area in Darnley Bay, Northwest Territories, was established collaboratively by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Inuvialuit community of Paulatuk, together with stakeholders from industry, environmental organizations and the Government of Northwest Territories. The area is just over 2,300 km2 and provides critical habitat for Arctic char, cod, beluga and bowhead whales, ringed and bearded seals, polar bears, as well as sea birds.
  • Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs Marine Protected Area is home to four globally unique glass sponge reefs off the coast of British Columbia. Once thought to be extinct worldwide, glass sponges are delicate and vulnerable marine animals with skeletons made of silica, or glass. They are easily broken on impact and can be smothered by sediment. In February 2017, four areas just over 2,400 km2 in Hecate Strait were designated as a Marine Protected Area to conserve the reefs there, which were determined to be over 9,000 years old, and the only living example of glass sponges that were abundant during the Jurassic period.
  • St. Anns Bank Marine Marine Protected Area off the coast of Nova Scotia was announced on World Oceans Day, June 8, in 2017. The area is an exceptional habitat  with unique seafloor features, such as Scatarie Bank, that support over 100 species that live in the 4,364 km2 area, including at risk and endangered species like the Atlantic wolfish and the Leatherback sea turtle. St. Anns Bank is also part of a migration corridor for fish and marine mammals moving in and out of the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence.
  • Banc-des-Américains Marine Protected Area supports a wide variety of habitats and marine species, including many commercially significant fish and forage species such as capelin, herring, sand lance, and krill. Located just off the coast of Gaspé, Quebec, the 1,000 km2 area is also visited by a range of aquatic animals like the Atlantic population of blue whales and the endangered Leatherback sea turtle. The designation of the Marine Protected Area in March 2019 is the first project under the Canada-Quebec Collaborative Agreement to establish a network of marine protected areas in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence.
  • On August 14, 2017, in partnership with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and the Government of Nunavut, the Government of Canada announced the final boundary and the interim protection of Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area in Lancaster Sound, in Nunavut. Just over a year later, in December 2018, we also signed an Agreement in Principle with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association for the negotiations of an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement and to look at pursuing protection of Canada’s High Arctic region.
  • Canada has also established stringent science-based criteria for what qualifies as an “other effective area-based conservation measure”, or marine refuge, and counts towards our marine conservation targets. We have recognized 59 new and existing marine refuges across Canada for their long-term contribution to protecting biodiversity, including fish, mammals and their habitat. Our marine refuges represent approximately 275,000 km2, an area bigger than the state of Oregon in the United States.
  • Canadian Forces Base Shilo in Manitoba was recognized for its contribution to nature conservation. With Manitoba, we announced the recognition of over 21,000 hectares of CFB Shilo as an area providing important benefits for nature. While conservation is not the primary goal of CFB Shilo, it is managed in ways that achieve the conservation of nature. The effective management of activities at CFB Shilo result in high-quality habitat for wildlife. National Defence puts a high priority on environmental stewardship, making training areas and ranges more sustainable, maintaining species-at-risk work plans, and working to protect the flora and fauna present on Defence lands. The Department also works with external organizations, such as Ducks Unlimited, to maintain habitats on other Defence lands.
  • Sahtu Land Use Plan Conservation Zones in the Northwest Territories are now recognized as effective conservation measures that contribute to the conservation of nature. Over 30,000 km2 of land and freshwater within the Sahtu Settlement Area are effectively conserved and managed for nature conservation. This tremendous accomplishment is a result of the Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement is a modern treaty between the Sahtu Dene and Metis and the Crown in right of Canada.
  • The Darkwoods Conservation Area is one of Canada’s national treasures and the world’s only inland temperate rainforest. As part of a joint effort by the Government of Canada and British Columbia, the Next Creek property in the heart of Darkwoods was added in November 2018, increasing the original area by 14%. The protected area was originally secured in 2008 as the single-largest private land acquisition for conservation in Canadian history. While most rainforests are coastal, the inland temperate rainforest of Darkwoods, stretching south from Prince George to Idaho, is unique as an unusually wet forest region in the continent’s interior. It provides habitat for many species at risk including the grizzly bear, the southern mountain caribou, the western toad, and the whitebark pine.
  • Through the Nature Fund Quick Start program, the Nova Scotia Nature Trust has developed an ambitious conservation effort to protect 15 of the highest priority natural areas across the province, encompassing over 1200 hectares. The $1.45 million grant went towards protecting coastal and fresh water areas, old-growth forests and wetlands. The area is home to migratory birds and species at risk.
  • Wentworth Valley Wilderness Area in Nova Scotia is one among many newly announced protected areas in Nova Scotia. The Wentworth Valley Wilderness Area adds a large swath of contiguous mixed, old hardwood and softwood forest in the Cobequid Hills to the lands so far protected. “When we designate a wilderness area they are legally protected forever,” said Environment Minister Margaret Miller in making the announcement during a ceremony at Ski Wentworth.

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