Counting Towards Target 1

The recognition of the contribution of private land securement and stewardship to the goals of Canada’s Nature Legacy to protect 30% of lands and waters by 2030 positions the activities of private land conservation organizations within an urgent global call to action framed by the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

A key program to protect private conservation lands was launched well before the adoption of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program provides a way for Canadians with ecologically sensitive land to protect nature by offering significant tax benefits to landowners who donate land or a partial interest in land to a qualified recipient. Recipients, mainly private land conservation organizations, ensure that the land’s biodiversity and environmental heritage are conserved in perpetuity.(12)

Building on the success of programs like the Ecological Gifts Program and the previous Natural Areas Conservation Program, under the Nature Legacy Initiative, the Government of Canada launched the Natural Heritage Conservation Program (NHCP) in 2019 with an investment of $100 million over four years in the private land conservation community.(13) The goal is to increase the area of privately protected land for species at risk by 200,000 hectares (494,210 acres) as a measurable contribution to Target 1 of Canada’s 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets.

The Miistakis Institute created the Assessing Privately Conserved Areas for Alignment with Pathway to Canada Target 1 Alignment Guide(14) to help private land conservation organizations achieve the ‘protected area’ or ‘other effective area-based conservation measures’ (OECM) status for their privately held lands and be counted under Canada’s Target 1 goal. The Guide reinforces the importance of ensuring that private land conservation organizations have sufficient resources for stewardship of their conservation lands and easements. For example, these properties are more likely to be included in Target 1 reporting if policies and management plans (with clear management goals and relevant baseline data), and robust on-going monitoring are in place.

While private land conservation organizations are well placed to have their conservation properties ‘count’, it is important to ensure that resources for stewardship and legal protection are in place. Having their properties included in Target 1 has value for private land conservation organizations, confirming that specific conservation outcomes are being met, which may then be leveraged to incent further investment in effective stewardship practices and legal protection. Sufficient investment in the stewardship of these properties in perpetuity would provide a significant contribution to Canada’s strategy to protect nature for future generations and help to address biodiversity loss.

12. Environment and Climate Change Canada, Ecological Gifts Program

13. Environment and Climate Change Canada, Natural Heritage Conservation Program

14. Miistakis Institute (2017), Assessing Privately Conserved Areas for Alignment with Pathway to Canada Target 1 Alignment Guide