The first period, from about the 1670s to 1860, has been called the "Tree Reserves Period." In this period the French and English tried to ensure a steady supply of ship timber.
During the second, the "Land Reserves Period" (1860-1885), land was reserved by church and state for schools, universities and railways. Sales of land and land taxes were the only sources of wealth for governments. The first Canadian naturalist club was established in Ontario in this period (1863).
A wide variety of parks, forest reserves, BIRD SANCTUARIES and wildlife preserves were created during the third period, the "Resource Reserve Period" (1880-present). Emphasis was placed on using wildlife wisely, rather than merely preserving or protecting it.
During the fourth period, called the "Recreation Reserves Period" (1885-present), recreation facilities such as parks, historic sites and fish and game reserves were established, especially near urban areas.
The "Nature and Wilderness Reserves Period" dates from about 1960, when Canadians began to see value in setting aside areas of wild country. Emphasis was less on resource use or recreation than on retaining areas where primarily the forces of nature are allowed to shape the environment.
The first Canadians to study the natural environment were probably the amateurs (doctors, diviners, etc) who began to catalogue the natural history of the country (eg, flora, fauna, rocks, fossils) and laid the bases for the sciences of biology, botany, geology, paleontology, entomology and zoology in Canada. The view they took of nature and the environment was shaped initially by European art and scientific traditions. European experiences of forestry and game preserves also had an effect. Writers such as Jean Jacques Rousseau, William Wordsworth and Lord Byron influenced Canadians, as did the writings of Grey Owl (Archibald S. BELANEY), an Englishman who settled in Canada. American thinkers had an even greater effect. These included the eminent ornithologist John James Audubon, who visited Canada in the 1830s, and the writers James Fenimore Cooper, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. The American conservationists John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club (1892), and Gifford Pinchot, who with President Theodore Roosevelt launched the American conservation movement in the early 1900s, were also significant.
Americans were generally ahead of Canadians in concern for the conservation of resources. This concern probably resulted from the more extensive settlement in the US, which demonstrated the harm that civilization could do. In Canada a pioneer mentality of "unlimited" forests, lakes and wildlife persisted longer. The development of NATIONAL PARKS clearly illustrates the difference between early American and Canadian conservation action. The first North American national park was Yellowstone, created in the US in 1872. From the beginning, such parks were intended to protect scenic attractions.
In Canada the first national parks were established in the Rocky Mountains (BANFF in 1885, YOHO and GLACIER in 1886), but their purpose was economic: to produce revenue from forest reserves and tourist travel. Parks were not conceived as wilderness preserves at this stage. In 1916 the US passed the National Park Service Act, which stated that parks were to be "unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." This wording was not used in the Canadian National Parks Act until 1930. In this respect, 1930 marked a kind of turning point in Canadian conservation thought.
In the area of wildlife conservation, however, Canada did react to some emergency situations quite early (see WILDLIFE CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT). The first bird sanctuary was created in Saskatchewan in 1887. By 1889 the plains BISON had been reduced from about 60 million to less than 2000 animals. In 1907 and 1909 the government purchased about 700 bison and placed them in national parks. Between 1910 and 1920, 3 areas were set aside as reserves for antelope (see PRONGHORN) in Alberta and Saskatchewan; these were later abolished as unnecessary - one of the few examples of "undoing" a legally protected area in Canada.
In 1911 Canada formally established a parks branch; James HARKIN was appointed Dominion parks commissioner. Harkin, probably the first leading Canadian to argue for protection of wilderness for its own sake, was deeply influenced by the American conservation movement. Canada's first significant international conservation effort was a treaty with the US (1916) for the protection of migratory birds.
Until 1945 conservation in Canada focused on establishing national and PROVINCIAL PARKS in remote areas. After World War II emphasis was on park expansion for recreational purposes. National and provincial park systems grew slowly during this period. The 1960s marked a different era for conservation and the environmental movement in Canada. Conservationist attitudes were no longer restricted primarily to naturalist groups. A growing number of Canadians became concerned not only about using resources wisely but also about the effects of human activity on the environment.
During the 1960s, concern about POLLUTION became a major public issue. Specialized groups, largely urban based, such as the Society for the Promotion of Environmental Conservation (in the West; now Society Promoting Environmental Conservation or SPEC), POLLUTION PROBE (in the East) and the Ecology Action Centre (in the Maritimes) were born. These groups were led by scientists such as Donald CHANT, who was deeply concerned about issues such as AIR POLLUTION and WATER POLLUTION, HAZARDOUS WASTES and the careless use of PESTICIDES (documented by American conservationist Rachel Carson in her 1962 book, Silent Spring). Preservation of the natural environment had come to be seen as more than a question of recreation or preserving scenic beauty, but as being important to human survival. The late 1960s also marked the birth of GREENPEACE, founded in Canada, but soon to become a high-profile international activist force for various environmental causes.
The nature conservation movement received a boost from the environmental interest of the 1960s. The National and Provincial Parks Association of Canada was established in 1963, WORLD WILDLIFE FUND CANADA in 1967, and the Sierra Club in Canada in 1970; and, in 1971, the Canadian Audubon Society and several of its affiliates established the Canadian Nature Federation (now NATURE CANADA), a national assembly of naturalist groups from across the country. Scientific biological associations and groups traditionally less active in conservation issues, such as game and fish associations, also increased their emphasis on environmental issues, represented nationally by the CANADIAN WILDLIFE FEDERATION.
During this period, the concern for nature conservation centred on preserving wilderness and protecting unique areas or ECOSYSTEMS as ecological reserves. Each province experienced a burst in the growth of local groups focusing on local conservation and environmental issues, and provincial naturalist and conservation federations became increasingly active and vocal. In a single decade, federal and provincial governments established ministries or departments of the environment, environmental protection Acts and environmental assessment legislation (see ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT).
Acts to protect endangered species, such as that passed in Ontario in 1971, were unique in the world because they sought to protect rare or endangered species of all plants and animals (including insects). In 1978 the intergovernmental COMMITTEE ON THE STATUS OF ENDANGERED WILDLIFE IN CANADA (COSEWIC) began to define a national list of species at risk.
In 1972 the United Nations convened in Stockholm an international Conference on the Human Environment. Canada was well represented and, as a result, Canadian conservation concern became increasingly international through participation in agencies such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Environmental concerns are now seen in a global context as awareness grows that all people depend on clean air and water and healthy ecosystems. Follow-up UN conferences on the environment were convened in 1982 (Nairobi, Kenya), 1992 (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and 2002 (Johannesburg, South Africa).
In the mid 1980s to the present, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) began to play a stronger role in Canada, no longer satisfied to simply call for, or rely on, the leadership of governments. For example, the Canadian Coalition on Acid Rain (1981-91) helped obtain agreements between Canada and the US to reduce sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. In 1985, Ducks Unlimited launched the North American Waterfowl Management Plan - a $1.5 billion 15-year effort to conserve wetlands in Canada. In late 1989, World Wildlife Fund Canada launched its 10-year national Endangered Spaces Campaign, to complete a network of protected areas representing all terrestrial NATURAL REGIONS of Canada. Although this ecological goal was not reached by the campaign's close in the year 2000, it did result in the establishment of over 1000 new parks, wilderness areas and nature reserves that more than doubled the amount of protected area across the country.
In 2003, the Canadian Boreal Initiative, a consortium of NGOs, launched the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework, which was supported by a founding group of not just conservation groups, but leading resource development companies and First Nations as well. The Framework has targeted protecting at least 50% of Canada's BOREAL FOREST (which in turn covers over 50% of the country), while ensuring conservation-based management for those areas designated for harvest, mining, or oil and natural gas development. Major gains were made through the NWT Protected Areas Strategy, and through commitments by both Ontario and Quebec to protect over half their boreal regions.
These large, continentally-significant conservation initiatives, led by coalitions of NGOs, business, governments and Aboriginal organizations effectively mark the most recent and sixth major period in Canadian conservation (see also ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE). Huge gains for nature have been made through multi-party negotiations and agreements, for example, through regional land use planning throughout BC and subsequently in the Great Bear Rainforest on the coast, through Ontario's Living Legacy exercise (378 new conservation areas established), and through important new areas announced for protection in Nova Scotia, where nearly 70% of the land base resides in private hands.
Equally important, there have been collaborative industry and NGO efforts to improve management on those lands that will continue to be subject to industrial exploitation. For example, more than 25 million ha of Canadian woodlands have been certified to the international standards of the Forest Stewardship Council.
In the 2000s, CLIMATE CHANGE emerged as an over-arching global and national concern for environmental activists and nature conservationists alike. This issue drew international attention with the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 by industrialized nations, including Canada, which ratified it in 2002. This was followed by efforts to bring more countries (especially developing nations) aboard at a large follow-up meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009. Solving this problem will require a long-term mix of measures, including binding commitments to reduce green-house gas emissions (primarily carbon dioxide), new industrial technologies, different ways of pricing or taxing carbon, and technical and financial assistance for developing countries such as China and India, which represent rapidly growing sources of emissions.
Author MONTE HUMMEL
Links to Other Sites
World Wildlife Fund Canada
The official website of the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Check out the "Polar Bear Tracker," "Living Planet City," and other interactive features that show individuals can take part in environmental conservation efforts.
Canadian Museum of Nature
The website for the Canadian Museum of Nature. Check out the online multimedia features and the latest news about museum exhibits, collections, research activities, and events.
Conservation Council of New Brunswick
The website for New Brunswick leading environmental organization. Promotes awareness of environmental issues in the province and advocates solutions through research, education and interventions. See their online newsletter "EcoAlert" for the latest environmental news in the region and their "Environmental Wall of Fame."
Commission for Environmental Cooperation
An international organization created by Canada, Mexico and the United States under the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC). The CEC was established to address regional environmental concerns, help prevent potential trade and environmental conflicts, and to promote the effective enforcement of environmental law.
Canadian Boreal Initiative
The Canadian Boreal Initiative is working with a wide range of conservation organizations, First Nations, industry and other interested parties to link science, policy and conservation activities in Canada's boreal forest.
My Century - Maurice Strong
This BBC site features a discussion with Maurice Strong about the topic of sustainable development (fourth item on the list).
Stewardship Canada Portal
The Stewardship Canada Portal offers a directory of many Canadian charitable foundations.
Why survey Herptiles?
This Parks Canada website is devoted to the study of amphibian and reptilian species native to Canada.
Earth Day Canada
Check out the website for Earth Day Canada for local Earth Day events in your community. Find out what each of us can do to lessen our environmental impact.
EALT: Environmental Benefits
This site offers a brief overview of environmental benefits associated with establishing protected areas referred to as "land trusts." From the website for the Edmonton & Area Land Trust.