Ottawa’s $1.3 billion commitment shows wilderness conservation a serious priority

Header Image: Peter Mather

Not often have we been excited about a federal budget.

Earlier this week, that all changed. On Tuesday, the Liberal government committed a historic $1.3 billion to protecting our country’s land and water. For us, a non-profit dedicated to protecting the Yukon wilderness, this is huge news.

CPAWS was part of the Green Budget Coalition that urged the federal government to prioritize the health of Canada’s ecological systems by making a historic commitment to conservation. Earlier this year, 116 parliamentarians signed an open letter to the Finance Minister Bill Morneau supporting these recommendations, including Yukon MP Larry Bagnell.

The government listened. What’s now clear: our country is making protecting our land and water a priority. This unprecedented investment will support Canada’s efforts to achieve its UN commitment to protect at least 17% of our land and 10% of our ocean by 2020. Our vast, iconic wild spaces are what we take so much pride in, and we are one of the last countries left on earth to that still has the opportunity to protect significant swaths of wilderness, like our beloved Peel Watershed.

Tuesday’s $1.3 billion commitment is a legacy investment. It’s a statement that the government wants to look past short-term gains to invest in the long-term health of our planet. It’s an investment in the next generation, and the generation after that.

For the first time, the budget is allocating specific funds to support conservation efforts by Indigenous governments, provinces and territories. This cost-shared model is what’s already used for sectors like infrastructure, climate change mitigation and health care.

In the Yukon, this means the territorial government will receive the support it needs to invest in new parks and protected areas, bring Land Use Planning back on track and overall, ensure the ecological integrity of our incredible wilderness.

It also means that there will be support for First Nations governments in the Yukon to lead their own conservation efforts, with the possibility of Indigenous Guardian Programs that have proven so successful in places like B.C.’s Gwaii Haanas National Marine Park Reserve.

We’re looking forward to learning more about what this funding means and how it will be broken down in Canada and in the Yukon. Our territorial budget also came out this week and we didn’t see much in terms of funding for conservation. We hope the Yukon government soon follows in the footsteps of Ottawa’s commitment to protecting our wilderness.

We’d like to extend a huge thank you to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna for pushing our country to be an international leader in conservation. Take a moment to thank them yourself!