Costas Menegakis writes: Conserving our Natural Environment
Conserving our Natural Environment
By Costas Menegakis, MP Richmond Hill
Few people are aware that our Conservative Government has received international praise and recognition for its position on the environment. We are committed to preserving our natural heritage for future generations through a number of important initiatives.
On July 14, I was honoured to host the Member of Parliament for Yukon, Ryan Leef, for a roundtable meeting with local conservationists. Mr. Leef is the chair of the Conservative Hunters and Anglers Caucus. The goal of this parliamentary group is to ensure the long-term protection and sustainability of our natural environment and resources. Together with an Advisory Panel of organizations having long traditions in conservation, they inform and advise the Conservative Government on issues relating to the effective stewardship of Canada’s marine and terrestrial wildlife.
The group was responsible for creating the Recreational Fisheries Conservation program to improve the conservation of recreational fisheries habitat. Canada is well known for its recreational fisheries and fishing has historically been one of our most popular leisure activities for both Canadians and visitors alike. The important socio-economic contributions of recreational fishing are felt in all of Canada. Economic Action Plan 2014 renews the Recreational Fisheries Conservation program to enhance the sustainability and ongoing productivity of Canada’s recreational fisheries to restore, rebuild and rehabilitate recreational fisheries habitat.
Just recently, the Prime Minister announced our historic National Conservation Plan. This plan provides a long-term vision for conservation efforts across Canada by conserving and restoring Canada’s ecosystems, and connecting Canadians to nature. Funding of $252 million over five years has been dedicated to conserve ecologically sensitive lands, support voluntary conservation and restoration action, restore wetlands, strengthen marine and coastal conservation, and improve access to wildlife areas and green spaces for Canadians.
Funding for a variety of future conservation initiatives includes $100 million over five years to the Nature Conservancy of Canada to secure ecologically sensitive lands, $50 million over five years to restore wetlands, $50 million over five years to support voluntary actions to restore and conserve species and their habitats, $37 million over five years to strengthen marine and coastal conservation and $3.2 million over five years to support the development of a complete national inventory of conserved areas in Canada, including private conservation lands.
The plan expands opportunities for individuals, municipalities, environmental interest groups, hunters and anglers, landowners and community groups, to take practical actions to safeguard the land and water around them. Nature matters to all of us and the National Conservation Plan will encourage and enable Canadians to take action in their own communities.
Since 2006, the federal government has taken significant action to protect Canada’s natural areas. We have added more than 4,000 km² of ecologically sensitive private lands, including:
– Adding an area nearly twice the size of Vancouver Island to the network of federal protected areas, including a six-fold expansion of the Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories, considered to be a significant conservation achievement,
– The world’s first protected area extending from the mountain tops to the sea floor (Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site) and the world’s largest freshwater protected area (Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area),
– Three new National Wildlife Areas (Akpait, Ninginganiq and Qaqulluit) in Nunavut, protecting 4,554 km² of marine, coastal and terrestrial habitats including the world’s sanctuary for bowhead whales,
– Three new Marine Protected Areas: Musquash Estuary in New Brunswick, Bowie Seamount off the coast of British Columbia, and Tarium Niryutait in the Beaufort Sea.
Working with our partners, we have delivered hundreds of local projects to protect species at risk and their habitats such as the Habitat Stewardship Program, investing over $86 million to support 1,467 local conservation projects to improve the habitat of 431 species at risk and the EcoAction Community Funding Program, providing more than $2 million to support 58 local biodiversity conservation and restoration projects in communities across Canada.
We have also advanced work to create the first national urban park, improved water quality in the Great Lakes, Lake Simcoe, and Lake Winnipeg, rehabilitated recreational fisheries habitat, and cleaning up contaminated sites.
Our government recently launched the National Recreational Trails Program. Canada has a vast network of recreational trails which allow Canadians to experience the outdoors and appreciation of our country’s natural beauty. Thanks to a partnership between the Government of Canada and the National Trails Coalition, $10 million will be available between 2014 and 2016 to help expand and rehabilitate Canada’s snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle and non-motorized trail systems.
Local trail organizations across Canada are invited to submit project proposals directly to the National Trails Coalition until August 15, 2014. The Coalition is responsible for selecting and approving projects. Between 150 and 200 projects are expected to be supported across Canada. By investing in trail infrastructure, the Government of Canada is encouraging job creation, linking communities and increasing recreational opportunities. These are just some of the ways that our Conservative Government is working to protect the environment now, and in the future.
Costas Menegakis is the Member of Parliament for Richmond Hill and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. He can be reached by phone at 905-770-4440 or through his website at www.costasmenegakis.ca.