Dan Kraus is senior conservation biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. (Photo courtesy of Nature Conservancy of Canada)

Dan Kraus is senior conservation biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. (Photo courtesy of Nature Conservancy of Canada)

COLUMN: Pandemic helped Canadians rediscover nature

By Dan Kraus

Nature Conservancy of Canada

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 to almost three million square kilometres – or 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 continues 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. And 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 two 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 Nexii roof panel is lifted during construction of a Starbucks in Abbotsford. Alexzi Building Solutions will be building a manufacturing plant in Langford or North Cowichan to produce the sustainable construction panels. (Photo courtesy of Alexzi Building Solutions)
Langford eyed for facility to make green building alternative to concrete

Langford, North Cowichan possible sites for plant to create sustainable construction panels

Local MP Elizabeth May says the public has a right to know the identity of the company that plans to operate the massive warehouse proposed for Sidney on airport lands but residents who want to stop the project would probably have to go through the courts. (Black Press Media File)
MP Elizabeth May says public has right to know identity of Sidney warehouse operator

Residents wanting to stop the project would probably have to go through the courts, said May

Bukwila by Art Thompson, set at the steps of Lansdowne campus’ Wilna Thomas Cultural Centre, has been welcoming students to campus since 1997. (Photo courtesy of Camosun College)
World-renowned artist’s legacy lives on at Camosun College

Art Thompson made untold contributions toward Indigenous education, art and advocacy

Did you know, according to the CRD, every person produces an average of 185–200 litres of wastewater per day? Here’s where most of it gets treated, at the new wastewater treatment facility at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt. (CRD image)
View Royal signs on to wastewater funding plan

Capital Regional District requesting to borrow up to $34.3 million to upgrade infrastructure

Susan Lundy is an award-winning writer – including a two-time recipient of the prestigious Jack Webster Award of Distinction – with a 35-year career in print journalism. She is well known throughout B.C. as the managing editor of Black Press Media’s Boulevard Magazine and is also the author of the book Heritage Apples. (Lia Crowe photo)
Award-winning journalist and humour columnist pens ode to motherhood and family

Susan Lundy is the managing editor of Black Press Media’s Boulevard Magazine

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Police were on the scene of a fatal shooting in Abbotsford. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. government to give more than $8 million for programs to curb gang violence

221 not-for-profit projects led by local governments and school districts among others will receive a one-time grant

Gord Judson steers his log truck down a forest service road, using two-way radio and call signals to mark his position for oncoming traffic. (B.C. Forest Safety Council)
Planning some B.C. wilderness fishing? Don’t catch a log truck

Remote recreation areas bracing for heavy pandemic pressure

Former University of British Columbia student Stephanie Hale, 22. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett
Human Rights Tribunal to hear complaint against UBC Okanagan for ‘mishandling’ sexual assault report

Stephanie Hale did not return to campus after the student she alleges attacked her was cleared of wrongdoing

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman’s restaurant is located in the tiny community of Field, which relies on tourism

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Black bear tranquillized, relocated after wandering around residential Ladysmith

A juvenile black bear was spotted near 2nd Avenue earlier Friday morning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Most Read