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Canadians encouraged to protect, connect with nature through online tool

(iStock Photo)

National Conservancy of Canada has launched a new tool to show Canadians where plants, animals most at risk

Launch of new Nature Conservancy of Canada tool coincides with World Wildlife Day

Canadians can put in their postal codes to see which places in their areas are in need of some conservancy TLC

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Canadians may feel like there’s a lot of nature to weed through – but depending on where you live, that might not actually be the case.

As we celebrate World Wildlife Day Wednesday, a tool has been launched by the Nature Conservancy of Canada to show you where plants and animals are most at risk. Those interested can access a website, input their postal code, and see which parts in their area require more protection.

The tool is part of a study which is considered the first comprehensive look at where nature in southern Canada needs to be protected as the world faces challenges around habitat loss and climate change.

Dan Kraus, a senior conservation biologist with the conservancy, says the assessment looks at nine crisis ecoregions. While many of them involve large cities like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, there are also some other areas impacted, like Red Deer, Trois-Rivières, and all of Prince Edward Island.

“The reason we looked at southern Canada is we know we’re a big country, we have some larger areas of wilderness to the north, but it’s in southern Canada where most people live, and were nature is at the greatest risk,” he tells NEWS 1130.

Canada has a goal of protecting 30 per cent of its lands and waters by 2030. While Kraus believes that’s an admirable goal, he says it’s not just about how much is protected but what is being protected.

“We found both some good news and some bad news; we found some places in southern Canada that are still relatively intact, where natural habitats are still there, there’s often large protected areas, and wildlife is doing quite well. Unfortunately there are other places – and these are other places where most Canadians live – where nature is declining. These are places that are incredibly important for protecting wildlife from a Canadian perspective, and even from a global perspective, but we don’t have a lot of protected areas, and in many cases, the habitats wildlife need are on the decline,” he explains.

Lower Mainland, part of Vancouver Island among ‘key regions’

Of the nine regions that were identified as spaces of concern, Kraus says there were some findings that were particular to B.C.

“The Lower Mainland is one of the key regions. The Fraser River estuary is incredibly important for waterfowl, there’s a lot of species — endangered species — at risk that live in that area, but we’ve lost a lot of habitat. There’s not a lot of protected areas as well within that region. The other one is the other side of eastern Vancouver Island, kind of in the rainshadow there. It’s one of Canada’s hot spots for endangered species, and again it’s a place where a lot of people live and where we’ve lost a lot of the natural habitat,” he says.

The nine regions identified represent about five per cent of our country, where 70 per cent of people live. About 60 per cent of Canada’s species at risk are typically in these ecoregions, which usually have few existing protected or remaining natural areas.

“We’re hoping the study will help people connect with the nature around them; their nature neighbourhood, within the region that they live. It’s great to think of ourselves as Canadians, but the study breaks the country into these different ecological regions. Each of these are unique and special in our own way,” he explains.

While nature overall seems to be in much better shape now than it was even a decade ago, there is still more work to be done.

“Our challenge is to accelerate those. And we know within and around urban areas, people are welcoming nature back to those places, and there are real opportunities to restore nature, to bring back natural habitats, to bring wildlife back, and also restoring our connection to nature,” he notes, pointing to the fact that Canadians have been spending more time outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.