Dan Kraus, conservation scientist and director of national conservation with Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, however, isn’t so sure about this.

“We’re seeing the loss of nature in some of the places where we need nature the most … We know that these lands support many different species of wildlife, including species at risk,” he said in an interview with CNO.

The Ontario auditor general’s 2020 and 2021 report confirmed the province is failing to protect species at risk and that its actions “have not been sufficient” to improve the situations of these species or their habitats. It concluded the Environment Ministry’s systems and processes for approvals even facilitated and enabled harm to these species and their habitats.

In line with these recent changes to the Greenbelt, the report also found development permit applications that were known to harm species at risk were always approved.

Doug Varty, former chair of Ontario’s Species Conservation Action Agency, stepped down from his position in December in protest over similar concerns.

“Like many Ontarians, I have become increasingly disappointed in the recent direction of the Ford government with respect to land [and] Greenbelt protection, watershed protection, sprawl and other related matters,” he wrote in a post on LinkedIn.

“In my view, the province is not listening to or acting in the best long-term interests of the people of this province. As such, I have made a personal decision [to] resign from this public appointment.”

“My concern is, are we just putting Greenbelt in places where we don’t have development pressure? Because that really tests our resolve around how committed we are to protecting nature,” said Kraus. “If we just fold wherever developers want to build more houses and say, ‘Well, we’ll just move it to somewhere where there’s no development pressure,’ that’s not really a commitment to protect nature or the benefits that nature provides to people.”

Since the federal government committed to 30 by 30 on the international stage at the United Nations biodiversity conference in December, only B.C., Quebec and the Yukon have officially agreed to match this goal.

As for how the federal, provincial and municipal governments should approach Canada’s 30 by 30 commitment, both Rooney and Kraus agreed that partnering with Indigenous communities should be the main way forward.

“Through working with Indigenous partners, we can try to redress some of that injustice that happened on a social level while also enhancing biodiversity conservation and habitat management,” said Rooney, highlighting how two studies — one published in 2021 by Amstrong, C.J. et al. and one published in 2019 by Schuster, R. et al. — showed that lands managed by Indigenous peoples can provide greater biodiversity than even national parks.

– With files from Morgan Sharp

This content was originally published here.