In 2021, the Government of Ontario appointed a Protected Areas Working Group to “identify opportunities to protect and conserve more natural areas” in the province, but the group’s final report and recommendations were never released.
Two years later, Katie Krelove, Ontario Campaigner at the Wilderness Committee, obtained the report through a Freedom of Information request. She then publicly shared it through a news article published by The Narwhal on June 15, 2023. This blog summarizes seven key takeaways.
Upholds the national and international goal of protecting 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030 (known as the 30 by 30 target) and provides a timeline by which this could be achieved in Ontario;
Calls for a comprehensive provincial protected areas strategy, approved by Cabinet, based on clear objectives, targets and timelines;
Advises a community-driven and collaborative approach to identifying candidate protected areas and implementing the protected areas strategy;
Urges rapid action to better account for what is already protected and to secure near-term opportunities by protecting identified candidate sites and strengthening protections for key natural features (e.g., Provincially Significant Wetlands);
Recommends the establishment of a Wild Ontario Accelerator Fund to incent action and produce results; and
Highlights the strong public appetite for this work: 86 percent of survey respondents support the creation of more parks and protected areas.
While Ontario Nature wholeheartedly supports the above recommendations, there are others in the report that give us cause for concern. As usual, the devil is in the details. In the rush to account for diverse types of existing protected and conserved areas, it is critical to ensure that the pan-Canadian standard for protected and conserved areas is upheld. Only sites that are managed to achieve effective, long-term biodiversity conservation should count towards the 30 by 30 target.
The provincial government has yet to move on any of the report’s recommendations, but it’s not too late. We all have an opportunity to urge the Government of Ontario to take meaningful action to protect natural areas. With Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) officially home for the summer, this is a particularly good moment to reach out as a constituent and make your views known through a phone call or meeting.
For help engaging with your MPP, please check out Ontario Nature’s four updated tipsheets on “flexing your democratic muscle.”
To learn more about key opportunities to create protected areas near you and across the province, visit the collective “Your Protected Places” Story Map.
Sarah Hasenack (she/her) joined Ontario Nature in Spring 2022 and is loving her work as the organization’s Conservation Planning Coordinator. She has a passion protecting and appreciating nature fostered through years of family camping and hiking trips, backed up by a Bachelor and Master of Science in Environmental Sciences both completed at the University of Guelph.