Conservation is a must—with or without government help, conference told
By Outdoor Canada Hunting Editor Ken Bailey, at the National Fish and Wildlife Conservation Congress in Ottawa, May 27 to 31
The first ever National Fish and Wildlife Conservation Congress wrapped up yesterday afternoon, and I would suggest that from all of the comments I heard from attendees, it should be considered a big success. In fact, Shane Mahoney, honorary chair of the congress, suggested in his final address that it will come to be recognized as a seminal event in Canada’s conservation history.
Mahoney observed that, while we are facing significant challenges today, we faced equally daunting barriers in the past and have always risen to meet them, with conservation outcomes achieved despite those challenges. “We need to demonstrate to government that we can achieve significant conservation outcomes in Canada, hopefully with them, but if they don’t step up, we’ll do more as a community,” he said.
Historically, conservation leaps come most often in times of great challenge, Mahoney advised. He went on to say that, for the first time, inclusivity of all stakeholders was a priority at this congress, and that we need all citizens to be engaged in seeking conservation solutions.
As a group, we reviewed the priorities identified in Wednesday’s five workshops, verifying the relative importance of each through electronic voting. These will now be summarized by the organizing committee and distributed to all attendees. The importance of auctioning these priorities resonated as an important take home, something that has often been lost in the past.
Keith Ashfield, Federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, also addressed the conference. He stressed that his department is committed to continuing engagement with Canadians, and applauded the efforts of NGOs in achieving conservation solutions. He acknowledges there has been significant concern over recently proposed amendments to the Fisheries act, and advised the crowd that the intention is to facilitate streamlining of day-to-day regulatory processes without sacrificing the scrutiny required in more complex or important issues.
Time will tell whether that outcome is achieved, but NGOs, academics and others remain optimistic that their voices will be heard in preparing the regulations supporting the policy. Ashfield also advised the crowd that his department has set aside $17.5 million over five years to deal with the threat of Asian carp in the Great Lakes.
Environment Minister Peter Ken then took the stage, leading with commentary about the National Conservation Plan (NCP) of 2011 and the three themes it operates under (the NCP is currently under review by a standing committee with expectations that it will receive full support):
1. Conserving Canada’s landscapes
2. Connecting Canadians to Nature
3. Restoration of key habitats and species.
Kent also talked about the newly established national Hunting and Angling Advisory Panel (HAAP) announced Wednesday evening by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and the important role NGOs will play on the panel. Delegates saw this as an important and promising step in gaining better engagement with conservation issues—but again, where the rubber hits the road remains to be seen.
All in all, the organizers did a terrific job in pulling the congress together and should be recognized for their collective efforts. The common sentiment was that the conservation community must build on the momentum garnered here, in part by hosting a second congress in three or four years.
To learn more about the National Fish and Wildlife Conservation Congress, click here.