Amid all the heartening and hope-filled ways Canadians have resolved to make 2021 a year of positive change, one in particular holds water: the commitment to saving our wetlands.
Leading up to 2021, the Government of Canada promised to make significant investments in our environment—and in the wetlands that underpin its health. Today, this commitment must be among our greatest convictions. Our ability to address the colliding crises of biodiversity loss and climate change depend on it. So does our economic recovery.
Upholding our responsibility to conserve and restore wetlands brings us measurably closer to finding solutions to some of the country’s greatest threats. As floods and fires rage more frequently, as sea levels rise and populations of at-risk species continue to plummet, we’ve reached a point where addressing these challenges individually won’t work. Wetlands, by their nature, can help us tackle them simultaneously. These amazing ecosystems hold and slow the flow of water, sequester carbon and support biodiversity. The challenge ahead of us—all of us—is to value wetlands enough that we keep our promise to protect them so that they may do their job.
The case for saving Canada’s wetlands becomes even more compelling when you consider the economics. Investing in these highly productive ecosystems generates real financial returns. Research that examined Ducks Unlimited Canada’s conservation and restoration efforts revealed that for every dollar invested in wetlands and natural habitats, society receives $22 in economic benefits. This includes nature-based recreation, tourism, and employment. It’s a sound return on investment.
This past September, Canada joined more than 30 countries from around the world in the “High Ambition Coalition” that pledged to protect 30 per cent of their lands and oceans by 2030. Prime Minister Trudeau said key to Canada’s efforts will be “moving forward on protecting our wetlands.” It was a welcome acknowledgment for conservation organizations like ours.
Feb. 2 is World Wetlands Day. It’s a celebration marking the 1971 adoption of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. The treaty was signed by global leaders who acknowledged the vital role of wetlands for people and the planet—and who committed to their conservation and sustainable use. Fifty years later, there’s never been a more critical time to heed their creed.
I believe we’re uniquely positioned to seize this opportunity. Because over the past year, Canadians have found new appreciation for wetlands and our natural world. When the hustle and bustle of human activity slowed, we felt the Earth breathe. We saw marshes, ponds and forests flourish in the space made by a different pace. We experienced, in profound and personal ways, nature’s role in our well-being.
So, in 2021, saving wetlands is a resolution Canada must keep. Let’s find resolve in the science that demonstrates the positive impact they have on fighting climate change and bolstering biodiversity. Let’s lean on their economic value to build up our communities. And let’s find strength in the solution that’s sitting right in our own backyard. Wetlands, coupled with strong environmental stewardship led by all Canadians, are an outstretched hand that will help us all back to our feet.
Karla Guyn, PhD, is chief executive officer for Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) which has some 6.5 million acres of wetlands and associated natural habitat under its care. Guyn, was raised in Calgary, and credits her love for the outdoors to the time spent in southern Alberta.