OTTAWA – Canadian wildlife needs more protection or species will disappear, warns a report released Friday.
The report by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society says bigger, better-managed parks — and more of them — are needed if they are to fulfil their critical role in protecting wildlife.
“In spite of our existing parks system, overall the news about Canada’s biodiversity is not great,” says the report. “There are over 500 species listed as at risk of extinction, and the list is growing.
“The majority of species at risk of extinction in Canada are at risk because of a lack of adequate protection for their habitats. Every effort must be made to combat this trend.”
Governments can do that, says the report, by creating more and bigger parks and protected areas, connecting them to enable wildlife movement, and focusing on healthy ecosystems and wildlife.
The review “How is Wildlife Faring in Canada’s Parks?” argues that parks are a cornerstone of Canada’s efforts to protect biodiversity — the variety of flora and fauna that make up an ecosystem.
It is the group’s third annual review of parks to mark Canada Parks Day, July 17. It’s focused on biodiversity this year because the United Nations declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity.
“In Canada we have one of the best opportunities left in the world to create big parks that can protect species that need large areas of wilderness to survive — before those species get in trouble,” said the group’s executive director, Eric Hebert-Daly.
While it praises government efforts over the last year to create new parks, particularly Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area off the B.C. coast, the group recommends a range of measures, including creating and expanding parks, maintaining movement corridors, restricting development and limiting recreational activities.
“Where wildlife species are thriving as part of healthy ecosystems within our parks, such as grizzly bears in Alberta’s Willmore Wilderness Park, the parks generally protect large areas of habitat, and there are strict limits on such human activities as road-building, mechanized-vehicle use and commercial and industrial developments.
“Where species are in trouble within our parks, such as moose in Manitoba’s Nopiming Provincial Park, the problems are often human-caused and require management actions to be fixed.”
The report also says reintroduction of species after they have disappeared from specific areas can help their overall recovery from the brink of extinction and restore parks’ natural biodiversity.
Among other vulnerable species protected by parks: the Ipswich savannah sparrow of Sable Island, N.S.; the black dogfish of the Laurentian Channel of the Gulf of St. Lawrence; and the eastern wolf of Ontario’s Algonquin Park.
Among those facing uncertainty, the report says, are the little brown bat in the Fisher Bay area of Lake Winnipeg, Man.; the northern gannet of Atlantic Canada; and New Brunswick’s American marten.