Canadians Want More Conservation

Courtesy of Ducks Unlimited Canada, with thanks.

New poll shows overwhelming support for protecting wildlife, habitat and the environment.

Safeguarding wildlife populations. Protecting places where we camp, hike and swim. Addressing concerns about the changing environment. These are some of the top reasons given by Canadians who want to see more done for conservation.

A new survey conducted by Earnscliffe Strategy Group for the Schad Foundation and the Boreal Songbird Initiative found Canadians overwhelmingly support increases in conservation. The survey found:

Support for increasing the proportion of lands protected from development: 87 per cent feel Canada should expand protected lands to at least 17 per cent by 2020. Support is strong among supporters of all three political parties.

Support for increased federal investment: 79 per cent of Canadians feel increased federal funds are needed to create new parks and protected areas.
Broad support for Indigenous-led conservation: 74 per cent of Canadians support Indigenous communities’ creation and management of Indigenous protected areas to conserve forests, wildlife, waters and other special places.

Furthermore, the polls shows Canadians favour a balance between conservation and development in the boreal forest. Respondents believe economic benefits can be generated by developing protected areas.

  • 85 per cent of Canadians feel creating more protected areas will provide certainty for industry
  • 82 per cent think new protected areas can create jobs in rural Canada and attract tourism and investment

We recognize the need to manage natural resources to achieve long-term environmental, social and economic goals for all who live and work in the boreal,” says Les Bogdan, director of regional operations for DUC’s national boreal program. “We know that Canadian jurisdictions need flexible solutions. Established policy and land use plans provide industry with certainty when planning operations. Expanding conservation areas is a win-win.”

Bogdan says the boreal forest gives Canada a unique opportunity to play a leading role in global conservation. ”Canada’s boreal forest houses a quarter of the world’s wetlands and has the ability to store 26 years’ worth of global carbon emissions. These are the reasons DUC is working to conserve at least 660 million acres (267 million hectares) of the best waterfowl habitat in the boreal region.”

Photo Credit: Aerial view of the boreal forest and wetlands in the Northwest Territories./©DUC/Kevin Smith

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Will Quebec’s New Law to Protect Wetlands Inspire Other Provinces?

By Nigel Simms

In an act of political leadership and courage, the province of Quebec has given a degree of hope to all Canadians.

Bill 132, passed unanimously by the Quebec National Assembly on June 16, provides statutory protection for all provincial wetlands and waterways. Quebec is the first province to enact a law that protects these important ecosystems. Many in the conservation world are saying, “thank you.” A more casual observer might ask: “so what?”

Let’s face it. Swamps have an image problem. For that matter, so do marshes and bogs. For many Canadians they’re nothing more than breeding grounds for mosquitoes, or perhaps the setting of an old Hollywood horror movie.

Quebec’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight against Climate Change (yes, it might be the longest job title in Canadian politics) isn’t fooled by the negative image. By enacting a law to protect wetlands, David Heurtel is acknowledging the remarkable benefits of these ecosystems. Wetlands provide essential habitat for wildlife: at least 58 of Canada’s species at risk agree.

Wetlands clean our water. They mitigate the effects of climate change by storing carbon, which is something even the casual observer might like to know. They help prevent floods and droughts; another thing Canadians might be interested in. And wetlands can, in fact, be beautiful places where people enjoy the outdoors.

Yet despite the benefits, we’ve successfully eliminated up to 90 per cent of wetlands in some areas of Canada. Your typical Canadian, if they think about wetlands at all, usually tries to avoid them. Some of us are pretty good at getting rid of them entirely.

The Quebec law immediately changes this relationship. The vision is “no net loss” of wetlands. To achieve that, the Act respecting the conservation of wetlands and bodies of water recognizes the important role played by watershed organizations and municipalities. These people are the frontlines of sustainable development, trying to balance the needs of development and conservation in their areas. The Act also proposes a streamlined environmental approval process. It is groundbreaking legislation that, if properly enforced, has the potential to benefit agricultural, forestry, municipal and environmental interests. Imagine that.

It’s intriguing to see Quebec take the legislative lead in wetland conservation. We are a few months away from celebrating the 80th anniversary of Ducks Unlimited Canada. The first Canadian wetland conservation project was created in Manitoba in 1938. This is the birthplace of wetland conservation, yet from the Prairie perspective we lobby, cajole and wait for something, anything, that approaches the spirit of the Quebec legislation.

Other provinces have made significant strides, although none match the efforts in Quebec. Ontario announced the details of a new wetland conservation strategy in July. The plan commits to halting the net loss of wetlands by 2025 and achieving a net gain by 2030.

Alberta, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I. have wetland conservation policies in place. Maybe the move by Quebec will inspire other provinces to a greater legislative commitment. We can only hope.

Nigel Simms is DUC’s National director communications and marketing. He works from Oak Hammock Marsh, Manitoba.

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Duck Numbers Keep Flying High

Thanks to strong conservation efforts and abundant habitat in Canada, populations of North American ducks and other waterfowl remain at healthy levels.

Total populations were estimated at 47.3 million breeding ducks in the traditional survey area, which is similar to the 2016 estimate of 48.4 million and is 34 per cent above the 1955-2016 long-term average.

These are the results found in the 2017 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations report released by the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). The report summarizes duck populations and habitats, as surveyed on both sides of the border in May and early June.

“This is the fourth highest estimate ever,” says David Howerter, PhD, Ducks Unlimited Canada’s (DUC) director of national conservation operations. “In summary, there are still a ton of ducks in the traditional survey area.

“Canadian landscapes, particularly the key breeding grounds of the Prairies and the boreal forest, play a critical role in maintaining these strong populations.”

Canada’s prairies are scattered with thousands of shallow wetlands that make up some of the most productive waterfowl habitat in North America. The boreal forest is a vast area covered with rivers, lakes and wetlands that attract millions of ducks, geese and swans every year to breed.

Last year, the prairies experienced low precipitation during the winter and early spring. This year, the situation was reversed. Many ponds had lots of water going into last fall and that meant conditions were good for breeding ducks in early spring. However, a dry late spring may have led to lower duckling survival.

Following is a brief summary of the species estimates from the report:

Mallard estimates are down 11% from last year but 34% above long-term average (LTA)
Gadwall estimates are similar to last year, and 111% above LTA
American wigeon estimates are down 19% from last year, but near their LTA
Green-winged teal estimates are down slightly from last year, but 70% above LTA
Blue-winged teal estimates are up by 18% from last year and 57% above LTA
Northern shoveler estimates are similar to last year and 69% above LTA
Northern pintail estimates are similar to last year and 27% below LTA
Redhead estimates are similar to last year and 55% above LTA
Canvasback estimates are similar to last year and 25% above LTA
Scaup estimates are down slightly from last year and 13% below LTA
“You could argue that right now, these are the good old days,” says Howerter. But he cautions that while we can expect a fall flight similar to last year, there are no guarantees into the future.

While both regions continue to produce healthy duck populations, threats are growing.

Effective wetland policy is needed across Prairie Canada to address issues like drainage. And growing industrial interests in the boreal forest are beginning to impact this vast and largely pristine area. Climate change means uncertainty for prairie wetlands in the future.

“Even though the numbers are as high as we’ve ever seen them, who knows what they’d actually be like if we hadn’t lost that habitat through drainage,” says Howerter. “We’ve lost so much capacity already.

“That’s why it’s so important that we keep delivering wetland conservation efforts to ensure birds always have a productive place to go.”

By conserving wetlands for the ducks, we’re also contributing to a host of other environmental services. Wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. They naturally filter pollutants from water, guard against flooding and drought and store vast amounts of carbon that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere.

Additional information, including the full survey report and species-by-species breakdown can be found on the Ducks Unlimited Inc. website.

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Conserving Wetlands to Help Fight Climate Change across Ontario

Ontario is strengthening the protection and increasing the rate of wetland recovery across the province.

Wetlands are an essential component of Ontario’s biodiversity and are vital in mitigating the impacts of climate change by lowering the risk of flooding and drought, preventing erosion and moderating climate extremes. These diverse and productive habitats have many economic and health benefits, including improving water quality and offering excellent recreation and tourism destinations.

Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Kathryn McGarry met with wetland conservation partners today to speak about Ontario’s Wetland Conservation Strategy.

Ontario is also working with Ducks Unlimited Canada in a new partnership. This partnership will see Ducks Unlimited Canada chair a new committee comprised of environmental groups, industry, conservation authorities and indigenous representatives. As part of this partnership Ducks Unlimited Canada will also rehabilitate and improve wetland systems throughout southern Ontario, including important coastal wetlands.

Conserving Ontario’s wetlands and fighting climate change is part of our plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives.

Quick Facts

Additional Resources


Kathryn McGarry

“Halting wetland loss requires coordinated efforts and a clear plan of action and that’s exactly what this strategy provides. By partnering with Ducks Unlimited Canada we are creating a partnership that will allow us to leverage expert advice while achieving the targets and actions laid out in this strategy.”

Kathryn McGarry

Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry

“Ducks Unlimited Canada congratulates the province on a wetland strategy that commits to stronger policies to protect remaining wetlands and to ramp up wetland restoration. This is a welcome commitment to the health and resiliency of Ontario.”

Greg Weeks

Senior Director for Ontario, Ducks Unlimited Canada

Media Contacts

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Quebec Passes Legislation to Conserve Wetlands and Water

Province equipped with tools to become a national conservation leader

DUC is celebrating the new Act respecting the conservation of wetlands and bodies of water, which was passed unanimously by the Members of the National Assembly of Quebec on Friday, June 16. The Act is a turning point in the history of wildlife and wetland habitat conservation, and is particularly great news for waterfowl. The major legislative changes introduced by the Act have been long awaited by both conservation stakeholders and developers. They will not only improve wetland management, but also prevent net wetland loss across the province.

By enshrining the widely accepted “no net loss” principle in the Act, for both wetlands and bodies of water, the government is respecting the fundamental roles wetlands play in protecting the environment. This includes safeguarding water resources, maintaining biological diversity, and fighting and adapting to climate change. Recent floods in some regions of Quebec are proof that we can’t ignore our changing environment or the health of our wetlands and water. The Act is a big step in the right direction.

“Quebec now leads the country in wetland conservation. The Act shows strong support for our mission and is a big leap towards our vision of a sustainable environment for future generations. Implementation will be the ultimate test, but based on the high level of consensus we saw in the parliamentary consultations, we are optimistic and look forward to being involved in the next steps,” said Bernard Filion, DUC’s manager of Quebec operations.

“This new law demonstrates the strong commitment the people of Quebec have made to conserve their natural environment. The legislation embraces DUC’s core belief in a mitigation sequence that ensures no net loss of wetlands through either avoidance or wetland restoration,” added DUC’s chief executive officer Karla Guyn.


The Act amends important laws: land use planning, water management, natural heritage conservation and environment quality acts. In 2012, the Quebec government legally committed to passing an act on the conservation and sustainable management of wetlands and bodies of water. The Act could not have come at a better time, as historical wetland losses have reached 80 per cent in the St. Lawrence Valley.

The Act introduces a number of major improvements, including:

  • A clear definition of wetlands;
  • Regional wetlands and bodies of water plans to be developed by regional county municipalities and included in land use plans;
  • Clear assurances from the Minister that proper consideration will be given to watershed-based water management;
  • Consideration of the “Avoid, Minimize and Compensate” mitigation sequence when delivering environmental authorizations; and
  • Implementation of a wetlands and bodies of water restoration and creation program, and increased accountability through progress reports based on the “no net loss” objective.
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The Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Mission to Save Quebec’s turtles

May 23, 2017


Two islands protected in the Montreal and Outaouais regions –in memory of loved ones who passed away.

On the occasion of World Turtle Day, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is announcing the protection of two new properties, île Hébert on the Lake of Two Mountains at the western tip of Montreal Island, and île Reid on the Ottawa River, east of Isle-aux-Allumettes.

One of the properties was donated for conservation in honour of a loved one who passed away. Thanks to the Hébert family’s donations and to contributions from generous partners, these important habitats will remain in their natural state as safe havens for multiple species at risk, including the map turtle.

To help protect turtles across the province, NCC is launching the website, an online tool for residents throughout Quebec to report turtle sightings. This will help identify locations in need of conservation action.

“The Government of Canada is proud to support the conservation of Île Hébert in the Lake of Two Mountains and wishes to congratulate the Hébert family for its generous donation as part of the Ecological Gifts Program. We are also proud to contribute, through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, to protecting this island, as well as Île Reid in the Ottawa Valley. These investments reflect our government’s support for the protection of wildlife and plant habitats in these regions,” said Francis Scarpaleggia, MP for Lac-Saint-Louis, who participated in the event.

Île Hébert: at the heart of the map turtle’s habitat

Île Hébert is located about one kilometre southwest of the Île-aux-Tourtes bridge, in the Lake of Two Mountains, in Senneville. With an area of 0.45 hectares (1.11 acres), it has around 420 metres of shoreline.

This area is crucial habitat for map turtles, which are considered vulnerable under the Quebec Act Respecting Threatened or Vulnerable Species (ARTVS) and of concern under the Species at Risk Act of Canada.

This crescent-shaped island protects turtles from the wind and waves. Moreover, several plant species that are likely to be considered threatened or vulnerable under the ARTVS are on the island, including shagbark hickory, swamp white oak, Virginia mountain-mint, false dragonhead and northern dewberry. The site is also a prime breeding and brood-rearing habitat for approximately 20 species of waterfowl, as well as for shorebirds.

The generous donation of the island was made as part of the Government of Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program, which offers valuable tax benefits for donations of ecologically sensitive land.

“The family of Norman D. Hébert, who passed away in 2015, wishes to honour his memory by donating this island to the Nature Conservancy of Canada. This small gem of nature in the Lake of Two Mountains will forever shelter these rare plants and trees, while continuing to provide a safe haven for turtles,” state the children and grandchildren of the late Norman D. Hébert.

Île Reid: a rare habitat in Quebec

Île Reid, which has an area of 27.9 hectares (69 acres), is located east of Isle-aux-Allumettes, in a channel of the Ottawa River. It consists entirely of forest and wetlands.

These environments provide habitat for several species, such as map turtle and bald eagle, which is also designated as vulnerable under the ARTVS. Several plant species that are rare in Quebec are found here, such as the downy rattlesnake-plantain, which is designated as vulnerable under the ARTVS.

“The protection of this island represents NCC’s fourth securement in the Isle-aux-Allumettes region and has enabled us to double the size of protected areas in the region with a total of 53 hectares (130 acres) of habitat,” states Caroline Gagné, program director at the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Quebec region. “We are grateful to the family who agreed to sell the island to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, a gesture made in memory of Kenneth J. Serdula and F. Ann Serdula, both of whom spent great moments enjoying this territory.”

The Carapace Project: putting technology to work for turtles!

NCC, with help from its partners, is launching an interactive platform for reporting turtle sightings throughout Quebec: This easy-to-use tool is for public use and is intended mainly to collect information on hot spots of road fatalities for turtles, including identifying zones where they could be hit by cars.

This data will enable NCC and its partners to take appropriate conservation measures to ensure the survival of these species and the protection of their habitats. Thank you for helping to protect turtles!


The Nature Conservancy of Canada expresses its heartfelt thanks to the family of Norman D. Hébert for its generous donation of land.

Thank you also to the Serdula estate who chose to deal with NCC. Protection of these properties was made possible thanks to contributions from the Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and private donors.

NCC also wishes to thank the financial partners who contributed to building the carapace platform: the Équipe de rétablissement des tortues du Québec, the Fondation de la faune du Québec and the ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs du Québec (Department of Forests, Wildlife and Parks).

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is Quebec’s and Canada’s leading not-for-profit private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the plants and animals they sustain. Since 1962, NCC has helped protect more than 1.1 million hectares (2.7 million acres) across the country, including 40,000 hectares (98,840 acres) in Quebec. It is by protecting and managing these natural environments that they can be made accessible to this generation and those to come. To learn more, visit

The Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) is a unique public-private partnership led and managed by the Nature Conservancy of Canada. To date, $345 million has been invested in the NACP by the Government of Canada to secure our natural heritage. Additionally, more than $500 million in matching contributions has been raised by NCC and its partners for investment in the Program.

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