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Protecting Canada's Endangered Spaces: An Owner's Manual

Reviewed by Maren Oelbermann

In 1989 the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched a ten-year campaign to protect a network of Canada's natural regions. Protecting Canada's Endangered Spaces is a report on the campaign's accomplishments, failures and work still necessary to achieve its target to protect 12 percent of Canadian lands and waters. In this book, Canada's foremost conservation experts present the issues at stake in preserving Canadian biodiversity in three main sections: "Tool Kit for Success", "Thirteen Blueprints for Survival" and "Lessons Learned."

The individually authored "Thirteen Blueprints for Survival" - the central core of this book - documents each province's and territory's progress on the Endangered Spaces Campaign. These chapters also point out the conflicts among environmentalists, government and industry. For example, Alberta held a Tri-Council meeting in 1992 signing a "Statement of Commitment" for protecting areas at risk within the province. Through strong public support, the Alberta government recognized the importance of this issue and provided immediate recommendations on how to quickly and efficiently protect regions at risk. But by 1994 the province succumbed to increasing pressure from energy and forestry industries to allow oil and gas development to take place in areas previously slated for protection. Such governmental reversals of policy have greatly curtailed progress in the Endangered Spaces Campaign.

Protection of privately owned land is another theme in Protecting Canada's Endangered Spaces. Regional co-ordinators of the campaign are working hard to persuade private landowners to help protect these fragile regions, especially in densely populated Prince Edward Island, southwestern Ontario and southern Quebec. In conjunction with the province of Prince Edward Island (where 90 percent of the land is privately owned), the non-governmental Island Nature Trust provides private landowners with tax incentives to put restrictive covenants on their land.

The book places a large emphasis on the need for preserving habitat rather than protecting individual species currently at risk. With this goal in mind, the necessity for creating corridors or linkages through a network of protected areas becomes a priority for enhancing the value of Canada's natural regions. The need to preserve Canada's currently unprotected marine environments is also discussed.

While the goal of the Endangered Spaces Campaign is laid out well, the various authors also make it clear that the aim of preserving at least 12 percent of Canadian lands and waters "won't be achieved by 2000." Reasons for not achieving these goals stem from conflicts among specific interest groups - issues discussed in "Tool Kit for Success." As a result, Monte Hummel emphasizes the importance of working together and suggests that "ecological sustainability depends on achieving economic stability." He writes how some 500 corporations have already rallied to the cause of the Endangered Spaces Campaign. I find the sincerity of this allegiance hard to swallow since corporations are usually not interested in protecting the environment but use it as a cover-up to keep pursuing their business ventures.

This glorification of business' involvement in conservation issues is particularly conspicuous in Adam Zimmerman's chapter "Perspectives of a Target." Now retired, but at the time of writing a colourful director of Noranda and chair of Noranda Forest Inc., Zimmerman has cultivated ideas on how Noranda could increase its environmental responsibility. He calls himself an activist and environmental crusader: "I am typical of industrial leadership today, which clearly places the environment at the top of every agenda." At the same time, Zimmerman writes that toxic emissions from pulp and paper mills do not harm the environment and "that as much forest is 'clear-cut' annually by fire and disease as is taken by industry." I must remain sceptical of the place of someone like Zimmerman in a book like this. I suspect that he was not really interested in saving endangered spaces, but rather the maintenance of high corporate profits while using the environment as a public relations cover.

My frustration with Zimmerman's attitude was skillfully deflected by a follow-up chapter by Stan Rowe, touching on the very heart of conservation issues. Rowe, professor emeritus at the University of Saskatchewan, and author of Forest Regions of Canada and Home Place: Essays on Ecology, stresses the relationship between technology, consumerism and environment. Rowe emphasizes the need for "companionship" with the earth and "a healthy human-nature symbiosis, exemplified by ... the protection of networks of representative natural areas."

Protecting Canada's Endangered Spaces is a book for all those, whether lay or professional, concerned about Canadian conservation issues. This book will make the reader feel differently when his or her endangered space is threatened - "it is a practical manual ... of something magnificent that can be protected."

Maren Oelbermann studied ecology at the University of Guelph, Ontario and the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, and writes on science, the environment and nature. Look for her forthcoming book The Search for a Sustainable Society co-authored with Michael Milburn.
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Author:Oelbermann, Maren
Publication:Alternatives Journal
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 1997
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