Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures
Canada’s conservation network
Canada has ambitious conservation goals, including the protection and conservation of land and water, as well as halting and reversing biodiversity loss. Nature is part of our national identity and protecting it has become a key element in our plan to fight climate change.
- provincial and territorial parks and protected areas
- privately protected areas
- Indigenous-led conservation areas
- Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs)
Recognizing conservation in action
The Government of Canada wants to recognize lands and waters managed in ways that achieve the conservation of biodiversity, but that are not protected areas or parks. These areas might include portions of military training areas (for example, Canadian Forces Base Shilo in Manitoba), or native prairie grasslands managed for beef production, or watershed protection areas around major metropolitan areas. These areas are effectively achieving the same conservation outcomes as protected areas and parks. Even if conservation is not the primary objective of an area, it can still achieve long-term benefits for nature.
In Canada’s national accounting system (the Canadian Protected and Conserved Areas Database (CPCAD)), we refer to these areas as OECM. OECMs are a means of recognizing the conservation efforts of others. There are many examples across the country where land owners and managers are keeping natural habitats intact, protecting biodiversity and species at risk, and ensuring the ecosystems are working as they should—even while the land is being used for another purpose.
Conservation and biodiversity outcomes for OECMs are equal to those of a protected area. The main difference between the two is the primary purpose of the area. The primary objective of a protected area is conservation. On the other hand, an OECM is managed for another purpose while also achieving conservation and biodiversity outcomes.
The Government of Canada is working closely with provinces and territories, Indigenous peoples, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and local governments to find more ways to protect nature and biodiversity, build stronger communities and help combat climate change. These partnerships are also crucial for identifying and recognizing OECMs, which are a key tool to help Canada reach the ambitious goals of conserving 25% of land and in-land waters by 2025.
Canada’s approach to OECMs is based on the international guidelines and standards established by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Progress in this area has led to international recognition for Canada.
The Pan-Canadian definition for recognizing and reporting on OECMs, is outlined in the pan-Canadian One with Nature report as:
“a geographically defined area other than a Protected Area, which is governed and managed in ways that achieve positive and sustained long-term outcomes for the in situ conservation of biodiversity, with associated ecosystem functions and services and where applicable, cultural, spiritual, socio-economic, and other locally relevant values.”
- One with Nature report, page 40
In order for an area to be recognized as an OECM, it must meet specific criteria, including:
- the area has defined boundaries–you can point to it on a map
- governing authorities are able to control activities within the boundaries
- governing authorities have the obligation to perform activities that lead to conservation in the area and restrict activities that are incompatible with conservation
- Conservation is year round and will be maintained in the long term
- site goals will lead to conservation and biodiversity
- conservation objectives are not threatened by other site objectives
- governing authorities follow the management plan that is creating positive biodiversity outcomes, and no governing authorities threaten onsite conservation
For more details, please visit the Pathway to Canada Target 1 website.
Types of land use
OECMs can come in many shapes, sizes and forms. These are a few types of spaces that could potentially be recognized as OECMs if they align with the criteria:
- watershed protection zones
- research forests
- native prairie grasslands managed sustainably for beef production
- conservation set-asides in managed forests
- certain land use planning zones
- recreational areas
- parts of military bases
A map of Canada with 180 green dots representing the locations of OECMs across the country, with high concentrations in Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island.
Canadian Forces Base Shilo is an Operations and Training Base of the Canadian Armed Forces, situated in the mixed-grass prairie ecosystem of south-central Manitoba. Parts of the base have significant infrastructure, which results in frequent human activity. On the other hand, the base also has more than 21,100 hectares of natural, relatively undisturbed landscape that supports diverse plant and wildlife communities. These natural areas were assessed and recognized as an OECM in March 2019.
Sahtu Land Use Plan Conservation Zone
North West Territories, Canada
Consisting of 3,038,400 hectares, this area provides multiple benefits to the Sahtu people, including space for traditional harvest, cultural activities and ecological benefits. As stewards of the land, Indigenous people use conservation zones in ways that align with their traditional practices and worldviews, while also achieving positive outcomes for biodiversity. This OECM was recognized in 2019.
Queen’s University Biological Research Station
One of the largest scientific field stations in Canada, this site consists of 3,400 hectares of important natural ecosystems and habitat for rare, threatened and endangered species. While providing teaching and research opportunities in biology and related sciences, Queen’s University also uses best management practices to conserve terrestrial and aquatic environments, and biodiversity in this area. It was recognized as an OECM in 2020.
Recognizing Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures
Many provincial, territorial, Indigenous and municipal counterparts, as well as non-government organizations, private sector corporations and groups, and individuals across the country are already managing land and inland waters in ways that achieve the conservation of biodiversity. Recognizing OECMs helps keep environmentally friendly practices in place, and credits the diverse partners whose efforts help maintain strong biodiversity outcomes. It does not involve any additional constraints or obligations on the land or landowner; it simply recognizes the healthy management practices that are already in place.
Sites that may qualify as OECMs can be evaluated using the Pathway to Canada Target 1 Decision Support Tool (DST). Anyone can use the tool, which allows users to assess areas against the pan-Canadian standard for protected areas and OECMs. We are working with partners across the country who are interested in recognizing an OECM. Working together, we can also help partners evaluate their sites and understand any changes that may need to occur in order for it to meet OECM criteria, so it can be recognized and reported.
Similar to protected areas, OECMs are reported nationally, in Canada’s ‘accounting system’ for protected and conserved areas. The system is called the Canadian Protected and Conserved Areas Database.
Helping Canada achieve conservation goals
OECMs are playing an important role in helping Canada take a holistic, landscape approach to biodiversity conservation and conserving 25% of land and inland waters by 2025. OECMs recognize important conservation work that is already happening across the country.
Fighting climate change and achieving Canada’s conservation goals is no small feat—that’s why the Government of Canada is working closely with Indigenous governments, provincial and territorial counterparts, non-government organizations and the private sector to support them in advancing their conservation actions.
Recognizing qualifying areas as OECMs is voluntary and only possible with the help of partners across the country. If you are an owner, manager, or governing authority for an area that is achieving long-term nature conservation, please complete the Decision Support Tool and contact Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) or the provincial or territorial representative for your jurisdiction.
- Pathway to Canada Target 1
- Canadian Protected and Conserved Areas Database
- Conservation Tools – Pathway to Canada Target 1
- OECM Case Studies
- International Union for Conservation of Nature
- One With Nature report [PDF]
- Natural areas of Canadian Forces Base Shilo recognized as an OECM
- Government of Canada recognizing federal land and water to contribute to 30 by 30 nature conservation goals
- Partners in Saskatchewan demonstrate strong commitment to biodiversity conservation in Meewasin Valley
- Minister Guilbeault announces more than $926,000 for the Átl’ka7tsem / Howe Sound Biosphere Region to protect nature and help meet Canada’s conservation goals
- Minister Guilbeault announces more than $1 million for two Nova Scotia biosphere reserves to protect nature and help meet Canada’s conservation goals
- Canada invests $11.3 million to increase biodiversity conservation in UNESCO biosphere reserves
- Government of Canada partners with Tłı̨chǫ First Nation to protect culturally important land in the Northwest Territories
- The Governments of Canada and Manitoba work together to protect nature at Canadian Forces Base Shilo
To seek assistance with OECM screening: ec.ERcataloguePW.email@example.com.
To seek more information about OECMs and how they contribute to Canada’s conservation goals: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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