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Speech

Speech for
The Honourable Peter Kent, P.C., M.P.
Minister of the Environment
National Fish and Wildlife Conservation Congress
Ottawa, Ontario
May 31, 2012

Introduction

Good afternoon!

As I listened to my esteemed colleague just now, I was thinking this is the first time the two of us have ever spoken back-to-back at the same conference.

I think that speaks volumes of our Government’s appreciation for the role of anglers and hunters in the conservation of Canada’s fish and wildlife, and specifically, for what you’ve been accomplishing here this week.

It takes tremendous initiative and leadership to break new ground like you’ve done with this Congress, and I would like to add my own congratulations to the organizers.

You had a very ambitious agenda, and heard from all manner of conservationists, biologists and ecologists, both from Canada and the United States, on a variety of compelling topics.

I’m sure all of you will be leaving here with lots of ideas about how you can further the goals of fish and wildlife conservation.

For my part today, I want to talk about the Government of Canada’s proposed National Conservation Plan, and how we’re depending on hunters and anglers to help us achieve our goals.

The importance of this collaboration was reinforced by the Prime Minister yesterday when he announced the creation of a new national Hunting and Angling Advisory Panel. The Panel will help ensure that future conservation practices are based on input from Canadians who have a long tradition of conservation.

First, however, let me offer my own take on the challenges and opportunities ahead.

A strong record of accomplishment

Over the past two decades, Canada, the United States and Mexico have together conserved more than 10 million hectares of wetlands through the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

Yes, we have tremendous conservation challenges ahead. But, for all that, I do believe we are making a difference, and I am proud of this Government’s strong record of accomplishment through various initiatives.

As of 2011, the Habitat Stewardship Program funded almost 2,000 projects, protecting more than 160,000 hectares of habitat.

Together with Ontario, our Government also created the world’s largest freshwater protected area -- the 10,000 square kilometres at the top of Lake Superior.

Through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, our Government has helped partners like Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Nature Conservancy of Canada to secure the protection of almost 1,700 square kilometres of ecologically sensitive land.

In Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2012, we reaffirmed our Government’s commitment to conservation. To that end, we pledged $50 million over two years to the Species at Risk Act, as well as an additional $143 million to create Canada’s first-ever national urban park in the Rouge Valley here in Ontario.

Other conservation efforts relate to birds. Imagine, tens of thousands of Canadians participate every year in various breeding bird surveys, checklist surveys and winter bird surveys, helping us to monitor and manage Canada's birds more effectively.

All these conservation efforts share three guiding principles:

  • Focusing on priorities to achieve the greatest results;
  • Harnessing the power of partnership for the greater good by working with other jurisdictions, First Nations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and industry leaders; and
  • Taking a “stewardship first” approach that recognizes and advances the tremendous role played by volunteers at the grassroots.

These same guiding principles will be at the heart of our proposed National Conservation Plan, or NCP.

Let me tell you more about what we want to accomplish through the NCP, and how you can help.

National Conservation Plan

No single jurisdiction has all the answers or exclusive responsibility for conservation. That’s why, when our Government proposed a National Conservation Plan in the 2011 Speech from the Throne, we committed to working with a broad range of stakeholders and partners--from the provinces and territories to industry, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Aboriginal groups and, of course, the fishing and hunting community.

Our goal is nothing less than a shared and coherent vision to advance conservation efforts across the country. Although we’re just getting started with our engagement on the Plan, the response so far has been both positive and productive.

From initial feedback at the Ministerial Roundtable in January, we’ve identified three possible themes for the National Conservation Plan:

  • Conserving Canada’s landscapes and marine/aquatic areas, including through innovative working landscape approaches;
  • Connecting Canadians to nature as well as habitats and ecosystems to each other; and
  • Restoring degraded ecosystems and recovering species at risk.

Let me say a few more words about the feedback we’ve received, and how our Plan is shaping up.

Our Federal, Provincial, and Territorial governments are collaborating this year to survey Canadians about their participation in nature activities such as hunting, angling, and bird-watching, and many others. The survey will generate valuable information about how and where Canadians experience nature and the important contributions that these activities make to our economy.   

The results will be very useful to support resource management initiatives across the country, as well as efforts to analyse the values of ecosystem services. 

Wetlands in the Lake Simcoe watershed, for example, provide water regulation and filtration, flood control, waste treatment, recreation and wildlife habitat. These services are worth a staggering $435 million every year. Meanwhile, the forests in this watershed are worth another $319 million thanks to services such as recreation, water filtration, carbon storage, and habitat for pollinators.

And while we’re on the topic, Canada is home to more than 1000 species of pollinating insects. They fertilize more than one billion dollars’ worth of apples, pears and other crops every year. That, my friends, is nothing to sneeze at...

Of course, I won’t forget to mention recreational fishing--which according to the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters generates more than $2.4 billion annually here in Ontario alone. In the Canadian economy in 2010, anglers generated $8.3 billion to local economies, an increase of 10% over 2005.

At the Roundtable, people told me that working landscapes--lands that support ongoing economic activity--are an important part of Canada’s conservation efforts, and generate both economic and environmental benefits. By recognizing and enhancing stewardship on working landscapes, we can improve the overall health of the landscape without necessarily taking land out of production.

The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters’ Community Stream Steward Program is a terrific case in point. Together, landowners and other partners work on restoration projects to enhance coldwater habitats on public and private properties.

Stakeholders have also reminded us that, as we explore innovative new measures, we need to build on what already works--initiatives like the Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp Program and the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, which this year is celebrating 25 years of conservation success. Rest assured we want to draw upon these and other best practices.

Ultimately, our National Conservation Plan should generate the triple-win of environmental, economic and social benefits. That means building healthy, resilient ecosystems and wildlife populations, and enabling Canadians to enjoy our natural spaces, resources and services for generations to come.

It’s a tall order, and partnerships will be central to our success, including with the fishing and hunting community. Our focus on stewardship shows that we take a broad view of conservation, including the sustainable use and management of fish and wildlife species. Thus, as we develop and implement our Plan, I believe the people in this room can help lead the way.

Hunters and anglers are among the most ardent and dedicated conservationists. They know their activities depend on healthy, sustainable ecosystems, and this drives them to conserve both fishing and hunting spaces and the species themselves. I would go so far as to say that fishing and hunting and the conservation of fishing waters and hunting grounds go hand-in-hand.

For all these reasons, the National Conservation Plan will look to draw upon the passion and expertise of both hunters and anglers.

Next Steps

Let me finish by bringing you up-to-date on where we’re at.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development has recently begun to study the proposed National Conservation Plan. From what I understand, many of the witnesses are echoing what we heard at the Ministerial Roundtable. That bodes well for all of us because it suggests we’re on the same wavelength.

The Government certainly appreciates the valuable and thoughtful input of all the witnesses, and we’re looking forward to the Committee’s advice and recommendations. No doubt they will help us fine-tune our engagement strategies, as well as possible goals and implementation priorities.

Conclusion

I’ll leave you with this thought.

You’ve just completed an intense week exploring the future of fish and wildlife resources in North America.

After you catch your breath, I hope you’ll stay involved with the development of the National Conservation Plan.

For our plan to work, we need everyone to buy in.

Hunters and anglers are key partners--not just for the billions of dollars that your activities generate for the Canadian economy, but also because of your commitment to conservation. Of course, the two are mutually reinforcing.

Your deep connection to nature is often misunderstood, but I want you to know that I get it, and that I’m counting on your enthusiasm, wisdom and experience to move us all forward. In the coming months, we look forward to working closely with hunters and anglers who have unique expertise in the conservation of our natural heritage. They are well positioned to provide the government with useful insight on issues such as endangered species, wetland protection, and nature conservation.

Congratulations again for your leadership on organizing this Congress. I have no doubt that you’re adding to our collective knowledge, and that it will benefit everyone who cares about conserving Canada’s fish and wildlife.

Thank you.