Nature Legacy for Canada

A review of the potential environmental impacts of the Nature Legacy for Canada Initiative.

The Nature Legacy for Canada Initiative aims to protect Canada’s biodiversity, ecosystems and natural landscapes through the protection of lands and waters, and of species at risk. The initiative will conserve at least 17% of Canada’s lands and waters by 2020. It will expand, strengthen and connect networks of protected and conserved lands and inland and coastal waters throughout the country. The initiative will also include conservation actions to protect and aid in the recovery of up to 250 wildlife species focusing on priority places, species and threats. These goals will be met in collaboration with partners (e.g., provinces and territories; ENGOs; industry; and private land owners). There will be a particular focus on working to build Indigenous peoples’ capacity to conserve land and species.

The Nature Legacy will positively contribute to 6 goals of the 2016 to 2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) and several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

Sustainably managed lands and forests:  

  • The initiative contributes to Canada’s national and international biodiversity commitment of conserving at least 17% of terrestrial areas and inland water. This will be through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures by 2020. This supports not only biodiversity but also the provision of ecosystem services.
  • Actions under this initiative will contribute to SDG 15 Life on land.

Pristine lakes and rivers:

  • By protecting and restoring lake and river ecosystems through habitat conservation and protection, this initiative contributes to pristine lakes and rivers.
  • Lakes and rivers are included in Canada’s target of protecting 17% of terrestrial areas and inland waters by 2020.
  • Aquatic habitat conservation and protection, an element of this initiative, includes the lakes and rivers in which aquatic species live.
  • Protecting natural environments benefits lakes and rivers by keeping water clean, absorbing harmful chemicals, and producing oxygen. Actions under this initiative will also contribute to SDG 14 Life below water.

Healthy coasts and oceans:

  • By supporting the protection and management of critical species habitat in marine and coastal areas, the initiative contributes to the target of conserving at least 10% of marine and coastal areas by 2020.
  • Networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures will be developed and employed. Actions under this initiative will contribute to SDG 14 Life below water.

Healthy wildlife populations:

  • Working with partners to focus on highest priority places, species and threats will result in the recovery of more species at risk and more habitat protection leading to healthy wildlife populations.
  • By conserving wildlife habitat, the initiative not only helps species at risk but keeps common species common, preventing new species from falling into the “at risk” category.
  • Areas protected through this initiative provide important refuge areas for migrating wildlife populations.
  • Protecting and recovering species at risk and their habitats helps protect genetic diversity of wildlife.
  • Improved protection and recovery of species at risk contributes to a number of conservation targets, ensuring that: by 2020, species that are secure remain secure, species at risk are recovering and being managed; and that by 2025, 59% of migratory bird species have acceptable population sizes.
  • Actions under this initiative will contribute to SDG 15 Life on land.

Connecting Canadians with nature:

  • The initiative recognizes and supports Indigenous cultures, their traditional and evolving modern relationships with natural landscapes, ecosystems and wildlife. It acknowledges and actively uses Indigenous knowledge and expertise for strategies that protect and conserve ecosystems, landscapes and biodiversity. It recognizes that the involvement of Indigenous peoples in environmental policy development and decision making is essential to ensure the long-term protection and conservation of the environment.
  • The initiative preserves natural features and amenities for recreation and tourism. Promoting sustainable tourism and recreation benefits the environment by building environmental awareness and respect for nature. Nature-based tourism provides economic benefits for nearby communities.
  • The initiative also expands opportunities for Canadians to get involved in conservation, and increases access to protected areas where they can connect and establish relationships with nature. Actions under this initiative will contribute to SDG 11 Sustainable cities and communities.

Effective action on climate change:

  • This initiative, through the protection, recovery, and restoration of critical ecosystems, landscapes and wildlife habitats, contributes to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
  • Protected areas increase carbon capture as natural elements like trees and oceans act as carbon sinks or sponges.
  • Natural infrastructure protects against flooding, erosion and other disturbances.
  • The initiative will increase resilience in ecosystems and their functions, maintaining their capacity to adapt in response to environmental change.
  • Actions under this initiative will contribute to SDG 13 Climate action.

Monitoring and reporting on progress on this initiative will be conducted through the:

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