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Canada has committed to protecting at least 17 percent of lands by 2020. The country made this pledge as part the Convention on Biological Diversity—a global effort to maintain the abundance of animals, plants and healthy natural systems that all life depends upon.

From caribou to wild salmon, warblers to blue whales, many species are struggling to survive in the face of diminishing habitat. Scientists have determined the rate of extinction is currently a thousand times greater than it has been in millions of years.

To stem the tide of species loss, the international community came together in 2010 in Aichi, Japan to identify a series of biodiversity targets and urge countries to development their own plans to conserve more lands.

In 2015, Canada adopted the 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada, and provinces and territories agreed to meet them, making it a Pan-Canadian commitment. Quebec committed to the Pan-Canadian effort by pledging to achieve an identical target laid out in the Plan Nord. A year later, Crown governments agreed to create a working group focused on the target of protecting at least 17 percent of lands by 2020. This is effort became known as Canada’s Conservation 2020/Pathway to Target 1.

A National Advisory Panel was convened in 2017 to guide the process and includes experts from Indigenous organizations, environmental groups, resource industries, academia and youth. An Indigenous Circle of Experts was also created to offer recommendations for establishing Indigenous protected and conserved areas.

Large, interconnected protected areas offer the best chance for sustaining the diversity of life, and Canada’s Boreal Forest is one of the last places on earth where giant landscapes remain intact and vibrant. Creating new parks and protected areas in the boreal will help safeguard a globally significant ecosystem.

Many Indigenous governments are already working to protect boreal lands. They are co-creating national parks, establishing tribal parks and proposing other protected areas across the forest. These Indigenous-led initiatives are preserving caribou habitat, salmon runs, migratory bird nesting grounds and other troves of biodiversity.

To accelerate progress toward the target of protecting at least 17 percent of lands by 2020,  Canada’s 2018 federal budget called for investing $1.3 billion in nature conservation, including funds for creating new parks and protected areas. The budget also recognized that Indigenous Peoples will play a central role in helping Canada meet its goal of conserving more lands and waters.