Ramping up to 100 million hectares…and beyond

While environmentalists were chaining themselves to trees, less than 3 percent of the nation was protected.  We were losing 20 hectares an hour to unsustainable industrial activity.  And, as far as the Auditor General was concerned, Parks Canada – the government agency tasked with the mission of establishing a network of national parks—was so far behind in reaching its goal that the opportunity to protect Canada’s key natural regions was slipping through their hands.
It was in that year, in those dark times, that WWF used both that book and that Charter to launch a ten-year campaign that accomplished more for nature in this country than anyone thought possible.
A few years prior, Arlin Hackman and I had collaborated to help obtain 151 new parks and protected areas in Ontario, with one stroke of Premier Davis’ pen. We envisioned what it would be like to replicate that accomplishment on a national scale. This was also a time when non-government organizations were daring to flex some leadership muscle. Arlin and I decided that rather than complain from the sidelines that Canadian governments weren’t moving quickly enough, why not step up to the plate and LEAD the effort to get the job done? The Endangered Spaces Campaign was born.
The rest is history. Over the next ten years, the Wilderness Charter went on to be signed by almost a million Canadians—the largest petition in Canadian history up till then. More important, we unified conservation organizations from across the country behind a single goal and managed to more than double the amount of protected area in Canada [PDF], adding over 1000 new parks, nature reserves and wilderness areas by the year 2000.

(c) Jiri Rezak/WWF-UK
Today, more than ever before, the state of our environment is one of the most widely discussed  issues—around dinner tables and board rooms.  We are facing challenges we hardly imagined twenty years ago.  And there are plenty of people out there who will tell you, there’s no solution for what we’re up against.  None of those people work at WWF.
The same leadership impulse and the same need to “think big,” which inspired Endangered Spaces can be seen in WWF’s conservation program today. For example, our upcoming Living Rivers Campaign will mirror “Spaces” in what it seeks to achieve for Canada’s fresh water. We are also targeting the protection of at least 50 percent of Canada’s Arctic, including an international Ice Refuge to maintain the last of the world’s northern ice cap in the face of global climate change. We want to move protection and conservation management out into our oceans in a big way, what I call “putting a snorkel on the panda.” And we are targeting nothing less than a transformation of how we use energy this country and how it is generated.
Churchill urged us to go beyond our best, to do what’s necessary. That’s what we did in 1989. And as I work beside WWF’s new, young conservation leaders—I assure you, that spirit is alive and thriving here today.  We’re gearing up for the most exciting chapter in our history.  Join us, won’t you?