Originally published in the Telegraph-Journal on December 21, 2022
The federal government has set the ambitious goal of conserving 30 per cent of Canada’s land and water by 2030 to halt and reverse the decline in biodiversity and improve climate resilience. This month, Atlantic Canada was well represented at the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity (COP15) in Montreal and New Brunswick seized the occasion to announce that it would be protecting an additional 277,900 hectares to reach its goal of protecting 10 per cent of the province’s land and freshwater. Nova Scotia announced it would be protecting an additional 9,300 hectares, topping the province up to 13 per cent towards its 20 per cent goal by 2030.
These are important steps considering the magnitude of what’s at stake. The dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss are threatening our health, our economy and our future. Wetlands can provide powerful solutions, but only if we commit to “go beyond.” Beyond the numbers tagged to current conservation targets. Beyond provincial and national borders that dictate conservation investments. And beyond what we believe can be achieved in order to ensure their protection.
This may sound like wishful thinking, but the critical, complex role wetlands play in our lives make them worthy of bold, future-focused commitments to conservation. Here’s why.
Wetlands are among the most diverse habitats on Earth. Unfortunately, they’re also some of the most threatened. Wetland degradation has far-reaching impacts on wildlife populations, water quality, food production and exacerbates the effects of floods and droughts. Simply put, wetlands are some of the most valuable ecosystems in the world. Atlantic provinces have progressively identified the unique values of wetlands and acted to protect them with the first wetland conservation policies in Canada. These policies commit to no net loss of wetlands, but more work is needed to ensure they are understood, upheld and respected.
The Wolastoq (Saint John River) is a great example of the opportunity we have here in Atlantic Canada to bolster biodiversity—and to build a brighter future alongside others who depend on the nature we all share. At 673 kilometres, the Wolastoq is one of the longest rivers in eastern North America. Its river basin covers 55,000 square kilometres that stretch across parts of New Brunswick, Quebec and Maine. The wetlands along its floodplain are not only an important stop for migratory species on the Atlantic flyway, they also provide homes for 45 species at risk. This includes many iconic and treasured species like the Atlantic salmon, wood turtle and least bittern.
In addition to wildlife habitat, the Wolastoq is critical to the provision of clean water for communities, food production and provides recreational opportunities. It is also a vital resource for Wolastoqiyik, Passamaquoddy, Mi’kmaq, and other First Nations who have relied on these waters, including its wetlands, for the essential role in their Nations’ culture, spirituality and sustenance for millennia. The conservation and restoration of the Wolastoq shoreline also helps protect communities from extreme weather events. Given that more than 500,000 people now live along the river’s basin, mitigating the effects of flooding is more important than ever.
That’s why Ducks Unlimited Canada has pledged to work in collaboration with communities, government and industry in both Canada and the United States to make sure that the important, biodiverse and beautiful wetlands on the Wolastoq floodplain—and the many communities it supports —remain for generations to come. Our ambitious 10-year, $3-million conservation project aims to renew and restore 1,900 hectares of vital freshwater wetland habitat.
Ducks Unlimited Canada, alongside our Ducks Unlimited partners from the United States and Mexico, joined world leaders at COP15 in Montreal and were proud to share our conservation knowledge and expertise on the international stage. Nature doesn’t know borders or organizational entities, and conservation success demands that we look past them as well. The community of partners and supporters required to conserve our habitats is just as complex as the ecosystems we are working to protect.
As Ducks Unlimited Canada enters our 85th year of leading cross-border conservation in North America, we are calling on all groups to act with urgency to conserve and restore our treasured wetlands. Together, we can achieve the conservation goals for 2030—and beyond.
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