Today the United Nations marks International Day for Biological Diversity. The theme of this years’ celebration is Mainstreaming Biodiversity: Sustaining people and their livelihoods to highlight that halting biodiversity loss is an investment supporting the long term survival of people, their communities, economies and their well-being.
In Manitoba, community land use planning and the Protected Areas Initiative are powerful tools to achieve biodiversity conservation targets. CPAWS hopes the new provincial government will employ these tools as means to achieve a sustainable future for the province.
A strong body of research links biodiversity (the variety of life forms on the planet) to the full and healthy function of ecosystems and that healthy function is what enables ecosystems to provide the services that people, communities and economies depend on. This includes provision of wood, paper, food, oxygen and clean water; regulation of climate, disease and flooding; crop pollination, nutrient cycling and the sequestration and storage of atmospheric carbon, which helps to slow the progression of climate change.
‘We have discarded any doubt that healthy ecosystems, which depend on the biodiversity within them, are significant capital assets’ says Ron Thiessen, Executive Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. ‘When biodiversity and ecosystem health are compromised, they are less equipped to provide the services we rely on; services that would be incredibly costly if not impossible to replicate or function without’.
Through the 2010 UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the goal to protect at least 17 percent of lands through networks of protected areas by 2020 was adopted by Canada as a step to stem the global loss of biodiversity. Manitoba committed to this goal in 2015.
Scientists affirm that protecting at least 50% of the landscape is the level necessary to ensure that ecosystems continue to provide their life giving services to people and wildlife.
‘The 17% goal is a great short term step that needs to be followed with longer term commitments for keeping ecosystems healthy,’ Thiessen asserts. ‘The Protected Areas Initiative, launched by the Conservatives in the 90s, and community based land use planning are the two strongest tools we have for achieving or exceeding this target. Past governments did not fully harness the potential of these tools but the current government has the opportunity to do so’.
Community land use planning allows communities the ability to assign what regions of their resource areas are open to development, what areas are to be conserved, and what conditions developers must meet in order to operate in those prescribed regions. The process has been celebrated for offering certainty for communities, for the landscape, and for developers with a refreshingly clear sense of where and how they can invest with confidence.
The current rate of species extinction is higher than at any point in human history. CPAWS Manitoba believes that the support of fully functioning ecosystems, and by extension the diverse life forms within them, is a human right.
For more information and interviews:
Ron Thiessen, Executive Director
Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society – Manitoba Chapter