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Healthy wildlife populations

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Why is this issue important

Canada's plants and animals, together with the environments where they live, make up the ecosystems that benefit Canadians through valuable services such as providing food and medicines, controlling floods, and pollination. Maintaining biodiversity—the variety of genes, species and ecosystems, including the ecological processes that allow them to evolve and adapt—helps ensure that ecosystems can continue to function and provide the services we depend on.

Healthy wildlife populations and habitat are important parts of biodiversity. Some species in Canada have experienced population declines and some are now at risk of becoming extinct. Species can become threatened as a result of habitat loss or deterioration from human activities—for example, agriculture, urban development, invasive alien species, pollution and climate change. Climate change can also affect wildlife health and contribute to the spread of disease.

Canada's Nature Legacy

Funding through Canada's Nature Legacy supports our Healthy Wildlife Populations goal. For example:

  • we are providing up to $155 million over 5 years to help implement the Pan-Canadian Approach to Transforming Species at Risk Conservation in Canada
  • The Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk supports projects with a focus on 7 priority freshwater places and 2 priority marine threats
  • over the coming months, we will be announcing directed funding for priority places to help protect species at risk across Canada

Pan-Canadian Approach to Transforming Species at Risk Conservation in Canada

In June 2018, federal, provincial and territorial ministers approved the Pan-Canadian Approach to Transforming Species at Risk Conservation in Canada. This new framework shifts terrestrial species at risk conservation to more multi-species and ecosystem-based approaches. The new Pan-Canadian Approach includes principles to guide collaborative action.

Pan-Canadian Approach to Wildlife Health

Recognizing that wildlife health is crucial in conserving biodiversity, in June 2018 ministers also endorsed A Pan-Canadian Approach to Wildlife Health. Its goal is to strengthen Canada's capacity to identify and reduce wildlife health threats that put conservation, public health, or economic and cultural opportunities at risk.


#NatureForAll is a global movement to inspire love, support, and action for conservation that is co-led by Parks Canada. It is driven by a coalition of more than 350 partner organizations worldwide, with more than 50 being Canadian. These organizations know that the more people care about wildlife, the more likely they are to take action to support protection, conservation and restoration of species and their habitat. They are working together to share best practices and lessons learned so that successful programming can be replicated and scaled up in Canada and globally. Programmes like Bioblitz, Shoreline Cleanup, and Conservation Volunteers, are getting Canadians out into nature where they can learn about and discover their personal connection with the natural world and become empowered to take conservation into their own hands.

Canada in the world

Protecting Canada's wild species supports the 2030 Agenda and its global Sustainable Development Goals—in particular SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities; SDG 14, Life below Water; and SDG 15, Life on Land. It also supports specific SDG targets, as well as other international agreements and initiatives.

Work under this goal supports progress toward the 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada and the global conservation objectives of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity—in particular, by ensuring that needed recovery strategies and management plans are in place and that appropriate collaborative action is taken on priority places, species and threats, and by helping to prevent and mitigate impacts from invasive alien species.

For details on how this goal supports international action, see Annex 3.

Connections with other FSDS areas

Protecting Canada's wild species is closely linked to FSDS targets related to climate change, coasts and oceans, lakes and rivers, lands and forests, sustainable food, clean energy, and innovation:

Our partners

All Canadian jurisdictions share responsibility for conserving wildlife species. Federal, provincial and territorial governments work collaboratively for the protection of species at risk, and many provinces and territories have put in place their own species at risk legislation. In particular, provinces and territories lead in protecting terrestrial species on provincial, territorial and private land and share responsibility with Canada on protecting freshwater aquatic species. Meanwhile, the federal government leads on aquatic species, migratory birds and species on federal land.

A number of provinces and territories have also established biodiversity strategies and policies, as well as other initiatives that support biodiversity and species conservation, such as:

  • wetland conservation policies
  • protected area strategies
  • initiatives to prevent, eradicate and control invasive alien species
  • participation in the General Status of Species in Canada program (wild species reports)

Indigenous peoples play a key role in conserving wildlife species and their habitat. For example, they contribute to the implementation of the Species at Risk Act through:

  • the National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk, which advises the Minister of Environment and Climate Change on administering the Species at Risk Act
  • the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Subcommittee on Species at Risk, which facilitates access to the best available Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and the integration of that knowledge into the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada status assessment process

Indigenous peoples are also engaged in on-the-ground conservation and ecological monitoring in regions across Canada. The Indigenous Guardians program facilitates opportunities to protect sensitive areas and species.

Because action to protect wildlife species and their habitats can also cross international boundaries, we also collaborate with other countries. For example, to protect migratory birds, Canada partners with the US and Mexico to implement the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and the North American Bird Conservation Initiative. Similarly, Canada partners on Atlantic salmon through the Canada North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, while tunas are managed internationally through the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas.

Partners taking action - Friends of the Carp River

Friends of the Carp River are a group of volunteers who work with landowners, recreational users, government agencies, and businesses to improve the quality of the Carp River. Their objective is to ensure that all actions, including plans for development, lead to improvement in the quality of life in and along the Carp River and its watershed for the mutual benefit of its human and wildlife communities. The Friends are working with the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority to make a recently restored 2-kilometre section of the river into a living classroom, which will educate and engage students, families and visitors in a wetland discovery experience.

Partners taking action- The Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP)

FLAP was born 25 years ago out of a desire to prevent night-migrating birds from flying into the lights shining from office towers. Through community engagement, and thanks to their network of devoted volunteers, FLAP Canada has accumulated invaluable data on the bird/building collision issue both during the day and night. Through strong partnerships, they are developing municipal and national standards and policies for the lighting of office towers, and helping to create effective bird-collision deterrent solutions.

Partners taking action - The North American Breeding Bird Survey

The North American Breeding Bird Survey is the primary source of long-term, large-scale population data for over 400 breeding bird species. It is coordinated in Canada by Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service, in the United States by the US Geological Survey, and in Mexico by the National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity. Conducted since 1966, this standardized roadside survey relies on hundreds of volunteers' participation. These data are carefully analyzed on a yearly basis to provide information on bird population trends, relative abundance and species composition and richness at the local, regional and continental scale.

Partners taking action - Lac Simon, Kitcisakik and Long Point First Nations

The Algonquin First Nations of Lac Simon, Kitcisakik, and Long Point have reached an agreement to implement multi-year conservation measures for the Val d'Or population of Woodland Caribou, boreal population (boreal caribou). Val d'Or is one of 6 ranges of boreal caribou found in Quebec but is isolated from other populations in the province. The population currently consists of an estimated 18 individuals, produces 1 to 3 calves each year and is considered not self-sustaining. This agreement includes measures to decrease habitat fragmentation, such as reforestation and road closures, as well as other measures to support boreal caribou recovery including predator control, monitoring, research and the inclusion of Indigenous Traditional Knowledge.

Responsible minister/Key departments and agencies

Minister of Environment and Climate Change / Canada Border Services Agency; Canadian Food Inspection Agency; Environment and Climate Change Canada; Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated; National Defence; Parks Canada

Canada's starting point

  • To measure our progress in conserving terrestrial and aquatic wildlife species, we track the percentage assessed as secure or at-risk, the success of efforts to help them recover, and their risk of disappearing from Canada. As of May 2018, out of 126 species at risk with recovery strategies or management plans in place and whose population-oriented goals had been reassessed, 41% showed population trends consistent with the goals of the recovery strategies.
  • To help us understand the state of migratory birds in Canada, we track the percentage of these birds whose populations fall within an acceptable range—neither too low nor too high. In 2013, 57% of migratory bird species that are addressed in the Migratory Birds Convention Act and regularly found in Canada had population sizes in an acceptable range. An updated assessment is underway.
  • To assess changes in the state of wildlife health, we conduct wildlife health surveillance in partnership with the provinces and territories as well as non-government partners such as the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative. This enables early detection of emerging threats and evidence-based management action. The Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative produces an annual report to track wildlife issues of priority concern.