The Edéhzhíe Indigenous Protected Area/National Wildlife Area will conserve 14,249 square kilometres of boreal forest and will be jointly managed by Dehcho First Nations and the federal government. (Bill Carpenter/Dehcho First Nations)

Canadians strongly support nature conservation: poll

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An overwhelming majority of Canadians supports the federal government’s commitment to set aside at least 17 per cent of Canada’s lands and inland waters as protected conservation areas by 2020, according to a new poll.

Almost nine out of 10 Canadians either strongly support or support the government’s 2010 conservation commitment as part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, according to the poll conducted by Abacus Data for the International Boreal Conservation Campaign (IBCC).

“Canadians want to lead on conservation,” said in a statement Cathy Wilkinson, senior advisor to the IBCC.

“Canada is home to the biggest intact forest left on the planet. We have some of cleanest lakes and rivers. We have huge landscapes that help fight climate change. We still have a chance to protect nature on a grand scale.”

Indigenous stewardship

Edéhzhíe is home to headwater lakes, mature spruce forests, and vibrant wetlands; this diversity supports 36 mammal species, 197 bird species and 24 species of fish. (Bill Carpenter/Dehcho First Nations)

The poll, which was released Tuesday, ahead of a major conservation summit in Montreal, also found that over two-thirds of Canadians back a federal program to support Indigenous protected areas and Indigenous Guardians programs to help manage lands.

Canada will host a Nature Champions Summit in Montreal, from Apr. 24 to 25, 2019.

Many Indigenous Nations are working to create new Indigenous Protected Areas across the country, said Valérie Courtois, director of the Indigenous Leadership Initiative, a partner in the IBCC.

“What we mean by Indigenous-led conservation is when Indigenous Peoples are a part of the design and decision-making on the boundaries and the measures within those boundaries of proposed protected areas and that the push for those areas comes from the Indigenous nations themselves,” said Courtois.

(click to listen to the interview with Valérie Courtois)

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These proposed conservation areas cover over a million square kilometres of protected area, she said.

The survey also found that almost all Canadians view land conservation as a way to address climate change.

“Average Canadians are much more conservationist than we give them credit for,” Courtois said. “It’s important if we want to ensure our future as a country, as a Canadian society, that we think about the future of our land.”

David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data, said conservation is an issue that unites Canadians.

“It’s rare to see this kind of consensus on issues, but people overwhelmingly agree the country should do more to conserve nature,” Coletto said in a statement.

“They want leaders to work together here at home and internationally. And they want to empower Indigenous communities to manage the lands they know so well.”

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