By Katie Morrison,
Conservation Director, CPAWS Southern Alberta
Alberta’s parks are a core part of our culture – a recent study indicates that 76% of Albertans recreate outdoors and 88% want more wilderness protected. From large national parks, like Banff, to urban parks in our backyards, like Nose Hill or Fish Creek, these areas provide inspirational natural beauty and connection to nature.
But parks are not just important for their scenic landscapes and places to enjoy the outdoors, they are also critical for clean air and water, biodiversity, species at risk, contribution to local economies and adaption to climate change.
In 2010, as part of a global effort to stop the on-going mass extinction of plant and animal life, 196 countries including Canada endorsed a 10-year plan under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. This plan included a commitment by countries to protect at least 17% of their land and inland waters and 10% of their ocean by 2020 and to improve the quality of protected area systems to more effectively conserve nature. As part of moving forward on this commitment, in 2015 our federal and provincial governments adopted a suite of national targets known as the “2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada”.
While governments are responsible for the actual creation of protected areas, we as Albertans can do a lot to support their commitments and encourage expansion of our parks network. We need strong stewards of our land and water to truly protect the special values they contain.
Only approximately 12.5% of the province is protected. Much work is needed to achieve our targets throughout in the next three years. But conserving biodiversity is not just about an area target. For example, only 1.3% of Grassland and 1% of the Parkland Natural Regions have been protected. These areas contain unique plants and animals that rely on specific habitats to survive and thrive. To effectively conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services, protected areas must represent all natural subregions and key areas for headwaters, species at risk and unique natural features.
The next year will be critical for moving forward on our protected areas commitments in Alberta. We have a unique and timely opportunity to influence these processes and ensure that a diversity of Albertans vocally support these important initiatives. CPAWS Southern Alberta is working hard to increase and improve our protected areas network. Will you join us?
Source: CPAWS Southern Alberta