Protected areas


Brenda McAfee: My name is Brenda McAfee. I’m a Science Advisor with the Canadian Forest Service and I specialize in biodiversity.

A protected area is actually an area of land or sea that is set aside to be recognized, dedicated to and managed for the protection of nature. And nature really implies the biodiversity, plants, animals, micro organisms, the ecological functions of these areas, as well as their cultural values.

Protected areas are usually designated in order to set aside representative areas of all of the different ecosystem types that exist in an area.

In 1885, Banff National Park was the first protected area designated in Canada. The group building the railway across the country came across a hot spring in a very unique landscape, and they thought that it should be protected for future generations.

Since that time, a network of protected areas has been developed across the country. This network is now over 100 million hectares in size, consists of more than 8,500 protected areas, and covers almost 10% of Canada.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, commonly referred to as IUCN, has established six different types of management categories for protected areas.

Over 95% of the protected areas in Canada are in categories 1 to 4 and that means these are strictly protected and there will be no harvesting, mining or development activities in these areas.

We do have a lot of activities going on in classes 5 to 6, which is sustainable management, where conservation is the primary activity.

Often protected areas are measured in terms of the percentage of the land base that they occupy.

But really what we should think about when we’re considering protected areas and our success in achieving conservation targets is actually the quality of the protected areas rather than the quantity.

The provinces and territories generally designate protected areas in Canada, although there are also protected areas on federal lands, such as national parks and migratory bird sanctuaries. It is also becoming more common now to see protected areas created by communities who want to set aside and protect significant or cultural or spiritual aspects associated with their community.

For example, now that we are undertaking integrated landscape management or an ecosystem approach to managing lands, conservation and development are occurring hand in hand. And the forest industry has actually been very strong to respond to this, developing innovative practices to conserve biodiversity while they’re actually harvesting timber.

Sustainable forest management is all about ensuring that the full range of values from the forest are provided, both now and in the future, to meet economic, social and environmental needs. In light of the economic contribution and the range of services that forests provide to Canadians, the preferred approach to conserving Canada’s forests and all of their values, is a strong network of protected areas across the country, as well as a high level of stewardship in areas outside of protected areas that takes into account these broader values.