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Fieldnotes: How we fought for nature and people in 2019

Fieldnotes is WWF-Canada’s newsletter about our science-based work finding solutions in the face of the unprecedented dual crises of climate change and wildlife loss. Click here to subscribe and get future issues emailed directly to your inbox.


How we fought for nature and people in 2019

Montreal Climate Strike Laurence Cayer-Desrosies/WWF-Canada

What a year! We marched at the global climate strike, cleaned hundreds of shorelines and protected the Last Ice Area — it’s been an exciting and, yes, sometimes an exhausting year here in the WWF-Canada offices. From St. John’s to Victoria to Iqaluit, we gave it our all to help safeguard species, protect habitat and fight climate change.

Now, with 2020 in sight, it’s time to reflect on the conservation wins we’re most proud of this year.


Wildlife Protection Assessment
On Earth Day 2019, WWF-Canada launched a nation-wide assessment mapping gaps in essential wildlife habitat protection areas that were also unprotected carbon sinks, which are natural areas like forests, wetlands and grasslands that absorb and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

It may not sound like a win to find out that 84 per cent of habitats with high concentrations of at-risk species are inadequately or not at all protected. Or that 77 per cent of habitats with high levels of soil carbon and 74 per cent of habitats with high levels of forest biomass similarly lack protections.

But given the scale of the dual crises we’re facing with biodiversity loss and climate change, the WPA provides vital scientific data to inform decision-making so we can now maximize protection efforts to defend species and attack global warming using nature-based solutions.


Sea ice on the coast of northeast Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada.

Protecting that Last Ice Area

In August, following a decade of WWF-Canada’s science-based advocacy efforts, plans finally moved forward to protect Tuvaijuittuq, which means “the ice never melts” in Inuktitut. Part of a polar region that we coined the Last Ice Area — this is where scientists project summer sea ice will persist the longest in our warming world — Tuvaijuittuq is a Germany-sized section of the Canadian High Arctic that can now provide a climate refuge for ice-dependent species and the communities that rely on them.

As well as contributing to the underlying science, we supported the Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s negotiations with the governments of Canada and Nunavut. The result was that this 322,000 sq. km interim Marine Protected Area was declared along with an impact benefit agreement that ensures Nunavut communities benefit culturally and economically.

Oh, and at the same time nearby Tallurutiup Imanga, formerly known as Lancaster Sound, received permanent MPA status, adding another 108,000 sq. km of protected Arctic area.

Improving Marine Protected Areas

In April, the federal government announced a ban on oil and gas exploration, mining, dumping and bottom trawling in federal marine protected areas. In 2017, WWF-Canada had launched a public campaign to protect the Laurentian Channel from oil and gas activities. This past summer, Canadians mobilized once again to ask that all MPAs be exempted from oil and gas activities.

Thanks in large part to the letter-writing advocacy of our amazing supporters, it worked!  And then, for good measure, we also found out that the Tuvaijuittuq MPA is so massive that it helped Canada exceed its 10 per cent commitment — we have now officially protected 13.82 per cent of our marine areas!

Western Mariner’s Guide
Following the success of our 2018 Eastern Mariner’s Guide, this past September, we released a new guide with the Inuvialuit Game Council. Now, ship captains have vital information on how to strategically avoid harming marine mammals and their habitats in the sensitive western Arctic.

The guide used traditional knowledge and community conservation plans from the Inuvialuit Settlement Region to ensure that shipping doesn’t harm wildlife or interfere with harvesting activities as vessel traffic increases.


Biopolis seed bombs
Nature needs to exist in cities, too. So, Biopolis.ca is an informative online platform promoting research, effective solutions and best practices to increase the significance of urban biodiversity through protection and expansion. Based in Montreal, this hub has more than 70 registered projects, more than 115 “bioneer” leaders, and more than 100 different resources to help connect and inform people.

In May 2019, Biopolis held its first mini-“BioBlitz” in Montreal’s Jarry Park to introduce the community to citizen science and raise awareness around urban wildlife living right in their neighbourhood. Supporters were keen to get their hands dirty, evaluating micro-fauna in the park soil, analyzing lichen living on tree bark and studying insects and other wildlife found in Jarry’s artificial pond.

The participants created 1,000 seed bombs with native pollinator-friendly seeds to help bring back nature in Montreal.  The seed bombs are made of organic potting soil mixed with compost, red clay powder, a little bit of water, and seeds from various types of milkweed, white yarrow, anise hyssop, New-England aster and oxeye sunflower. These little balls resembling chocolate truffles can be thrown in backyards, gardens, vacant lots, green alleyways, or any area where nature could use some help.


Oliver Woods/WWF-Canada

Generation Water Tech Challenge
WWF-Canada launched its first-ever technology challenge to help improve Canada’s freshwater health. Our 2017 Watershed Report identified two priority problems: high threats to urban watersheds and a data deficit across the country. Applicants were asked to provide innovative, tech-based solutions to address these key issues. The amazing opportunity is featured on the exciting new Living Planet Technology Hub, a platform that highlights how technology is making our conservation work more effective and efficient.

Helping wild rivers stay that way
We recommended to Transport Canada that 25 wild and free-flowing rivers and Canadian Heritage Rivers needed additional oversight. In October, they received that extra supervision by being added to the List of Scheduled Waters in the Canadian Navigable Waters Act.

This action prioritizes rivers of significant ecological and cultural value and is a step forward towards safeguarding these national treasures and vital sources of freshwater for wildlife and people.

The salmon came back
Katzie First Nation, this year’s WWF-Canada Restoration Fund recipient, received a $150,000 grant to restore the salmon habitat in a tributary of the Pitt River – Blue Creek.

Working with the Department of Fisheries and Ocean, Katzie members removed in-stream barriers caused by a recent landslide and reinforced the banks. A raised bank was also constructed to prevent flooding and protect the newly restored Chinook habitat. The site visit in August revealed salmon nests and about forty to fifty Chinook actively spawning in the restored area!

Wait, we cleaned up how much on shorelines?
In its 26th year, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited and Coca-Cola Ltd., had 2,990 registered cleanups which were attended by 83,840 participants. Volunteers cleaned up over 4,000 km of shoreline and picked up 192,830 kg of litter. These achievements will grow even higher as we get final numbers in the new year!

WWF strikes back

Our science-based organization rarely takes to the streets, but on September 27 we joined the Global Climate Strike, which saw 7.6 million people from 150 countries protesting in over 2,000 towns and cities.

WWF-Canada staff marched everywhere we have offices — including Panda mascots protesting with us in Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and St. John’s — to support Canada’s students, mobilize our supporters, demand climate action from governments, and spread the word about nature-based solutions to the climate crisis.

As those of you who joined us know, the climate strike was an incredibly inspiring day. But going into the new year, we must all continue building momentum around the urgency to act.


Meet a … President and CEO!

Megan Leslie in Pond Inlet, Nunavut © Megan Leslie / WWF-Canada

Megan Leslie, President and CEO, WWF-Canada

Megan Leslie is the president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada. As a passionate environmentalist, she spent two years working as an integral member of WWF-Canada’s oceans team, first as a consultant and then as head of oceans conservation, before stepping into her current role.

Prior to WWF, Megan was a Member of Parliament and represented Halifax for two terms, where she was deputy leader of the official Opposition, environment critic and vice-chair of the government committee on environment and sustainable development.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done over the past year — and we couldn’t do what we do without our supporters! So, from the bottom of all our hearts, everyone at WWF-Canada wishes you a wonderful 2020, and we promise to keep fighting on your behalf to protect nature and people.”


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