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Canadians want half of country as park land, study shows

Canadians want half the country put into environmental protection status. This enormous tract of land would be about the size of Argentina and Algeria - two of the world's top 10 largest countries - combined.
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Canadians want half the country put into environmental protection status.

This enormous tract of land would be about the size of Argentina and Algeria - two of the world's top 10 largest countries - combined.

The assertion comes from a survey of Canadians done by UNBC and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

"Canadians think that approximately half of Canada's land and sea should be protected. They also support protecting half of the world's land and sea at a global scale," said a joint statement from the two agencies.

"Canadians view protecting wildlife and areas of scenic or natural beauty as the most important reasons for having protected areas. These ranked higher than using them as space to enjoy leisure time or for the goods and services they provide like fresh water and economic benefits."

More than 2,000 Canadians were surveyed.

Canada currently has about 10.5 per cent set aside as parkland or other protected status.

The stated goal of the governments of Canada is to reach 17 per cent of land/inland water and 10 per cent of our oceans by 2020.

This survey calls that level of protection a fraction of the public's wishes.

"This survey highlights the deep support that exists for this work, and for developing new, more ambitious targets for protecting our land and seascapes beyond 2020," said the joint statement.

The survey was modelled on the Space For Nature research initiative developed by Zoological Society of London and administered in seven countries around the world so far. The Canadian results "are consistent with findings from other countries around the world that support much larger-scale protection of nature," said the agencies.

The project's co-lead was Pamela Wright, an associate professor at UNBC.

"This survey confirms that Canadians across the country and from all walks of life overwhelmingly value protected areas and want much more of our land and sea protected," said Wright.

"This is consistent with the growing scientific evidence that we need to scale up our efforts to sustain wildlife and people in the long term, particularly in the face of climate change."

Alison Woodley, the national conservation director for the parks and wilderness society, said that "as governments work to meet our 2020 protected area targets and consider plans for the next decade of conservation action, they should know that Canadians support this work, and want them to be much more ambitious."

According to the data collected, 93 per cent of Canadians agree or strongly agree that protected areas are necessary and that statistic was consistent across regions, gender, education level, household income and household composition. It is also true regardless of whether or how often they visit protected areas.

Governments and private interests have, in the broad discussion over protection of land and water from human industry, often stated that blocking development subtracts some economic opportunity from those tracts of real estate.

Of those surveyed, "only 17 per cent of Canadians felt that protected areas cost too much," said the researchers.

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