OTTAWA – More than 230 organizations have united in an appeal to the prime minister to make nature conservation central to Canada’s recovery from COVID-19.
In a letter to Justin Trudeau, the organizations say they “stand ready” to support government efforts to protect Canada’s nature and to restore land, water and species that have been degraded or lost.
The letter is signed by 235 national, provincial and local organizations dedicated to protecting and enjoying Canada’s nature. They range from large national organizations including Nature Canada, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the David Suzuki Foundation to local naturalist clubs and floral societies, fly fishers and other groups throughout the country.
“As we all work to emerge from this unprecedented disruption, our organizations and supporters want to emphasize that investments in nature and biodiversity on our lands and in our fresh waters and oceans can create jobs and be an essential part of an economic recovery and a sustainable future,” the letter says.
Connecting to nature, even in the smallest ways, has been key to helping Canadians endure this stressful time, said Sandra Schwartz, national executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
“More than ever we are seeing Canadians find solace and joy in the nature around them,” she said. “We support the government’s commitments to increase protection of lands and ocean, and embrace nature-based climate solutions, and urge the government to invest in these outcomes.”
Nature Canada executive director Graham Saul said, “There is momentum in many countries around the world for green recovery measures and Canadians are brimming with ideas to make that happen at home. We urge the government to focus on a nature-positive vision of Canada’s post-emergency period.”
There are many benefits to restoring wildlife habitats and degraded ecosystems; protecting natural infrastructure; expanding protected territory; supporting Indigenous stewardship of Canada’s lands, fresh water and oceans; and providing environmental protection incentives to farmers. These measures can boost the economy, increase biodiversity, address climate change and improve citizen well-being.
Investments in improving the sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture and forest management and rebuilding Canadian tourism can also help reboot the economy with positive biodiversity outcomes.
“Now is a great time to re-envisage a more sustainable tourism model that respects nature and empowers Canadians to reconnect with the amazing nature around them,” the letter says.
“Particular attention should be paid to northern tourism, including the burgeoning Indigenous tourism industry, which provides a valuable alternative for local economies otherwise dependent on natural resource extraction.”
Jay Ritchlin, David Suzuki Foundation’s director general for Western Canada, said the recovery is an opportunity to rethink priorities and economic systems. “We have the knowledge and ability to build a resilient, sustainable society with healthy ecosystems at its foundation. The pandemic already shed light on the consequences of our disconnect with nature. If Canada fails to act now, the biodiversity and climate crises will continue to spiral out of control and further disrupt our societies.”
Among the group’s recommendations are immediate job-creating recovery investments (6-18 month timeframe) in ready-to-go projects that maximize biodiversity and climate change mitigation or adaptation potential, and to lay out a strategy and investment plan to achieve Canada’s 2030 targets on nature and climate.
“Our economic recovery from COVID-19 provides us with an opportunity to make an initial investment that will create good jobs quickly while we collect the data and adopt appropriate policies and regulations that will lead to a transformative change in our relationship with Canada’s lands, waters and species,” the letter says.
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