OUR ACHIEVEMENTS IN 2021

Our Work

This is our decision decade.  In the next 10 years, either we will take steps to embrace biodiversity protection and climate action or we will watch the window close on a last best opportunity to reverse the combined crisis of declining ecosystem health and an unravelling climate.

Just as climate experts have told us, we have less than a decade to slash emissions and protect nature’s carbon storehouses to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we also have a limited amount of time to protect wildlife and ecosystems, knowing that this is critical for our health and the health of the planet.

Fortunately, Canada has opportunities to act that are bigger than most. This country has some of the largest, undisturbed wild areas left on the planet.  Many of these are essential for planetary biodiversity and carbon storage and protecting them is just as important as protecting Amazon rainforests or coral reefs.

Working with governments and local communities to find solutions while we still have the chance is a key goal for WCS Canada.  We are using our scientific research to document just how vital these areas are for everything from carbon to endangered species.  For example, with pressure growing to develop roads and mines in one of the planet’s largest and most carbon-rich wetlands – the Hudson Bay Lowlands in northern Ontario --we are calling for a careful assessment of trade-offs, from what this will mean for the climate as well as for caribou and other wildlife.

In the Yukon, we are encouraging the government to base new land-use planning on an understanding of how climate change is fast changing the territory’s landscapes and shifting species in one of the wildest corners of Canada – and the globe.  In the western Arctic, we continue to listen to whales and seals while also monitoring the movements of seabirds to better understand how this region is being impacted by rapid climate change and what that means for wild species, whether it is whales encountering growing ship traffic in increasingly ice-free waters or seabirds struggling to find prey in a rapidly changing environment.

WCS Canada’s blend of on-the-ground science and advocacy for proactive conservation of Canada’s most important wild areas and wildlife is unique among conservation organizations. We have made long-term commitments to improving scientific knowledge in key places, like the Hudson Bay Lowlands the Western Arctic and Yukon, while using our findings about their ecological value to call for new conservation and planning approaches.  We are also actively developing solutions through collaboration with Indigenous partners on everything from wildlife research projects to Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas and Regional Impact Assessments.

Meanwhile, our work to help bats survive the likely arrival of deadly white-nose syndrome (WNS) in Western Canada continues to pick up steam and is another great example of how we work to get ahead of problems.  Our bat team has been busy on many fronts, including advancing testing of its probiotic preventative treatment for WNS by expanding testing to Washington State where WNS is already present and developing innovative new approaches to disease monitoring, such as collecting bat guano under bridges.

It is challenging work wading through ice-cold northern rivers to monitor lake sturgeon movements or racing through dark nights across a frozen northern landscape to check a wolverine live trap.  It can mean crawling through caves to find bats or listening for songbirds while mosquitoes relentlessly buzz in your ear during a Yukon spring.  But it is the way we work to document what is happening with these irreplaceable wild areas and to develop plans for how we can ensure they avoid the fate of so many other places where roads, resource development, urban sprawl and agriculture have left us with vulnerable ecosystems that are not healthy for wildlife – or for us.

Canada’s commitment to protecting 30% of its lands and waters by 2030 is an excellent beginning in the urgently needed changes we need to make.  We are using our fast-growing Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) program to help maximize the effectiveness of this effort by steering protection to ecologically important areas. The KBA program is also another good example of how we are working with partners, including Indigenous knowledge holders, to ensure investments in conservation are directed to the most important places.

The work that WCS has been doing on the ground across Canada has laid a solid foundation for our engagement in the upcoming talks around the renewal of the Convention on Biological Diversity. This global treaty, first signed at the Rio Summit in 1992, is being revised this year and is a key opportunity to set the stage for addressing climate change and biodiversity loss as a combined crisis. It is an opportunity for Canada to not only embrace solutions to these crises, but to lead the world in proactive conservation and developing a renewed relationship with the natural world. It is also an opportunity to fully embrace natural climate solutions, like protecting carbon-rich peatlands, while recognizing the unbreakable linkages between the health of nature and the health of people.

We have a lot of work ahead of us and hope you’ll continue to support our efforts to make sure the decisions we make today are the right ones for nature and our climate tomorrow.

Dr. Justina Ray
President and Senior Scientist

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of WCS Canada's science

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Addressing the biodiversity crisis

Endangered species are trying to tell us something. Why don’t we listen?

by Dan Kraus, Director of National Conservation

We live on a planet that is becoming a lonelier place.

Since the first global list of 516 endangered species  was released almost 60 years ago, the number of species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has grown to over 40,000. Canada has not been immune to the great global exodus of wild things. From cod to caribou, wildlife that was common just a few generations ago have rapidly declined. The number of species listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act stands at almost 700, nearly double the number from when the Act was first introduced in 2002. Despite decades of global and national commitments to stop the loss of wildlife and strong public support for wildlife conservation, we’re moving in the wrong direction.

Today debates around ecological preservation and economic progress remain, sadly, flashpoints of conflict: northern spotted owl vs. forestry jobs, greater sage-grouse vs. energy projects, western chorus frog vs. roads. Often endangered species are still positioned as the problem. Legislation intended to protect them is rebranded as red tape. Environmental assessments are declared a barrier in our pathway towards progress. As a result, endangered species laws are often eroded, never fully enforced or, as with six of Canada’s provinces and territories, simply never enacted.

These debates about endangered species laws and environmental assessments are not simple clashes between ecology and economy. They are opportunities to confront something deeper in ourselves. They are a reminder that how we treat nature says a lot about our society and what we want the future world to be.

Endangered species like Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander and Prairie Lupine that live in just a few isolated pockets of habitat need to be conserved and restored if the diversity of wildlife in Canada is to be passed on to future generations. Other endangered species, such as Monarch butterflies and Lark Buntings, are not yet rare but are rapidly declining.

Many species with declining populations are suffering a slow death by a thousand cuts as we continue to whittle away and degrade their habitats. Stopping their decline will require a change in how we use natural resources, build infrastructure, and even think about nature. Facing this need for new approaches head-on will be a challenge but provides an opening for developing creative solutions and new ways of knowing.

I’m often asked why it’s important to save endangered wildlife. Who cares if the Pale Yellow Dune Moth or Blue Ash disappears? I once provided a long list of answers. Endangered species have scientific interest and an intrinsic right to exist. These species might harbor medicines or provide other services to people. Their habitats hold back flood water, store carbon and clean our air. They are useful sentinels of environmental health.

But I’ve recently changed my answer: Protecting endangered species is important to me because I simply don’t want to be part of the generation that is responsible for the largest loss of life on Earth in 66 million years, back when an asteroid collided with our planet and blocked out the sun. Unlike the past generations that slaughtered bison or cut the last great pine forests, and who could legitimately claim ignorance about the limits of nature, we don’t have this out. Never has there been such awareness of our fate and our choices.

We still have a chance to change course, especially in Canada thanks to our large remaining wild areas.  But we need to act without further delay and find a better way forward – for our own health and the health of the planet.

The work WCS Canada is doing across Canada is focused on sparking that change in course. We are working with partners, from First Nations to naturalists, on implementing new conservation approaches, such as Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas and Key Biodiversity Areas. From peatlands to mountains tops, we are showing how when we protect habitat for endangered species, we help to protect the foundation of our economy and society.

If we want to protect, recover and sustain the wild places that support life, we have to start now.

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Our Activity Across the Country

WCS Canada Conservation Programs

WCS Canada Conservation Programs Map
A quick look at WCS Canada

By the Numbers

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Using science
to identify
conservation
priority places

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Supported protecton of over 8 million
hectares through WCS
Canada field research in
BC, Yukon and Alberta

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WCS Scientists and
Support Staff: 60

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Mentoring the next
generation through
Weston Family
Foundation
Fellowships: 108 to date
with students from 21
universities

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350 potential Key
Biodiversity Areas
identified

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80+ bat research sites

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A Voice for Science

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50 public commentary
pieces

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15 media appearances
and interviews

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32 scientific papers
and reports

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18 submissions on
government laws and
policies

THANK YOU

Image Credits

Home


Thick billed murre: Steve Insley/WCS Canada
Hudson Bay Lowlands: Amelia MacDonald
Hoary bat: Jason Headley
Lynx: Susan Morse
Northern landscape: WCS Canada

Financials


Boat on river: WCS Canada

Supporters


Boreal aerial: © Garth Lenz

Our Impact


Bird's nest: Malkom Boothroyd
Deploying sound recorder: William Halliday/WCS Canada
Long tail duck: Dan Kraus/WCS Canada
Wolverine: Liam Cowan
Bat researchers: WCS Canada