Dan Kraus is senior conservation biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. (Photo courtesy of Nature Conservancy of Canada)

Dan Kraus is senior conservation biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. (Photo courtesy of Nature Conservancy of Canada)

COLUMN: Pandemic helped Canadians rediscover nature

By Dan Kraus

Nature Conservancy of Canada

A year ago, there was much anticipation in the conservation community that 2020 would perhaps be the most important year ever for nature. Canada’s Nature Fund promised to accelerate the conservation of our wild spaces and species. There was a buzz about the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Congress. The World Economic Forum had made a call to stop the loss of biodiversity.

And then everything changed.

Urgent and immediate crises have a way of laying bare the true values and character of individuals and societies. Basic needs become priority needs. We draw closer to what we love. Safety, essential supplies, family and friends were at the top of everyone’s list. And in a world that was suddenly slowed and silenced, many of us were drawn closer to nature.

Our parks and conservation areas filled with new visitors. There was more traffic on the trails. Bird seed sold out. Urban foxes became celebrities. There was global interest on how nature had responded to our absence, and even thrived.

The hope for conservation from 2020 is not just that it moved many of us to a rediscovery of the outdoors and rethinking what we value. Despite one of the most monumental crises of our generation, nature conservation has continued, and moved us closer to a more sustainable world for people and for nature.

When nature thrives, we all thrive. There is growing recognition and funding for nature-based solutions to stabilize our climate, reduce the impacts of climate change and support our economy and well-being. There is also increasing evidence that wetlands, forests and grasslands are an essential part of our modern infrastructure and that physical contact with nature makes us healthier people.

The pandemic made it clear that our relationship with nature has a direct bearing on our well-being. Unmanaged and illegal wildlife trade and habitat destruction have found their way back to us. This stark realization resulted in quick calls to action to halt illegal wildlife trade and stop habitat loss.

Canada and more than 30 other countries have pledged to protect 30 per cent of their lands and oceans by 2030. This will increase Canada’s protected areas from about 1.2 million to almost three million square kilometres – or the equivalent area of over 260 new Banff National Parks. This will need new conservation partnerships and Indigenous-led conservation. It will also require work in southern Canada, where most people live and where nature is most threatened by habitat loss. The federal government is investing $100 million in land conservation through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program. These funds will be matched by funds raised by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ducks Unlimited and the country’s land trusts.

While the global trend of wildlife loss continues, there also continues to be promising stories of wildlife recovery. Evidence of hope that shows we can pull wildlife back from the brink of extinction. In Canada, two endangered butterflies, the Poweshiek skipperling and Taylor’s checkerspot, were released into the wild. And in Alberta, the new Banff bison herd had a baby boom, with 10 new calves born this year.

Planting trees and restoring forests allows us to slow down climate change and speed up biodiversity conservation. Here in Canada, the federal government has committed to planting two billion trees over the next 10 years. Many forest regions in southern Canada have been heavily altered, and tree planting will help in their restoration.

When the sun rises in 2021 we will awaken to the United Nation’s International Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. A decade to not just stop the loss of nature, but to rebuild and make it better than it is today.

Dan Kraus is senior conservation biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria Hospice staff Brianne Ohl, left, Angela Chalmers, right, and Sandi Ogloff, at back, show off their buttons that show a picture of them smiling. Staff has worked hard to maintain the connections with patients despite the barriers of PPE and rigid COVID-19 protocols. (Victoria Hospice Photo)
Hospice provides compassion in a time of COVID

Victoria Hospice 40th anniversary on pause during pandemic

Sidney has moved the remaining parts of its public consultation phase part of the Official Community Plan online. (Black Press Media File)
Sidney moves to an ‘all online engagement’ process for OCP

Staff says OCP charrette scheduled for mid-February

Look for the Random Act of Kindness Day colouring contest in Black Press issues Jan. 17. Physical entries can be mailed or dropped off to local Black Press offices. A scanned or photographed entry can be emailed to info@victoriafoundation.bc.ca. Winning entries can get a $50 gift card to Bolen Books and a $100 donation to a charity of their choice from the VIctoria Foundation. (Pixabay)
Colouring contest coming for Kindness Day

Kindness Day colouring contest in partnership with Victoria Foundation

(File photo)
‘Very lucky’: Two passengers, dog escape rollover crash in Saanich unscathed

Vehicle flips on Trans Canada Highway after hitting median, possibly due to ice, firefighter says

The large metal gate stolen from Muddy Valley Farm in rural Saanich on Jan. 18 reappeared less than a week later. (Muddy Valley Farm/Facebook)
Large metal gate stolen from Saanich farm makes mysterious reappearance

12-foot gate returned to Muddy Valley Farm less than a week after it was stolen

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Comox Valley RCMP are looking for witnesses after the theft of a generator worth thousands of dollars. Photo supplied
RCMP asking Vancouver Island residents to watch for stolen generator

Vehicle may have been travelling on Highway 19

Most Read