The scent of pine in a forest, a grassland breeze on our face and the sound of waves on a shoreline invite us to connect with nature. Thanks to a unique public-private partnership, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and its partners are increasing the number of outstanding natural areas across our country that are protected from future development. That means more opportunities for all Canadians to appreciate nature, and for the plants and animals that depend on these ecologically important areas to thrive.
In 2007, the Government of Canada launched the Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) to advance conservation initiatives on private land. NCC administers the program. Using a science-based planning process, ecologically significant lands are secured for the future, through donation, purchase of land, or through conservation agreements with private landowners.
More than 430,000 hectares (1 million acres) of habitat – sustaining nearly 200 species at risk – have been protected under the program since it began.
“This is an amazing feat of conservation,” says John Lounds, president and CEO of NCC. “We have conserved areas of incredible ecological value that are now integrated into Canada’s larger network of protected spaces. In fact, over 80 per cent of properties conserved under the program lie within two kilometres of national parks, provincial parks or other conservation areas.”
This network of natural corridors and connected areas is important, because grizzly bears, migrating shorebirds and other species at risk don’t care if their resting, nesting or feeding area is located on private land or a publically managed nature reserve. They are simply seeking habitat to survive.
As Catherine McKenna, minister of environment and climate change, remarks, “Animals don’t just stop because it’s someone else’s land. Figuring out how to connect these areas is really important, and the Nature Conservancy of Canada has been very effective in working with private landowners – including ranchers and farmers – to acquire these lands.”
The federal government’s investment in the NACP has been matched and exceeded by contributions of land and funds from Canadians, other governments and the private sector. Under the most recent NACP funding agreement, for every dollar provided by the federal government, two additional dollars have been raised. This funding model has further solidified the strong partnerships of individuals, organizations, other land trusts and government working together to permanently conserve private lands across Canada’s diverse ecosystems.
While the program’s success can be measured in terms of the number of acres of wetlands, grasslands and forests that are now protected, there are other ways to measure progress, too.
Thanks to the NACP, endangered piping plovers in PEI can rest along a 50-kilometre sand dune, moose in Nova Scotia have an easier time travelling the narrow isthmus between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and the western grebe has access to important wetland habitat along the Columbia River in B.C.
“This is a program that all Canadians can be proud of,” says Mr. Lounds. “The NACP is making a tangible difference in our country’s efforts to increase biodiversity, protect species at risk and secure ecologically important areas that can help mitigate the potential effects of climate change.”
The Natural Areas Conservation Program
The Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) is a unique public-private partnership that helps non-government organizations secure ecologically sensitive lands to protect our country’s diverse ecosystems, wildlife and habitat. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) administers the program, which also supports the work of Ducks Unlimited Canada and other land trusts and conservation organizations.
From the program’s inception in 2007 through to March 31, 2017, the Government of Canada has invested $300-million in the NACP. This has been matched by more than $580-million in contributions of donated land and funds from individual Canadians, the private sector and provincial governments – resulting in the conservation of over 430,000 hectares (1 million acres) in the past decade. The program is on track to achieve a $1-billion investment in conservation action by 2020. Visit natureconservancy.ca/nacp.
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