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Backgrounder

Natural Areas Conservation Program

In March 2007, as part of our commitment to conserve and protect Canada's natural environment, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the Government of Canada would invest $225 million in the Natural Areas Conservation Program. The Program helps non-profit, non-government organizations secure ecologically sensitive lands to ensure the protection of our diverse ecosystems, wildlife and habitat.

As of March 2011, the Natural Areas Conservation Program has protected 160,796 hectares of habitat, which includes habitat for 101 species at risk.

To carry out the objectives of the Program, the Government of Canada entered into an agreement with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. As part of that agreement, the Nature Conservancy of Canada partners with non-government conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited Canada and other qualified land trusts. These organizations must provide matching funds for each federal dollar received.

Using a science-based process, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and its partners work to acquire ecologically sensitive lands through donation, purchase or stewardship agreements with private landowners.

Under the Program, priority is given to lands that are nationally or provincially significant, that protect habitat for species at risk and migratory birds, or that enhance connectivity or corridors between existing protected areas such as National Wildlife Areas, National Parks and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries.

The Natural Areas Conservation Program complements the Government's other important conservation initiatives and investments, including:

  • $275 million over five years on measures related to species at risk, plus $38 million over two years to work with provincial and territorial partners to address invasive alien species that threaten native wildlife;
  • Investing $96 million in our Action Plan for Clean Water to restore Lake Simcoe, Lake Winnipeg and areas of concern in the Great Lakes;
  • Another $62 million was invested in the Health of the Oceans initiative to protect the waters on Canada's three coasts including $18.5 million for the establishment of marine protected areas;
  • Working with other nations and partners such as Interpol to control illegal international wildlife trade in endangered species around the world, so that offenders cannot escape justice simply by crossing a border; 
  • Protecting biodiversity is a shared responsibility for all Canadians, including federal, provincial and local governments, private sector, civil society and aboriginal peoples. To this end, Biosphere Reserves have received a funding commitment of $5 million over 5 years to promote sustainable use in proximity to protected areas;
  • $25 million over five years for the Northwest Territories Protected Areas Strategy;
  • $30 million for the Great Bear Rainforest;
  • $3 million for Stanley Park in Vancouver and Point Pleasant Park in Halifax;
  • Since 2007-2008 the Habitat Stewardship Program has invested more than $45 million to support over 850 local projects for the protection of species at risk and their habitat;
  • $8.3 million for the Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement for environmental conservation and economic development in Nunavut;
  • Environment Canada's Protected Areas Network, made up of 54 National Wildlife Areas and 92 Migratory Bird Sanctuaries; and
  • The Ecological Gifts Program, which facilitates enhanced tax incentives to landowners who donate land title or place a conservation easement, covenant or servitude on ecologically sensitive land, hit a significant milestone this past year. As of May 2011 (since 1995), 896 ecological gifts valued at over $569 million have been donated across Canada, protecting over 140,000 hectares of wildlife habitat.

The Natural Areas Conservation Program is an important on-the-ground initiative that takes real action to preserve our environment. It is expected to result in the long-term protection of up to more than 200,000 hectares of ecologically sensitive land across Canada.