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The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
Which provinces and territories measure up and conserve their wild spaces? The answers might surprise you.
Northwest Territories 134,416,235 hectares 100% is Crown land. 21.66% of N.W.T.’s land is protected.
Nunavut 209,319,000 hectares 83% is Crown land. 14% of Nunavut’s land is protected.
British Columbia 94,759,990 hectares 90% is Crown land. 13.95% of B.C.’s land is protected.
Yukon 48,766,160 hectares 98% is Crown land. 13.4% of the Yukon’s land is protected.
Alberta 66,184,800 hectares 72% is Crown land. 12.87% of Alberta’s land is protected.
Newfoundland 40,572,000 hectares 95% is crown land. 10.44% of N.L.’s land is protected.
Ontario 107,639,500 hectares 87% is Crown land. 9.01% of Ontario’s land is protected.
Saskatchewan 65,103,600 hectares 95% of northern Saskatchewan and 20% of southern Saskatchewan is Crown land. 9% of Saskatchewan’s land is protected.
Manitoba 64,779,700 hectares 72% is Crown land. 8.4% of Manitoba’s land is protected.
Nova Scotia 5,528,400 hectares 70% is Crown land. 8.2% of N.S.’s land is protected.
Quebec 151,421,800 hectares 92% is Crown land. 6.26% of Quebec’s land is protected.
New Brunswick 7,290,800 hectares 50% is Crown land. 3.5% of N.B.’s land is protected.
Prince Edward Island 566,000 hectares 10% is Crown land. 3.4% of P.E.I.’s land is protected.
With over 25 million Canadians caught up in the hustle and bustle of urban life, it’s hard to picture vast spaces of our nation as desolate and wild. But in fact, only 11 per cent of Canada’s 8,886,356 square kilometres of land are privately owned. The remaining 89 per cent is Crown land (also known as public land) and is owned by the federal or provincial government.
So how’s the terrain divvied up? As it stands, 41 per cent of the land – mostly found in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon – is owned by the federal government. A mere four per cent of federally owned land is located in the provinces, ranging from 0.2 per cent in Quebec to 10.6 per cent in Alberta. Much of this land is made up of National Parks, First Nation territories or bases for the Canadian Forces. On the other hand, 48 per cent of Crown land is provincially owned, ranging from two per cent ownership in Prince Edward Island to 95 per cent in Newfoundland.
According to the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Canada is home to a whopping 20 per cent of the globe’s wild spaces. But how much of our land is protected? Less than 10 per cent. And less than one per cent of Canada’s marine and freshwater lakes are protected by the government. That’s bad news since the current global standard for land protection is 12 per cent; moreover, CPAWS says scientists are predicting we could see half of the world’s species fall into extinction if we don’t conserve more. As a result, CPAWS recommends that 50 per cent of Canada’s public lands be protected by government.
The proof is in the pudding. A study conducted at the University of California at San Diego found that mammal populations, like the woodland caribou and grey wolf, of large parks across western North America are struggling due to the small size of these parks and their inaccessibility to surrounding habitat. To date, 3,000 of the 3,500 protected areas in Canada cover less than 100 kilometres of ground. Only Canada’s Yoho, Kootenay, Banff and Jasper parks were able to fully conserve the mammals on their grounds. And considering that these parks are interconnected and cover a vast 20,000 square kilometres, it’s clear that size really does matter.
So what happens with the other 90 per cent of Crown land? The government leases much of it to private companies for its mineral, energy, forest and water resources. “The threat is this increasing pace of interest of development in intact wilderness like the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline in Canada’s North,” says Ellen Adelberg, Acting Executive Director of CPAWS. “If these developments are permitted to proceed without land base plans in place, we could cause significant damage to Canada’s wilderness.” And this damage has already begun. Approximately 90 per cent of logging occurs in old growth and primary forests and nearly 60 per cent of Canada’s endangered species that live in forests are located in the Carolinian Forest Region. Moreover, nearly 72,000 mines sit abandoned in Canada contaminating the ground with acid and disturbing key habitat areas. “The big impact on wildlife is when access roads are created,” says Adelberg. “Wildlife need large, untouched spaces to maintain healthy populations.”
So what can you do to protect wildlife and the spaces they inhabit? Write to your provincial and federal government and encourage them to expand allocated wild spaces, add your voice to The Big Wild, or meet the needs of wildlife in your own backyard. Because in the end, this land is your land, this land is my land. This land is our land.
Thanks to Doris Dieners for writing in to Wildlife Update about Crown land. Send us your story ideas below:
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