You can't save them if you don't know what they are. Surrey, the fastest growing municipality in Metro Vancouver, is creating healthier living environments for people and wildlife by identifying high-value green spaces, preserving them and connecting them in corridors.
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We know that green spaces are vital for stressed-out urban dwellers. A large and growing body of research (PDF) points to the positive psychological and health benefits people get from spending time in nature.
But municipal development is too often haphazard and piecemeal: this small pocket park in exchange for that dense development. When precious — and limited — urban green spaces are gone, it's often too late or costly to reintroduce them.
The City of Vancouver threw down the green gauntlet by declaring its aspiration to become the world's greenest city by 2020. Other municipalities in the region are picking up the challenge. Surrey, while preparing to add 300,000 more people by 2041, is the first Metro Vancouver municipality to adopt a biodiversity conservation strategy (PDF). It's become a green leader by moving forward to create and join large, high-value, diverse habitats in the first approved section of the Regional Green Infrastructure Network.
Compared to the relative inaction of provincial and federal governments, municipalities across Canada are already leading the way in responding to climate change. Now Surrey is setting an outstanding example on how to preserve important habitat by setting up biodiversity targets for wildlife and ecosystems, establishing conservation criteria for corridors and sites, identifying a network of natural areas for long-term biodiversity and monitoring the entire process.
Congratulations Surrey for recognizing that retaining biodiversity is key to a healthy, livable and sustainable community! Let's encourage all Canadian municipalities to recognize the value nature provides.