Establishing protected areas for wildlife and birds



The protection of important wildlife habitat is accomplished by the Canadian Wildlife Service, a directorate within Environment and Climate Change Canada responsible for protecting migratory birds, species at risk, and other species of national interest.

In order to fulfill this mission, as outlined in the National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries: Strategic Program Plan and Vision to 2030, the Canadian Wildlife Service identifies, establishes and cooperatively manages two types of protected areas: National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries. Totalling 147 protected areas, this network of protected areas contributes to national conservation goals while enhancing Canada's international contributions to habitat protection.

In line with its vision and guiding principles, Environment and Climate Change Canada works closely with other federal agencies, provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal peoples, private organizations, and individuals to ensure that areas of national importance are protected.


Environment and Climate Change Canada identifies, designates, and cooperatively manages protected areas in a network composed of marine and terrestrial National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, to protect habitat and wildlife, facilitate understanding of ecological processes, and promote public awareness and understanding of nature conservation and Environment and Climate Change Canada's role in conservation. Ultimately these actions will lead to healthy populations of migratory birds, maintenance and restoration of populations of species at risk and other wildlife of national importance, and the protection of rare and unique habitats.

Protection first

Environment and Climate Change Canada's protected areas are prescribed a legal framework to facilitate the protection of wildlife and their habitat. Established according to biological criteria, these protected areas are primarily created for the purpose of conservation. Management activities may include interventions such as habitat restoration and investigative research projects on species and habitat.

Although some sites have facilities to view wildlife, many of Environment and Climate Change Canada's protected areas are managed for the protection of wild species only, and intentionally exclude visitors. In some cases, visits and access to sites are prohibited during critical periods, such as when birds are nesting or moulting (the loss and replacement of all or part of their feathers each year). In other cases, sites are closed to the public seasonally or permanently in order to preserve key habitat.

For all of Environment and Climate Change Canada's protected areas, prohibited and permitted activities are specified within the management plan of each site and developed in accordance with their related legislation, whether a National Wildlife Area or Migratory Bird Sanctuary. The table below compares the legal framework for both types of protected areas.

Legal framework of Environment and Climate Change Canada's protected areas

Legal Framework of Environment and Climate Change Canada's Protected Areas
Legal Framework National Wildlife Areas (NWAs) Migratory Bird Sanctuaries (MBSs)
Legal Authority Canada Wildlife Act Migratory Birds Convention Act
Purpose To protect wildlife and wildlife habitat for the purposes of conservation, research, and interpretation. To protect migratory birds and their nests.
Land Title NWAs require proprietary interest in the land in accordance with the Wildlife Area Regulations, whereby "wildlife area" means an area of public lands. MBSs can and have been established on private, provincial or federally owned land.
Prohibited activities The Wildlife Area Regulations outline specific prohibited activities (such as hunting, fishing, damaging or removing plants, conducting agriculture activity, any recreational activity, etc), unless notices permitting specific activities are posted or a person has obtained a permit. The Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations outline prohibited activities (such as killing or harassment of birds, disturbing or destroying of nests, etc.) and the authority for the control and management of sanctuaries, where the extent of this authority will depend upon the conditions of ownership.

Page details

Date modified: