Breaking news: all 26 Ontario Nature nature reserves are now included in the Canadian Protected and Conserved Areas Database! We are proud to announce that our properties totaling 3,117 hectares (7,702 acres) now count towards the 10.7% of Ontario that is recognized as being protected. These natural areas were established to protect significant biodiverse spots since 1961 and encompass some of the province’s best remaining examples of imperiled and vulnerable habitats. Habitat types vary from remote wetlands to restored plantation forests, and each property differs in its accessibility from established trail networks to limited or no trails.
You might be wondering why these nature reserves that are owned and managed to protect biodiversity have not already been nationally recognized as protected lands. This began with Canada adopting national targets in 2015, known as the 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada. This led to the Pathway to Canada Target 1 initiative whereby the Canadian government committed to protecting at least 17% of land and inland waters and 10% of marine and coastal areas by 2020. In September, 2020, the target was increased to protecting 25% of our lands and waters by 2025, and 30% by 2030. The evaluation of conservation areas owned and managed by local governments and private landowners was recognized as a key step towards achieving the target, which is when Ontario Nature got involved.
Our properties went through a rigorous screening process to ensure that they are being managed by Ontario Nature in accordance with pan-Canadian standards agreed to by governments across the country, and consistent with international standards developed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. While we are pleased that our properties count towards national targets, we still have a long way to go to reach the new target of 30% by 2030.
Municipalities, private landowners and other land trusts are encouraged to engage in the process of having their properties count in the national protected areas database. When determining whether a candidate area may be eligible, keep in mind they do not need to strictly be a conservation reserve and could fit in the ‘Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures’ category.
Learn more about how Ontario Nature is working collaboratively with grassroots organizations and Indigenous communities across the province to identify candidate protected areas by visiting our Protected Places webpage and viewing our Story Map.
Smera Sukumar is the Nature Reserves Manager for Ontario Nature working with both the Citizen Science and Nature Reserves programs. She is an avid traveller, having travelled to a total of 38 countries world-wide.