Protected areas in Canada are established to protect the ecological integrity of the country and also to provide areas for recreation and education. Canada’s protected areas are mostly terrestrial with growing focus on the coastal areas. Protected areas are categorized according to the organization that manages them while some of the areas have a greater focus on ecological integrity than other areas. 10.6% of Canada’s terrestrial land area and about 1% of the marine territory are protected areas. The total protected area in the country has increased by about 70% in the last 20 years. As of 2015, an area of about 198 square miles is considered a protected area.
Terrestrial Protected Area By Province
The proportions of protected area vary by province and territory with the size ranging from 3.1 to 15.3%. The geographical differences and land use influence the size and the degree of protection. Agricultural territories and provinces have a small proportion of protected areas compared to the provinces with large recreational areas. British Columbia, Yukon, Alberta, and Ontario have the largest protected terrestrial area each accounting for at least 11% of the total protected terrestrial area. Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador have less than 8% of their territories under protection. The other provinces and territories have between 8 and 11% of their territories under protection.
1. British Columbia
British Columbia is located between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean and covers a land area of 364,800 square miles. Its rugged coastline includes the mountainous fjord and several inhabited islands. In 1992, only 6% of the province was protected. Today, about 15.3% of the total area is fully protected while more land base falls under some special management regime. Most of the protected area in the province are also recreational areas and facilitate the preservation of the ecological integrity. There are 14 parks and protected areas in the province including national parks and national reserves. The Agricultural Land Reserve protects an additional 18,000 square miles of arable land.
Alberta is known for its natural beauty and diversity. The landscapes vary from Badland to unbroken forest and ice field. The protected areas are the main elements for conservation efforts in the province. Land protection in the province is offered by several designations including provincial and national administrations. The protected areas range from wilderness landscape to recreational areas. Alberta has a total area of 250,000 square miles of which 12.6% of the total area has been declared protected area. 8.2% of the total land is covered by the national parks while 4.4% is under the provincial protected area. Alberta has eight protected area designations including ecological reserves, parks, and recreational areas.
Yukon is the smallest of the three Canadian federal territories. It covers an area of 186,272 square miles and forms a shape of a right angle. Most of the territory is in the watershed of the Yukon River. About 11.9% of Yukon’s total area is protected. Yukon has four national parks and several territorial parks which were created out of the protected areas. Plans are underway to create four more parks that will increase the site of the protected area in Yukon