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Canadians support protecting more land and sea: Poll

A major new public opinion survey commissioned by the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) found that Canadians overwhelmingly believe protected areas are necessary and want about half of our land and sea protected for nature.

The “Space for Nature” survey was originally developed by Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and administered in seven countries around the world in the lead up to the 2015 IUCN World Parks Congress. With ZSL endorsement, UNBC and CPAWS adapted the survey and administered it across Canada via the polling firm Ipsos. The results in Canada are consistent with findings from other countries around the world that support much larger-scale protection of nature.

“This survey confirms that Canadians across the country and from all walks of life overwhelmingly value protected areas and want much more of our land and sea protected,” said Pamela Wright, project co-lead and Associate Professor, University of Northern British Columbia. “This is consistent with the growing scientific evidence that we need to scale up our efforts to sustain wildlife and people in the long term, particularly in the face of climate change.”

As part of a global effort to stop the ongoing mass extinction of plant and animal life, Canada has committed to protect at least 17 per cent of our land and inland waters and 10% of our ocean by 2020 and to improve the quality of our protected area systems. Federal, provincial and territorial governments are currently working with Indigenous peoples and other partners to achieve these targets.

“As governments work to meet our 2020 protected area targets and consider plans for the next decade of conservation action, they should know that Canadians support this work, and want them to be much more ambitious,” says Alison Woodley, CPAWS’ National Conservation Director.

This survey highlights the deep support that exists for this work, and for developing new, more ambitious targets for protecting our land and seascapes beyond 2020.

The survey of more than 2,000 Canadians across the country found:

  • 93% of Canadians strongly agree/agree that protected areas are necessary. This overwhelming level of support is consistent across regions, gender, education level, household income and household composition. It is also true regardless of whether or how often they visit protected areas.
  • Canadians think that approximately half of Canada’s land and sea should be protected. They also support protecting half of the world’s land and sea at a global scale.
  • Canadians view protecting wildlife and areas of scenic or natural beauty as the most important reasons for having protected areas. These ranked higher than using them as space to enjoy leisure time or for the goods and services they provide like fresh water and economic benefits.
  • The biggest challenges to increasing Canada’s current targets for protected areas were seen to be a lack of understanding of the value of protected areas, insufficient funding for protected areas, and the low priority governments place on protected areas. Only 17% of Canadians felt that protected areas cost too much.

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