Protected Areas and Endangered Species

AuthorJamie Benidickson
Many features of environmental law safeguard human populations
from the adverse effects of environment al contamination and deterior-
ation. Other initiatives, however, are specif‌ical ly designed to protect the
environment and its non-human inh abitants from seemi ngly inexorable
human interventions, even where such inter ventions a transporta-
tion corridor or a drainage program, for example might be perceived
as “improvements.” Along with pollution, developments of this kind
impose severe costs on wild life either by contamination, fragmentation
of breeding territories, or destruction of certain ty pes of vital habitat
and migration routes. In addition, of course, humans t hemselves value
and benef‌it from natural spaces for a range of economic, social, and
spirit ual reas ons.
The Canadian Wilderness Charter, a document developed under
the auspices of the World Wildlife Fund Canada and signed by more
than half a m illion people, constitutes a powerful early statement of the
rationale for protecting wild and natur al spaces. Humankind, the ch ar-
ter reminds us, is but one of millions of species sharing a planet whose
future is severely thre atened by our activities. Much of the Earth’s former
wilderness ch aracter is already lost, thereby endangering many species
and ecosystems, but Canadi ans still have the opportunity to complete
a network of protected areas representing the biological diversity of the
country. For their inherent value, for their inf‌luence on national identity,
and in light of an intrin sic human need for spiritual rekindl ing and art-
istic inspiration, Canada’s remaining wild spaces should be protected.
Protected areas can serve a variety of purposes, including preserving a
genetic reservoir of wild plant s and animals for future use and apprecia-
tion; producing economic benef‌its from environmentally sensitive tour-
ism; offering opportunit ies for research and environmental educat ion;
and maintain ing options for traditional and sustai nable use by Indigen-
ous people.1 Very similar t hemes emerged from international discus sions
culminating in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted at
the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio
de Janeiro in 1992.
In 2010, the parties to t he CBD adopted a Strategic Plan for Bio-
diversity 2011–2020 with the purpose of in spiring broad-based action
in support of biodiversity.2 The strategic plan envisages that “by 2050,
biodiversity is valued, conser ved, restored and wisely used, main-
taining ecosystem services, sustai ning a healthy planet and delivering
benef‌its essenti al for all people.” The strategic plan is comprised of f‌ive
strategic goals and twenty a ssociated targets, collectively known as the
Aichi Targets.
The f‌irst strategic goal is to addres s the underlying causes of bio-
diversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity throughout government
and society. Accordingly, the parties will work to raise awa reness on the
values of biodiversity and integrate t hem into national and local develop-
ment and poverty reduction strategies and pla nning processes. It is also
hoped to eliminate, phase out, or reform subsidie s or comparable incen-
tives that are harmful to biodiversity, while developing and applying
positive incentives. A further aim is to ensure that governments, busi-
ness, and stakeholders implement plans for sustainable production and
consumpt ion. Second, the CBD parties seek to reduce direct pressures
on biodiversity and to promote sustainable use by halving the rate of
loss of all natural h abitats, including forests, and signif‌icantly reducing
degradation and fragment ation; using sustainable practices to manage
and harvest f‌i sh and invertebrate stocks, aquatic plants, and areas under
agriculture, aquaculture, and forestry; reducing pollution to levels that
are not detrimental to ecosystem function and biodiversity; and identi-
fying and prioritizing invasive alien species and pathways, controlling
or eradicating priority s pecies, and putting measures in place to man age
pathways to prevent their introduction and establishment.
1 M Hummel, ed, Enda ngered Spaces: The Future for Canada’s Wilderness (Toro nto:
Key Porter, 1989) at 275.
2 Online: rategic-plan/ 2011-2020/Aichi-Targets-EN.pdf.
Protected Are as and Endangered Species 307
A third goal is to improve the statu s of biodiversity by safeguard-
ing ecosystems, species, and genetic diversity. In order to achieve this
objective, the parties seek to conserve at least 17 percent of terrestrial
and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas; prevent
the extinction of known t hreatened species and improve their con-
servation status; mai ntain the genetic diversity of cultivated plants and
farmed and domesticated an imals and of wild relatives; and develop and
implement strategies for minimi zing genetic losses. Fourth, the parties
propose to enhance the benef‌its of biodiversity and ecosystem servi-
ces by restoring and sa feguarding ecosystems th at provide essential
services, including services related to water, public health, livelihoods,
and well-being. Related initiatives include enhancing ecosystem resili-
ence and the contribution of biodiversity to carbon stock s through con-
servation and restoration of at least 15 percent of degraded ecosystems.
Implementing the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and
the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benef‌its Arising from Their Utilization
represents a further important component.
The f‌inal goal is to enhance implementation through participa-
tory planning, knowledge management, and capacity building. Thus,
the parties plan to develop, adopt, and begin implementing effective,
participatory, and updated national biodiversit y strategies and action
plans; respect the traditional knowledge, innovations, and practices of
Indigenous and local communities relevant for the conser vation and
sustainable use of biodiversit y, and integrate them in the implementa-
tion of the CBD.
Canadian measures that are generally responsive to biodiversity loss,
or more specif‌ically offer potential avenues of protection to spaces and
species, are found in many pieces of general legislation at the federal
and provincial levels. The Fisheries Act, for example, historically pro-
hibited the deposit of deleterious substances into water frequented by
f‌ish and the destruction of f‌ish habitat, while environmental assessment
procedures may be used to identify developmental threats to natural
environments and non-human populations and to propose mitigative
measures.3 As scientif‌ic and public understanding of the vulnerability of
environmental systems to cumulative and wide-ranging impacts from
human activity has increased, however, the search for more comprehen-
sive responses has intensif‌ied. This chapter considers a number of legal
mechanisms intended to safeguard spaces and species, ecosystems, and
3 For discussion of fede ral f‌ish habitat protection provi sions, see Chapter 2; for
environmental assessment, see Chapter 12.

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