Planting trees and maintaining our forests will help slow climate change. (Photo credit: Pixabay)

Planting trees and maintaining our forests will help slow climate change. (Photo credit: Pixabay)

Strides made in nature conservation in 2020

Despite the pandemic, and in some cases because of it, nature made headlines around the world

By Dan Kraus

2020 may just have been Canada’s most important year for nature conservation.A year ago, there was much anticipation in the conservation community that 2020 would perhaps be the most important year ever for nature. Canada’s Nature Fund promised to accelerate the conservation of our wild spaces and species. There was a buzz about the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Congress. The World Economic Forum had made a call to stop the loss of biodiversity.

And then everything changed.

Urgent and immediate crises have a way of laying bare the true values and character of individuals and societies. Basic needs become priority needs. We draw closer to what we love. Safety, essential supplies, family and friends were at the top of everyone’s list. And in a world that was suddenly slowed and silenced, many of us were drawn closer to nature.

Our parks and conservation areas filled with new visitors. There was more traffic on the trails. Bird seed sold out. Urban foxes became celebrities. There was global interest on how nature had responded to our absence, and even thrived.

The hope for conservation from 2020 is not just that it moved many of us to a rediscovery of the outdoors and rethinking what we value. Despite one of the most monumental crises of our generation, nature conservation has continued, and moved us closer to a more sustainable world for people and for nature.

When nature thrives, we all thrive. There is growing recognition and funding for nature-based solutions to stabilize our climate, reduce the impacts of climate change, and support our economy and well-being. There is also increasing evidence that wetlands, forests, and grasslands are an essential part of our modern infrastructure and that physical contact with nature makes us healthier people.

The pandemic made it clear that our relationship with nature has a direct bearing on our well-being. Unmanaged and illegal wildlife trade and habitat destruction have found their way back to us. This stark realization resulted in quick calls to action to halt illegal wildlife trade and stop habitat loss.

Canada and more than 30 other countries have pledged to protect 30 per cent of their lands and oceans by 2030. This will increase Canada’s protected areas from about 1.2 million square kilometres to almost 3 million square kilometres: the equivalent area of over 260 new Banff National Parks. This will need new conservation partnerships and Indigenous-led conservation.

It will also require work in southern Canada, where most people live and where nature is most threatened by habitat loss. The federal government is investing $100-million in land conservation through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program. These funds will be matched by funds raised by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ducks Unlimited, and the country’s land trusts.

While the global trend of wildlife loss continues, there also continue to be promising stories of wildlife recovery: evidence of hope that shows we can pull wildlife back from the brink of extinction. In Canada two endangered butterflies — the Poweshiek skipperling and Taylor’s checkerspot — were released into the wild. In Alberta, the new Banff bison herd had a baby boom, with 10 new calves born this year.

Planting trees and restoring forests allows us to slow down climate change and speed up biodiversity conservation. Here in Canada, the federal government has committed to planting 2 billion trees over the next 10 years. Many forest regions in southern Canada have been heavily altered, and tree planting will help in their restoration.

When the sun rises in 2021 we will awaken to the United Nation’s International Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. A decade to not just stop the loss of nature, but to rebuild and make it better than it is today.

Dan Kraus is senior conservation biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
253 new COVID-19 cases, 4 more deaths in Interior Health over the weekend

More than 1,000 cases in the region remain active

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

A power outage Thursday night left nearly 3,000 homes in Clinton and the 70 Mile areas in the dark. (Katie McCullough photo).
Updated: Clinton, 70 Mile left in the dark after vehicle crashes into transmission pole

BC Hydro still working to restore power to 330 homes in 70 Mile House

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
115 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths in Interior Health

There are now a total of 4,970 cases in the region

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

Sunnybank
COVID-19 related deaths at Oliver, West Kelowna and Vernon senior care homes

Sunnybank, Heritage Retirement Residence and Noric House recorded deaths over the weekend

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Most Read