Canada’s Protected Areas

The number of areas and the total area protected in Canada continue to grow. As of the end of 2012, 10% (1 003 818 km2) of Canada’s land and freshwater (terrestrial) area and approximately 0.7% (49 326 km2) of its marine territory have been recognized as protected. In the last 20 years, the total area protected has increased by 94% and in the last 5 years it has increased by 17%. In 2012, federal jurisdictions protected 520 146 km2 of territory, a 47% increase in the last 20 years.

Protected areas are lands and waters where development and use is restricted by legal or other means for the conservation of nature. Limited development, industrial activity, and harvest of biological resources do occur in some cases. Based on internationally recognized definitions, protected areas are classified according to their management objective. As of 2012, 93% of protected territory in Canada was in management categories that are generally recognized to provide a higher level of protection.Footnote [1]

Trends in proportion of area protected, Canada, 1990 to 2012

Trends in proportion of area protected, Canada, 1990 to 2012

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: Areas that lack information on creation date have been assumed to have been protected before 1990. Only areas recognized as protected under international standards are included.
Source: For Canada except Quebec: Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (CCEA) (2013) Conservation Areas Reporting and Tracking System (CARTS). For Quebec: Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement, de la Faune et des Parcs (2013) Base de données du Registre des aires protégées au Québec. Data are current as of 31 December, 2012.

Larger protected areas tend to be located in northern Canada, where there are fewer conflicting land uses. Although the distribution and size of individual protected areas is highly variable, the total represents an area close to the size of Ontario.

Protected areas, Canada, 2012

Protected areas, Canada, 2012

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: Terrestrial (land and freshwater) protected areas in International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categories I-IV are shown in dark green, those in categories V and VI in medium green. Marine protected areas in IUCNcategories I-IV are shown in dark blue, those in categories V and VI in medium blue. Not all provinces and territories report on protected areas that are privately owned.
Source: For Canada except Quebec: Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (CCEA) (2013) Conservation Areas Reporting and Tracking System (CARTS). For Quebec: Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement, de la Faune et des Parcs (2013) Base de données du Registre des aires protégées au Québec. Data are current as of 31 December, 2012.

Laws or agreements limit the amount and type of human activity in protected lands or waters, in order to conserve natural environments for the benefit of present and future generations of Canadians. Protected areas may be chosen to represent parts of the Canadian landscape, such as the boreal forest or an ocean shelf, or created to conserve endangered wildlife species, wildlife habitats, and unique or ecologically sensitive areas.

Federal, provincial and territorial protected areas are included in this report, as are partial data from non-governmental environmental organizations, indigenous peoples and local communities. Examples of protected areas include national and provincial parks, national wildlife areas, migratory bird sanctuaries, wildlife reserves, and ecological reserves. This report does not contain comprehensive information on privately held conservation lands, such as those owned by land trusts or lands still in private ownership but protected by conservation easements or similar agreements.

All protected areas are managed to conserve nature, but the 7% of areas not in “strictly protected” categories are either focused on preserving landscapes where long-term, sustainable human use has produced an area with natural and cultural features that are important,Footnote [2] or are focused on maintaining sustainable use of natural resourcesFootnote [3](view data).

The parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity set a new target, in October 2010, to set aside at least 17% of terrestrial areas and inland waters and at least 10% of marine areas, by 2020. Canada, as a signatory to the convention, is contributing to this global target.

Related indicators

Other information


Theme III: Protecting Nature of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.
This indicator is used to measure progress toward Target 4.3: Terrestrial Ecosystems and Habitat Stewardship – Contribute to the proposed national target that by 2020, at least 17% of terrestrial areas and inland water are conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2013-2016.

Footnotes

Footnote 1

Areas in International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categories I-IV are considered “strictly protected”; see Data Sources and Methods for details.

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Footnote 2

IUCNcategory V.

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Footnote 3

IUCNcategory VI.

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