Canada has 2nd Largest Wilderness in the World

A new study from the Wildlife Conservation Society reports Canada is home to the second largest wilderness area on the planet. But, this same study reports that the world is also rapidly becoming less wild. Lawrence Gunther offers the following insights on how Canada’s wild side compares with the rest of the world.

(Transcript of Lawrence Gunther’s bi-weekly 12-minute segment on Live from Studio 5 broadcast over AMI TV and Audio across Canada)

Q, Lawrence, who wrote this report and what can we learn from it?

A. The report was jointly authored by The Wildlife Conservation Society and a professor from the University of Northern British Columbia.
A. The report says 70 per cent of the world’s wilderness is located in just five countries. Of those five, Canada holds the second-largest area of wilderness after Russia.
A. Brazil, Australia and the United States round out the top five.
A. To put this in perspective, only about 13 per cent of the world’s oceans and 23 per cent of land areas can still be considered wilderness.

Q. Coming second to Russia sort of makes sense given that Canada is also second to Russia in over-all size. What is the important environmental stewardship learnings included in the report?

A. The authors of the report have tried to identify ways communities can do business more sustainably.
A. To show that resource extraction doesn’t have to always lead to a boom-bust economy.

Q. Can you expand on what you mean by boom – bust and how it relates to the future of our wilderness regions?

A. Currently, mining, forestry, oil extraction, are all carried out using large scale extraction innovations that generate an economic boom to a region, but also quickly deplete a region’s valuable resources causing the industrial activity to shut down and move on. It leads to the collapse of communities and often leaves behind a mess, passing the cost and responsibility for clean-up to public tax payers. The over-80 abandoned uranium mines in northern Saskatchewan is one such example. Another will be the oil sands in Alberta now estimated to require about $250-billion to put things back the way they were once oil extraction ceases.

Q. What does this sort of intensive industrial activity mean for wildlife?

A. Although Canada’s wilderness is more stable than other places in the world; B.C. alone is home to more than 1,500 species at risk.
A. Once humans move into wilderness areas and convert them to things like agriculture or residential housing, or intensive open pen aquaculture or commercial fishing, there’s still a lot of biodiversity, but you lose a lot of the species that are more sensitive to human activity.

Q. What does the report say about restoring species at risk?

A. The report includes examples from around the world that are proven measures that address endangered species by not just focusing on habitat protection.
A. What science is telling us is that addressing individual species at risk through habitat protection is costly, confusing and not that effective.
A. We need to take a different approach, and that’s looking at wilderness as an interconnected ecosystem that is capable of demonstrating resilience through bio capacity – the ability of nature to bounce back.
A. We simply need to stop extracting resources using the all-or-nothing approach.
A. In short, to return to the way we use to do it before massive efficient harvesting technologies were invented, and that’s selective harvesting using sustainable precision harvesting traditions and technologies.
A. Science and traditional knowledge need to guide our resource extraction endeavours if our wilderness areas are to continue to flourish.

Link below for more on the report: