Nature and Climate Grant Program

By supporting projects that restore viable habitat for biodiversity, and capture and store carbon, we are helping wildlife thrive and fighting climate change at the same time.

Fighting biodiversity loss and climate change

Canada is facing the dual crises of biodiversity loss and climate breakdown. The decline of at-risk species is driven largely by habitat loss, which is also contributing to climate change: The damage and destruction of nature is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. The protection, restoration and management of nature can provide up to 30 per cent of the solution to climate change. In Canada alone, we have identified 3.9 million hectares that, if restored, would help curb biodiversity loss and climate change.

Nature-based climate solutions use the unique powers of nature to both capture and store carbon, helping to safeguard species and make communities more resilient to climate change. WWF-Canada’s Nature and Climate Grant Program, now in its third year, helps local groups and Indigenous communities restore degraded lands and shorelines to improve habitats and capture carbon.

Aviva Canada is the presenting partner of the Nature and Climate Grant Program.

Year one (2021/2022)

During the 2021/2022 season — the first for the Nature and Climate Grant Program — seven grantees collectively restored more than 160 hectares of wetlands, grasslands, shorelines, agricultural areas and former industrial sites.

From the salt marshes of the Wolastoq/Saint John River valley, N.B., to the shores of Vancouver Island, B.C., to the farmlands of Quebec and Ontario, around 4,000 people planted nearly 90,000 trees and shrubs, which will sequester carbon as they grow and benefit dozens of at-risk species.

These projects also made communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change, such as flooding, directly benefitting over 100,000 people.

Year one grantees:

ALUS Canada Engaging farmers and ranchers in nature restoration in Chatham-Kent, ON and Outaouais, QC

Credit Valley Conservation Hungry Hollow Sustainable neighbourhood Action Plan in Halton Hills and Georgetown

Ducks Unlimited Canada Maintaining Saint John River floodplain wetlands and measuring carbon accumulation at coastal wetlands

Hammond River Angling Association Cutting hedge technology: Using shrubs to sequester carbon and restore Palmer Brook

Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority Take a load off: Restoring habitat and water quality in the Nottawasaga Valley

Comox Valley Project Watershed Society Kus-kus-sum: Restoration of key habitat to re-establish ecosystem services and build coastal resiliency

SeaChange Society: Saanich Peninsula blue carbon recovery project

Site spotlight: Advancing change in New Brunswick

The grant program allowed the Hammond River Angling Association (HRAA), a watershed group in Nauwigewauk, NB, to accelerate the natural regeneration of 1,500 m2 of habitat and, for the first time, analyze carbon sequestration in the area through core soil sampling. Restoration efforts focused on planting native shrubs as opposed to trees, because they regenerate easily, produce flowers, fruits and nuts for wildlife and are extremely adaptive and resilient to climate change. Their deep roots also benefit shoreline restoration and sequester carbon in the soil.

The knowledge gained through this program is already being passed on to the next generation: the grant also allowed HRAA to develop and deliver a Carbon Lifecycle class to 280 children who attended nature camps to learn about carbon, and how it forms the basis of all life on Earth.

Watch The Climate Connection video series

Phase two: 2022/2024

Ongoing funding from Aviva Canada is allowing the program to build on the success of its first year, offering multi-year grants to projects led by local groups and Indigenous communities (and including three returning groups from year one). This work is taking place over a two-year timeline, from 2022 through 2024, and lays a foundation for meaningful, long-term change.

By the end of May 2023, our grantees had:

  • Restored more than 465 hectares of habitats on wetland, grassland, shoreline, agricultural and former industrial sites;
  • Planted 151,714 native trees and shrubs;
  • Improved the habitats for at least 57 local populations of at-risk species.

Together, these efforts contributed to making more than 283,000 people more resilient to the effects of climate change.

Learn more about these incredible groups and how they are restoring ecosystems to achieve wildlife and climate goals.

© Jeremy Koreski An aerial photo of the landslide-damaged slopes of Hesquiaht, near Tofino, B.C.

The Clayoquot Climate Resilience and Watershed Restoration Project, led by the Redd Fish Restoration Society in partnership with the ƛaʔuukʷiʔatḥ (Tla-o-qui-aht) and hiškʷiiʔatḥ (Hesquiaht) Nations, works to restore ecosystem resilience, rebuild wildlife populations and mitigate climate change in watersheds on the west coast of Vancouver Island, BC. The project’s goal is to build a better future for the communities that depend on these watersheds, which are also affected by high-intensity weather events such as landslides.

Progress report:

  • By the numbers: In the 2022/2023 field season, the Nature and Climate Grant Program allowed Redd Fish to plant 7,584 native conifers and 2,580 willow stakes at Tranquil Creek — strengthening a landscape damaged by landslides and protecting an important salmon habitat.
  • Fun fact: In 2022, Redd Fish installed a log jam structure — comprising 92 logs and five stumps — in Tranquil Creek, which proved popular for spawning adult salmon and rearing juveniles seeking refuge in an otherwise shallow and wide segment of the river.
  • Act locally: Learn how to prevent and manage harmful erosion in your own community from Redd Fish experts
  • Wise words: “Stewardship is a never-ending process. It’s building this connection with a place you love — whether it’s a river, a patch of grass, a small forest or a trail — and then committing to take care of it.” —Mandala Smulders, Director of Operations, Redd Fish
© Rick Wards An aerial photo of a river near a former industrial site, with houses and mountains in the background in Courtenay, B.C.

Kus-kus-sum, a partnership between Project Watershed, the K’ómoks First Nation, and the City of Courtenay have been a participant in the Nature and Climate Grant Program since 2021, aiming to restore tidal marshes and riparian forest on a former sawmill site in the heart of the Comox Valley, on the east coast of Vancouver Island, B.C. Their work is restoring natural biodiversity to benefit wildlife and maintain fish stocks, mitigating climate change impact (via flood attenuation, sea level rise adaptation and carbon sequestration) and restoring cultural and traditional uses of the site by the K’ómoks First Nation, on whose unceded territory the land sits.

Progress report:

© ALUS A wetland on agricultural land in Ontario

ALUS, an innovative community-developed and farmer-delivered program that creates, enhances and maintains ecosystem services on agricultural lands, has been part of the Nature and Climate Grant Program since 2021. ALUS works collaboratively with farmers, ranchers, and community partners to build nature-based solutions to sustain agriculture, help improve community resilience, and fight climate change and biodiversity loss for the benefit of future generations. Their project aims to integrate native habitats such as grasslands, trees and wetlands into marginal and environmentally sensitive areas of farmland in the counties of Norfolk, Elgin and Lambton in Ontario and the regions of Montérégie and Outaouais in Quebec.

Progress report:

© Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee Native shrubs on the restored banks of a stream near Sussex, N.B.

With the Carbon Capture Collective project, the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee, and their partners, the Hammond River Angling Association and Belleisle Watershed Coalition, will improve site diversity and increase carbon sequestration by creating baseline carbon calculations on soils at degraded riparian areas in Sussex, NB. This project will increase tree species, floodplain functions and overall ability to sequester carbon through improved tree growth and soil health. They will partner with the Agriculture Alliance of New Brunswick to complete the carbon monitoring process and engage students and volunteers for tree planting efforts.

Progress report:

© Deborah Aarts / WWF-Canada An adult person and a dog seen from behind, with a half circle of adolescents volunteers in Markham, Ont.

The Friends of the Rouge Watershed project aims to mobilize 4,000 youth and community volunteers in Toronto, ON, to plant 20,000 native trees and 8,000 native wildflowers and shrubs — contributing to the restoration of riparian forest wetland habitat (or swamp), upland forest habitat, and wildflower meadow habitat on municipal parklands in the Rouge River Watershed near Rouge National Urban Park. It will improve overall biodiversity and habitat for dozens of at-risk species and fight climate change and flooding by absorbing significant amounts of carbon and millions of litres of water over two years.

Progress report:

© Kevin Lamb A volunteer installs a white robust protection around a young native tree near the Minesing Wetlands in Ontario

Since 2021, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) has been a Nature and Climate Grant participant. Its current project engages landowners, farmers and volunteers and aims to “Take a Load Off” of watersheds north of Toronto by restoring natural infrastructures, improving habitat for biodiversity and enhancing ecosystem’s ability to sequester carbon. The NVCA is also working to reduce flooding by increasing infiltration rate, creating floodplain capacity and protecting and increasing wetlands. Activities include wetland, river, forest and native grassland habitat restoration, and farm practices to create carbon-rich healthy soils.

Progress report:

  • By the numbers: In 2022/2023, the Nature and Climate Grant program (along with volunteers, watershed stewards, and other partners) helped NVCA to restore, protect, and enhance more than 154 hectares of degraded forest, grassland, wetland and river habitats.
  • Fun fact: The NVCA’s work on this project includes eight hectares of restoration in the internationally significant Minesing Wetlands, a critical habitat for species like the endangered cerulean warbler and wood turtle.
  • Learn more: Watch how NVCA is working to restore a major watershed near Barrie, Ont.
  • Wise words: “It’s a journey. Each step doesn’t take much. You just have to work with natural processes. Before you know it, you’ve come a long way!” —Shannon Stephens
Healthy Waters Program Coordinator, NVCA

Site spotlight: Protecting salmon habitats on Vancouver Island

Hiłsyaqƛis, also known as Tranquil Creek, is a picturesque waterway winding northeast of Tofino, B.C., on Vancouver Island. Years of industrial logging and extreme weather have damaged this ecosystem, causing wild salmon populations to plummet. Jessica Hutchinson, executive director and ecologist at Redd Fish Restoration Society, explains how the Nature and Climate Grant Program is helping the organization to bring salmon back.

“Holding pools are deeper sheltered areas in rivers where salmon wait to migrate upstream, find a mate or seek cover from predation. A few years ago, we identified a lack of pool habitat as a limiting factor to how many salmon the river can support. So, we decided to recreate a holding pool in the river.

“We worked with a team of engineers and fluvial geomorphologists to identify a suitable area and prepare a design that would have longevity and function well as a habitat. Using helicopters and barges and trucks, we brought in logs and roots traditionally native to the area — that was the most time-consuming and challenging part.

“After we finished construction, a drought dried up a section of the river just metres from our pool. Fish physically couldn’t migrate further upstream, so our holding pool became a significantly important hotspot for all five species of returning salmon because it was the only accessible one. We saw some really intense use right away, and our new pool is also preventing erosion and creating a more complex, nutrient-rich habitat. It has been a very rewarding project.”

Leadership in action: Inspiring change in the Canadian business community

The Nature and Climate Grant Program is meant to support the on-the-ground work of our grantees. But it doesn’t end there. As part of WWF-Canada’s strong partnership with Aviva Canada, we are working together to challenge Canada’s business community to better support biodiversity and nature-based climate solutions.

WWF-Canada CEO Megan Leslie and Jason Storah (then CEO of Aviva Canada, now CEO of Aviva UK & Ireland General Insurance) wrote an op-ed in The Financial Post making the case for why businesses must account for — and improve — their impact on the natural world, and echoed these sentiments in a session at the December 2022 COP 15 UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal (The Kunming-Montreal Agreement signed at COP 15 explicitly calls on businesses and financial institutions to disclose their negative impacts on biodiversity and take aggressive action to mitigate those impacts.)

As the early success of the Nature and Climate Grant Program demonstrates, significant change can take place when businesses choose to support nature.

Event Spotlight: WWF-Canada @ GLOBE Series’ Destination Net Zero Events – Regenerating Canada

On November 24, 2021, speakers from WWF-Canada, Aviva Canada, ALUS and Project Watershed discuss the Nature and Climate Grant Program as well as nature-based climate solutions that range from on-the-ground projects to corporate investments in nature.