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Protected Areas: Protecting Our Unique Nature

Big Picture Protected Areas: Join the Discussion

Protecting Our Unique Nature

A Big Picture Protected Areas Strategy for the Carolinian Zone

The Carolinian Zone is our most biologically diverse, cultivated and heavily-populated region!

Formally protected areas cover only 2.5% of the region, while privately owned land makes up 95%.

The future of the ecoregion depends on expanding true partnerships with Ontario’s diverse landowners: Indigenous, public, and private. On this complex landscape, thousands of diverse landowners and hundreds of local groups are leading the way in saving nature and it’s Many Co-Benefits.

Carolinian Canada is convening partners to collaborate for a protected areas strategy for the Carolinian Zone across 12 upper tier municipalities from Toronto to Windsor. We encourage you to get involved!

  • Strategy development is guided by a Big Picture Protected Areas Task Force with 15+ partners
  • A series of public events will be held in fall and winter 2018-2019
  • Documents will be posted here for review
  • Potential sites may be nominated for assessment
  • Opportunities will be identified for implementation and investment partners

Current State

Figure 1.2: Ontario’s provincial parks, conservation reserves and wilderness areas (State of Ontario's Protected Areas Report, Queen's Printer for Ontario, 2011)


The Big Picture Protected Areas strategy is guided by the following principles and values:

  • A vision for healthy and resilient landscapes
  • Respect for all sectors, landowners and local decision-makers
  • Collaboration to reverse a centuries’ old trend of habitat loss and grow a green future, together.
  • Global (Aichi Targets), national and provincial (Ontario's Biodiversity Strategy) alignment for protected areas within the Pathway to Canada Target 1 framework
  • Enhance the many co-benefits of existing and potential protected areas
  • Best ecological science, local and traditional knowledge
  • Network collaboration and coordination using recognized methodology for community-based conservation actionAligned with Pathway to Canada Target 1 goal: In partnership with Indigenous Peoples and relevant sectors of Canadian society, produce a pathway, grounded in science and Indigenous knowledge systems, to establish a coordinated and connected network of parks and conservation areas throughout Canada that will serve as the cornerstone for biodiversity conservation for generations to come.

Indigenous Partners

An important part in this initiative and the Canada Pathway to Target 1 is recognizing Indigenous peoples’ history as “diligent and ingenious cultivators of Canada’s biological diversity” [source]. As important, is recognizing that historically, the Canadian government has used protected areas as a way to separate Indigenous peoples from their land and thus, their culture, rather than being centred on the health and well-being of nature and local communities. Canada Pathway to Target 1 seeks to engage and learn from Indigenous peoples in Canada through consultation, collaboration and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. The Big Picture Protected Areas strategy will continue this work with our local Indigenous partners.

Big Picture Approach on a Private Landscape

This initiative is part of a Big Picture Collaborative effort to reverse the trend of habitat loss. Our Big Picture Report Card Discussion Paper showed that habitat is on a continual decline overall across the Zone. Discussions among partners pointed to the need protect existing biodiversity and scale-up action to prevent further losses. Protected areas are cornerstones and local models for robust natural heritage systems. On a working, private landscape, the Big Picture is focused on supporting voluntary action. It is grounded in healthy landscape approaches that provide win-win benefits to landowners.


This initiative aims to take an enhanced collaborative approach to achieving greater area-based biodiversity conservation with a focus on place-based voluntary solutions supported by a network of private, public and indigenous partners.

Carolinian Canada, with the Protected Areas Task Force as well as Indigenous and community partners and landowners through collaborative workshops, webinar, forum and a network survey will deliver a protected areas strategy and 5-year implementation plan to:

  1. Identify strategies for:
    1. Potential protected areas
    2. Needs and barriers to meeting protected areas criteria In Southern Ontario
    3. Identify progressive protected area goals for the region and strategies to attain them
    4. Securement priorities
    5. Digital Data Gaps
  2. Explore feasibility of innovative approaches such as conservation easements and land accreditation to expand network of protected areas over time.
  3. Gather knowledge to inform the evaluation of protected areas criteria and definitions on the Carolinian landscape.
  4. Implementation guidance for setting local protected areas targets
  5. Identify data partners to develop mapping of key metrics to support the strategy

Co-benefits of Protected Areas

Healthy ecosystems provide ‘services’ or ‘co-benefits’ on which local populations and communities rely. Although undoubtedly more challenging, it is especially important to maintain the ecological integrity of our ecosystems near urban areas where there is increased pressure and demand for co-benefits. High performing areas of ecological co-benefits are found in forested and natural areas, and also along borders of protected spaces. [source]

  • Healthy Communities
    • Healthy air quality
    • Sustainable Living Opportunities
    • Socio-economic Benefits
    • Opportunities for Access
    • Sustainable outdoor recreation
    • Knowledge-building
    • Heritage appreciation
    • Improvement of physical and mental health
  • Extreme Weather mitigation
    • Carbon Storage
    • Soil Erosion Protection
    • Drought protection
    • Water retention (storm water/flood management)
  • Wildlife protection
    • Biodiversity protection
    • Hunting and fishing
  • Water protection
    • Healthy water quality

How can you participate to enhance your local Protected Area network?

  • SIGN ON: to Ontario Nature’s Protected Places Declaration
  • ADVANCE: the discussion and take the Protected Areas Survey
  • GATHER: for protected area events to be part of the conversation
  • SHARE: your ideas and comments on the documents we post here: review the discussion paper, participate in the webinar, visit partner websites, message us
  • NOMINATE: test sites to be assessed for protection status
  • SUBSCRIBE: to our free EcoNews to get updates, get notified directly when event registration opens, get documents links in your inbox Subscribe today!
  • EXPLORE: find your sense of place by visiting a local park or conservation area to connect with the uniquely beautiful cultural landscapes we have in the Carolinian Zone!

Contact us

  • Contact Carolinian Canada

    Visit our contact page for a full list of contact addresses for this and other Carolinian Canada programs

Big Picture Protected Areas Task Force

The Big Picture Protected Areas Task Force represents diverse partners collaborating to develop a protected areas strategy for the Carolinian Zone. This team of expert leaders are working together to creatively and effectively expand biodiversity protection in the Carolinian Zone.


We are thankful to have the support and commitment of our task force partners, and invite others who are interested in participating to contact one of the program coordinators.


Task force contributing partners include:

  • Jo Boyer, Chippewas of the Thames First Nations 
  • Tim Marchand, Ontario Parks 
  • Tara Tchir, Upper Thames River Conservation Authority 
  • Anne Bell, Ontario Nature 
  • Alison Howson, Ontario Land Trust Alliance 
  • Michael Drescher, University of Waterloo 
  • Ian Attridge, Lawyer 
  • Daria Koscinski, Thames Talbot Land Trust 
  • Allen Woodliffe, Consulting Ecologist 
  • Paul General, Six Nations of the Grand River 
  • Weylin Bomberry, Six Nations of the Grand River 
  • Kristen Bernard / Jill Crosthwaite, The Nature Conservancy of Canada 
  • Heather Reid, Ontario Farmland Trust 
  • Kristyn Richardson, Long Point Basin Land Trust  
  • Robin Roth, University of Guelph