Protecting Public Lands and Freshwater

Ninety percent of land and all freshwater areas in Canada are held and managed by governments — federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous. In 2015 Canada’s federal government committed to delivering on the international interim target set under the UN  Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) of protecting at least 17% of land and inland waters by 2020 and improving the quality of protected areas. The federal government has convened and led a nation-wide effort to achieve this target and invested more than $1.3 billion over five years in nature conservation. This included creating the Canada Nature Fund to support conservation action by provincial, territorial, and Indigenous governments, conservation organizations, and other partners.

This historic investment is supporting efforts by provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments to establish new protected areas, including 55,000 square-kilometers  in the Yukon’s Peel River Watershed, 27 new protected areas in Nova Scotia, and many others, and is expected to deliver an expansion of Canada’s protected areas system from just over 12% to about 17% protection  over the next few years.

To meet the federal government’s new target of protecting  25% of land and freshwater by 2025 and 30% by 2030, continued federal leadership and more investment to support action by all levels of government and other partners will be needed.

With Canada holding much of the world’s remaining wilderness, the federal government must continue to lead and champion nature conservation and its role in our collective prosperity and well being. Canadians want Canada to lead on conservation. A recent poll commissioned by The International Boreal Conservation Campaign (IBCC)  showed that 9 out of 10 Canadians support the government’s pledge to protect 30% of our land and ocean by 2030, 80% expect Canada to be a global leader in protecting land and water, and three quarters support expanding funding to create more protected areas.

Protected areas have a proven track record in delivering tangible economic benefits.  Investing in more and better managed protected areas, including Indigenous protected areas, will support short and long-term jobs across the country, build a long-term foundation for nature-based and culture-based tourism, and contribute to stable and diverse community economies. In 2017-18, the economic impact of visitor spending at Parks Canada sites alone included a $2.6 billion contribution to Canada’s GDP, almost 28,000 full time jobs across the country, and $449 million in tax revenues across multiple levels of government.

For conservation and protected areas to be effective in conserving biodiversity and delivering other benefits to Canadians, ongoing investments must also be made in management and stewardship. One critical lesson learned from the Canada Nature Fund Challenge is the importance of committing long-term funding to steward and manage new protected areas, in addition to providing funds for their establishment. This is key to securing the support of provincial and territorial governments and communities, and to ensuring that protected areas deliver diverse economic, social and environmental benefits.


1) Deliver on the federal government’s commitment to protect 25% of Canada’s land and freshwater by 2025 by investing $1.6 billion over five years:
a.  $800 million in the next two years (2020-2022)
b.  $300 million over three years (2022-2025)
c.  $100 million per year, ongoing, for management of provincial, territorial and federal protected areas

2) Lay out investment plans to deliver on the commitment to protect 30% of Canada’s land and freshwater by 2030 by committing $1.5 billion49 over the subsequent five years (2025-2030) for establishment and management of protected areas.

Anna Pidgorna –
Gauri Sreenivasan –
Jay Ritchlin –