Photo: Animals and forests receive protection

Researchers analyzed culturally modified tress used by First Nations in order to protect important forests

By Jode Roberts

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When people think of Canada, they picture our majestic landscapes and iconic creatures: a grizzly on a rocky slope or a moose at the shoreline of a glassy lake. These scenes are tightly woven into Canadian identity, and they continue to motivate us to protect our country's incredible natural heritage.

Over the past 20 years, the Foundation has been instrumental in protecting some of Canada's most ecologically critical hotspots by urging our government to establish more parks and protected areas and by ensuring that strong laws to protect wildlife are passed and enforced.

In the 1990s, we helped establish the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification standard in Canada – now recognized as the country's standard for sustainably harvested lumber and paper products.

One of our greatest victories began with a decade-long effort to push through a law to protect the habitats of Canada's endangered species, culminating with the passing of the Species at Risk Act in 2002. The act was a hard-fought win and great news for wildlife.

But sometimes our government still neglects to enforce the act. To show we mean business, we have gone to court – and won. Our lawsuits to protect the endangered Nooksack dace fish, the piping plover shorebirds, and orca whales all resulted in legal precedents that will ensure other species won't have to go to court to survive.

While the act protects species on federal lands, most of Canada's land is managed by provinces and territories. In 2007, we convinced the Province of Ontario to strengthen its own decades–old Endangered Species Act. This tough piece of legislation is widely lauded as the best species protection law in North America.

We are building on the success in Ontario to achieve a similar law in B.C. – the only province besides Alberta with no endangered species law, despite having more than 1, 600 species at risk.

In one of the last decade's biggest environmental successes, in 2006 we helped protect large areas of old-growth forest in the Great Bear Rainforest in B.C. This year we surprised many by joining with the logging industry to unveil what has been hailed as the largest forest–conservation agreement in history, covering millions of hectares of northern boreal forest from B.C. to Newfoundland.

The level of cooperation between environment advocates and their former adversaries is unprecedented. Now we are ensuring that Aboriginal people and boreal communities are fully involved and will benefit from conservation and ecosystem–based forestry.

In the future, we will continue to protect wilderness landscapes but will also increasingly focus on protecting and restoring nature in our backyards – fields, forests, farmland, and wetlands within our communities. These natural areas are critical to the health and prosperity of our communities. They provide a multitude of services, like cooling our cities, filtering our air and water, and providing places to explore or relax.

Reconnecting Canadians with nature in their neighbourhoods and ensuring that we value the services nature provides will be central to our future work. By working with government, industry, First Nations, and concerned Canadians, we can work to protect all of these natural wonders for years to come.