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Canadian Biodiversity Strategy

GOAL 1 - Conservation and Sustainable Use

D. Sustainable Use of Biological Resources

The fourth element of the ecological management approach is the development and implementation of sector-specific policies, plans and programs. The sustainable use of biological resources and ecosystems is essential to the well-being of members of society and is necessary to conserve biodiversity.

Waterfowl Management Plan

The aim of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan is to restore waterfowl populations to 1970s levels by improving their habitats. The Plan calls for the preservation of 2.4 million ha of land across North America including 1.5 million ha in Canada. It is funded by public and private sources in both Canada and the United States and involves governments, conservation groups, hunters, farmers and other landowners.

In Manitoba, Prairie Care and the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation have acquired cultivated lands and returned them to native grass species. This work will support biodiversity conservation efforts in southwest Manitoba.

There are numerous policies, laws and programs in effect in Canada to support the sustainable use of biological resources. These include soil conservation programs, sustainable harvesting rates for wildlife, trapping and fishing, sustainable grazing rates on agricultural lands, and the sustainable use of forest resources. Unfortunately, there have also been instances where unsustainable resource use has resulted in adverse impacts to the economy and community social well-being. Canada is responding to resource management issues that have arisen from such practices. For example, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan is being implemented in response to very significant declines in waterfowl populations. The tourism industry is developing environmental codes of practice to promote the sustainable use of wildlife, parks and other resources necessary to sustain the growing eco-tourism sector.

Sustainable Use of Components of Biological Diversity

Article 10:

  1. Integrate consideration of the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources into national decision-making.

Article 6:

Integrate the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity into relevant sectoral or cross-sectoral plans, programmes and policies.

Convention on Biological Diversity

Indigenous communities are playing an increasingly significant role in the development of cooperative regimes to sustain our resources for future generations. Other sectors of society are becoming increasingly aware of the need to conserve biodiversity and use biological resources in a sustainable manner.

In some instances it may be possible to develop opportunities for the secondary processing of biological resources as a means of increasing employment, profits and economic diversity. Where such opportunities exist, they should be pursued as a means of supporting sustainable harvest rates for biological resources.

Biological systems are dynamic and can change significantly in biological productivity, species distribution and abundance. Consequently, resource managers and users must be aware of natural adjustments and fluctuations and respond with appropriate management practices.

In the following section, strategic directions 1.32 to 1.38 apply to all renewable resource sectors. This is followed by sections addressing agricultural, aquatic, and forested areas.

Whitehorse Mining Initiative

The Whitehorse Mining Initiative (WMI), co-sponsored by the Mining Association of Canada and Canada's Mines Ministers, was a multi-stakeholder process aimed at moving towards a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable mining industry underpinned by political and community consensus. The process produced an umbrella Accord endorsed by the Mines Ministers, the federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, and leaders from aboriginal organizations, industry, labour and environmental groups. The Accord recognizes that protected area networks are essential contributors to environmental health, biological diversity and ecological processes and a fundamental part of the sustainable balance of society, economy and environment. As such, one of the goals of the Accord is "to create and set aside from industrial development by the year 2000, those protected areas required to achieve representation of Canada's land-based natural regions".

Strategic Directions

Modify, develop and implement government policies and programs to ensure that they support the sustainable use of biological resources, the conservation of soil, water, air and other essential resources, and the long-term integrity of supporting ecosystems.
Improve methods and technologies that support the sustainable use of biological resources and eliminate or minimize adverse impacts on biodiversity resulting from resource use.
Develop and implement education and training programs for policy-makers, property owners, lease operators, resource managers and others involved in the management, development and use of biological resources, to ensure that they have access to the best available information, methods and technologies.
Develop and improve methods of monitoring ecosystems and biological resources to support the sustainable use of these resources.
As possible, provide information to assist consumers in understanding the impacts and implications of their decisions and to promote the sustainable use of biological resources and ecosystems.
Improve the effectiveness of public participation in developing policies for the use of biological resources using a variety of measures, such as integrated decision-making processes and conflict resolution mechanisms.
Develop linkages and ensure coordination between the implementation processes for the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy and other related national initiatives, such as the national forest strategy, air quality and climate change programs, the Wildlife Policy for Canada, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, agricultural strategies and the Whitehorse Mining Initiative.

Agricultural Areas

The agriculture and agri-food industry is a major contributor to the Canadian economy, accounting for eight percent of the Gross Domestic Product and 15 percent of total employment. Approximately seven percent of Canada's total land base is under some form of agricultural production, with one half million farmers engaged in primary food production worth $18 billion annually. Over one million individuals are employed in the food processing sector, which in 1992 was the second largest manufacturing industry in Canada, worth a total of $43.6 billion.

Land Area in Agriculture

Statistics Canada, 1993

Just as humans depend upon the products of agriculture, agriculture depends upon biological resources and ecosystems that provide the raw materials to produce new and better food plants, breeds of animals, and other products.

International access to diverse genetic resources is necessary for us because almost all major Canadian crops and domestic animals originated in other parts of the world. We must continue to be involved in global cooperative efforts in conservation and germplasm exchange in order to maintain a broad genetic base that will ensure our competitive position in the international market place.

The economic impact of soil erosion in Canada is estimated to be between $484 and $707 million per year.

Agriculture Canada, 1994

Genetic resources can be preserved in specialized facilities, on farms or in the wild. In Canada, ex situ preservation plays a critical role in providing continued access to viable seed stocks and cell lines, that would otherwise be lost as wild populations and species and traditional crops and breeds change or become extinct. Efforts are underway in Canada to preserve rare breeds of domesticated plants and animals in on-farm conditions.

On a broader scale, the impact of agriculture on other aspects of biodiversity has been recognized and, in many cases, solutions have been identified and are being implemented. Governments, agricultural producers, conservation organizations and others are addressing problems associated with soil erosion, the chemical contamination of water, wetland drainage, urban encroachment, wildlife and habitat impacts, energy efficiency, air and climate influences, pollution and waste management. In 1991 it was estimated that 87% of Canada's original prairie grassland had been converted to farmland. Canada has established Grasslands National Park to maintain a representative example of the arid shortgrass grassland region.

Nearly 500,000 hectares of land at severe risk from erosion have been removed from cultivation by the Permanent Cover Program between 1989 and 1993.

Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, 1994

There is growing recognition within the farm sector that agriculture can benefit, in certain circumstances, from the maintenance and enhancement of populations of wild flora and fauna. Governments are funding research and technology transfer programs to assist farmers in adopting practices that minimize impacts on surrounding ecosystems. Efforts must continue to optimize the use of agricultural lands by determining the most suitable crops for particular soil types and other conditions. Optimizing the use of agricultural lands is not only an essential element of agricultural sustainability, but also can significantly contribute to the conservation of biodiversity by maintaining or enhancing crop production without expanding the agricultural land base.

It is essential that individual landowners and agricultural producers continue to be involved in the development and implementation of environmentally sustainable agricultural policies and programs.

Strategic Directions

Assess current and proposed major government agricultural policies and programs to ensure that ecological, economic, social and cultural objectives are considered.
Maintain, adjust or develop economic incentives that promote the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of biological resources on agricultural lands.
Inventory and evaluate genes, populations, species and ecosystems to ensure the conservation of natural control systems and the identification of species for use as biocontrol agents.

Genetic Improvement of Crops in Canada

Genetic diversity has allowed crop breeders around the world to improve many crops by adapting them to local conditions.

  • Agriculture Canada's Rust Research Laboratory has bred and released a series of wheat varieties that are genetically resistant to wheat stem rust, a fungus that wiped out spring wheat crops in 1916. As a result, there has been no stem rust epidemic in western Canada since 1954, and there is no longer a need to use pesticides to control it.
  • Since the 1950s, characteristics such as high protein and energy, seed dormancy and disease resistance have been incorporated into new varieties of oats.

Agriculture Canada

Develop and use agricultural pest-control products and integrated pest management approaches to minimize negative impacts on non-target ecosystems and those species approaching or already at risk.
Conserve biological resources that are essential to agriculture, including domesticated animals, plants and microbial germplasm, and their wild relatives, with priority given to genetic material that is most at risk.
Develop and implement programs that promote and facilitate the co-existence of wild flora and fauna and other wild organisms and their habitats in agricultural landscapes.


Through research, training and technology transfer, facilitate the further adoption of environmentally sustainable farm practices, including those that:

  1. reduce soil erosion, surface and ground water contamination and air pollution; and
  2. lead to the identification of productive soil types in relation to specific crop requirements.
Encourage agricultural producers to develop farm management plans that support the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of biological resources.
Facilitate the sharing of experiences and expertise among farmers to promote management practices that favour the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of biological resources.
Maintain or develop policies or programs that conserve biodiversity by supporting the sustainable use of native grasslands.
Identify and conserve areas that support native species and communities or could contribute to systems of protected areas, especially in intensively developed areas in accordance to the directions provided in the section on protected areas of the Strategy.


Maintain or develop in situ and ex situ conservation mechanisms to support the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources essential to agriculture by:

  1. determining and acting upon regional, provincial, territorial, national and international priorities for the conservation of biological resources, research and training, and the establishment of facilities; and
  2. continuing to support existing federal, provincial, territorial, regional and international ex situ institutions.

Environmental Farm Plans

The Ontario Farm Environment Coalition is pro-actively dealing with environmental issues facing agriculture. Their agenda, developed in consultation with 28 major Ontario farm organizations, forms the basis for the voluntary Environmental Farm Plan process. The Environmental Farm Plan identifies areas of potential environmental concern and promotes realistic goals to minimize these concerns. This includes the need to make reasonable efforts to conserve Ontario`s natural biodiversity, while recognizing the requirements of working farms. As the application of this process increases, it is expected that the conservation of Ontario`s natural biodiversity in agricultural landscapes will be improved.

Aquatic Areas

Aquatic areas include freshwater, marine and wetland ecosystems. For centuries humans have used these ecosystems for food, recreation, sewage treatment, transportation, irrigation, cultural and spiritual purposes. Ground and surface waters are used as sources of potable water, and access to water has been a determining factor in the location of towns, cities, farms and other settlements. Globally, aquatic ecosystems produce the largest single source of animal protein for human consumption. Aquatic resources are also used for medicines and as raw material for manufacturing industries. Marine ecosystems play a significant ecological role, exerting influence over global processes such as the absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Direct and Indirect Employment in Fisheries Sector:

1990 - 130,000 people
1994 - 100,000 people

Department of Fisheries and Oceans, 1994

While humans have benefited enormously from aquatic ecosystems, they have not always used these resources in a sustainable manner. Some aquatic ecosystems have been stressed by commercial exploitation, long-range transport of contaminants, loss of habitat, and local and regional developments.

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence ecosystems have been greatly modified by intensive fishing, introduced species, pollutants and habitat changes. On the Atlantic coast, major reductions of groundfish species such as the northern cod appear to be due to a number of factors, including high exploitation, predation, inappropriate harvesting practices and environmental variants that have affected the survival of very young fish as well as growth rates and behaviour. On the Pacific coast, salmon, halibut and herring have gone through major fluctuations due to fishing pressure and environmental changes.

Significant reductions in population size and distribution can erode genetic diversity and ultimately lead to the extinction of species. In communities that depend upon biological resources, significant reduction in aquatic resource harvesting levels can devastate local economies and social well-being.

In Canada there are at least 36 federal acts, 20 provincial and territorial acts, and numerous international conventions and accords relating to the protection and use of aquatic environments and resources.

Canada is responding to aquatic resource issues in a variety of ways: financial and human resources are being devoted to solving management issues; habitat restoration and protection programs are being implemented; and restoration and rehabilitation programs are being developed and implemented to address water quality concerns. Canada is also continuing to work with other countries to address international aquatic resource issues.

Strategic Directions:

Assess current and proposed major government aquatic resource policies and programs to ensure that ecological, economic, social and cultural objectives are considered.
Use objective criteria to select sites for restoration and rehabilitation, and restore or rehabilitate degraded aquatic ecosystems where practical.
Implement biological and ecological inventory, monitoring programs and classification systems to determine appropriate biodiversity conservation measures and provide a framework for managing aquatic resources on a sustainable basis.
Increase our understanding of the structure, function and composition of aquatic ecosystems to enhance conservation and management practices.
Enhance efforts to conserve aquatic biodiversity by protecting: species and ecosystems at risk, endemic species, vulnerable spawning areas and unique and representative ecosystems.
Establish reserves to conserve aquatic biodiversity and contribute to networks of national and international protected areas in accordance with the strategic directions provided in the section on protected areas of this Strategy.
Develop training programs to promote the use of equipment and harvesting procedures that eliminate, or reduce to acceptable levels, the adverse impacts on populations, species, habitats and ecosystems, including the capture of undersized fish, incidental catch, and habitat destruction.


Reduce to acceptable levels, or eliminate, adverse impacts of species introductions on aquatic biodiversity resulting from aquaculture projects, fisheries enhancement programs and interbasin transfers of water and organisms.

Fisheries Resource Conservation Council

Established in 1992, the Council created a partnership among governments, scientists and fisheries industry members to determine management needs in Atlantic Canada. The Council has recommended changes to fishery management approaches, including:

  • moving towards an ecosystem approach;
  • conducting research in interdisciplinary terms;
  • enhancing our understanding of the impacts of fishing on fish stocks; and
  • enhancing communication between scientists and individuals who have practical experience in and knowledge of the fisheries industry.
Investigate the use of alternative aquatic resource management mechanisms to enhance the integration of social, cultural, economic and ecological objectives.
Participate in international fisheries conservation efforts to develop and encourage the implementation of ecological management approaches, and to develop sustainable use agreements.


Conserve ocean-based fisheries resources by:

  1. taking effective action to address foreign overfishing outside Canada's 200 mile limit;
  2. improving the enforcement of existing rules within the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO); and
  3. enhancing international collaboration in the development of conservation/sustainable use policies by building on discussions at the United Nations Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks.
Support the development of international agreements to encourage the development of biological reference points in fisheries management that provide a basis for the conservation and sustainable use of harvested species.
Enhance communication with those who possess traditional knowledge to improve information sharing, and to promote the conservation of aquatic biodiversity and the sustainable use of aquatic biological resources.


Maintain or develop in situ and ex situ mechanisms to support the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of aquatic biological resources by:

  1. determining and acting upon federal, provincial, territorial, regional and international priorities for the conservation of aquatic biological resources, research and training, and the establishment of new facilities; and
  2. determining federal, provincial, territorial, regional and international priorities for ex situ aquatic biological resources, facilities, research and training.

Forested Areas

Forests cover half of Canada and are essential to the survival of many species. As well as being ecologically significant on a global scale, forests are important contributors to our economic and social well-being. About 300 communities depend largely on forestry and more than 800,000 people work in the forest products industry or for organizations associated with it. In 1993, forest product exports contributed $22.4 billion to our net balance of trade.

Forest resources provide food, fuel and medicines for many communities, and are used for hunting, trapping, gathering, spiritual or religious purposes, and wilderness experiences. Being able to access and enjoy forested areas greatly improves our quality of life. While it is difficult to assign a monetary value to the social and cultural benefits of forests, these extremely important values must be considered in determining appropriate forest uses.

Goal Statement of Sustainable Forests: A Canadian Commitment

To maintain and enhance the long-term health of our forest ecosystems for the benefit of all living things, both nationally and globally, while providing environmental, economic, social and cultural opportunities for the benefit of present and future generations.

Given the importance of forests to Canadians, and the diverse uses that occur in these areas, it is essential that integrated management practices continue to be improved and implemented. Management decisions must be based on our best understanding of forest ecosystems and the implications of various forest uses.

Governments, forestry companies, woodlot owners, conservation groups and other organizations and individuals are directing resources towards addressing forest issues. Research and new technologies are improving forest management practices. Greater effort is being directed at improving forest inventories and reducing adverse impacts on soil, water and wildlife. A variety of mechanisms, such as land-use planning, forest management plans and guidelines are being implemented to solve conflicts between users. Protected areas have been and will continue to be established in support of the conservation of forest biodiversity. In 1992, Canada's national forest strategy, Sustainable Forests: A Canadian Commitment, was published. Now being implemented, this strategy provides a framework for jurisdictions to address forest issues and realize opportunities. The Canadian Biodiversity Strategy does not repeat all of the elements of the national forest strategy, but rather attempts to build upon those elements that are most relevant to the objectives of the Biodiversity Convention.

The national forest strategy, Sustainable Forests: A Canadian Commitment, expresses a new vision for the future of Canadian forests. Biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of biological resources are important themes throughout this national strategy, and action is taking place across the country to ensure that these aims are met.

Strategic Directions:

Assess current and proposed major government forest policies and programs to ensure that ecological, economic, social and cultural objectives have been considered.
Increase our understanding of forest biodiversity by enhancing ecological site classification systems and the inventory and monitoring of commercial and non-commercial species, soil, soil biota, climate and other biophysical characteristics.
Improve our understanding of forest ecological functions by determining the benefits of ecological services provided by forest ecosystems, monitoring the ecological responses of forests to resource management practices, and by carrying out other activities.
Eliminate or reduce to acceptable levels, the adverse impacts of forest management practices on watersheds, soils, adjacent ecosystems and species.


Continue to develop and implement improved forest management practices that provide for the sustainable use of forests while maintaining the regional forest mosaic. Use practices that are as consistent as is practical, with natural disturbance regimes, patterns and processes.

Forests of Canada

There are 416 million ha of forested land in Canada. A little more than half of this land is considered capable of producing timber. Approximately 119 million ha are currently managed for timber production. A further 156 million ha, found mostly in northern Canada and comprised of muskeg, small trees and shrubs, are "open" forests that will likely be left in their natural state. An estimated 12% of our forested land has been protected from harvesting by policy or legislation.

The provincial governments are responsible for managing 71% of the nation's forests, while the federal and territorial governments share responsibility for 23%. Six percent of Canada's forests are on private property belonging to more than 425,000 private landowners.

State of Canada's Forests, 1993

Provide improved training opportunities for forest scientists, managers and operators to increase their understanding of forest ecosystems.
Use integrated pest management approaches that eliminate or reduce to acceptable levels, adverse impacts on non-target species and ecosystems.
Inventory and evaluate forest ecosystems and species to ensure the conservation of natural biological control systems, and to identify species for use as biocontrol agents.
Develop and implement programs to conserve the genetic diversity of tree species in in situ conditions.
Establish and maintain forest seed and clonal gene banks to conserve the genetic diversity of tree species.
Allow fire, disease, succession and natural forest regeneration to maintain biodiversity, where they are compatible with forestry and other land use objectives, and where natural regeneration can be effective.


In consultation with regional and urban governments, landowners and lease holders, identify and correct policies that discourage the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of forest biological resources on private lands and leased crown lands.

Forest Birds, Biodiversity and Management

In 1989, the Canadian Wildlife Service and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources began collaborative research to examine the value of an ecosystem-based approach for describing the habitats of a number of wildlife species in relation to forest management. Research demonstrated distinct patterns of distribution and abundance for more than 70 forest bird species in relation to 38 mature forest types. Managing these forest types can maintain ecosystem features for many other species and contributes to forest biodiversity.

Where practical, restore or rehabilitate degraded forest ecosystems that will make a significant contribution to conserving biodiversity.
Establish protected areas to conserve representative and critical forest ecosystems as part of an overall network of protected areas in accordance with the strategic directions provided in the section on protected areas in this Strategy.
Develop and implement forest management plans and codes of practice to promote the sustainable use of forest ecosystems and the conservation of biodiversity.
Support research, management and policies that assess and promote new uses of timber and non-timber products from forests to increase the economic return from forest ecosystems, while conserving biodiversity.