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Op/Ed:Thousands of small individual actions can help the Earth

Dan Kraus
By Dan Kraus
April 29th, 2018

We all have a role in nature conservation

Earth Week is a time to promote awareness and appreciation for our environment, sustainable living and earth awareness.

There’s nothing like the potential loss of Earth’s rich biodiversity and planetary life support systems to make one feel, well, a little overwhelmed. Our individual actions can seem like small roles on a very big stage.

The solution to halting and reversing the loss of nature needs to occur from thousands of small individual actions.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is doing its part, working with people and communities to protect important habitat areas for plants and animals.  Since 1962, we have conserved over 2.8 million acres across the country.

These projects are critical for nature conservation and a legacy that will be cherished by our children and grandchildren. But these actions are not sufficient.

Many of us steward a small piece of Canada. It could be a farm, recreational property or a few square metres in an urban backyard. While a farm, recreational property or urban backyard is not a wilderness or a wildlife preserve, these places, your places, are all still a part of nature. And your places have a role in conservation.

And we all have a role in nature conservation.

Here’s are some small individual acts of conservation we can all take that will help nature, and will also benefit you and your community.

Volunteer:there are many nature conservation volunteer opportunities, where you can breathe some fresh air, meet others with similar interests and explore new areas, all while protecting nature and wildlife. Through its 11th annual Conservation Volunteers program, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), offers Canadians a variety of important, hands-on and fun opportunities to keep nature top of mind:

From improving trails to removing invasive species to conducting bird inventories, there is a lot to learn and enjoy.  Learn more at

Be for the birds:  Sadly, migratory songbirds have been rapidly declining. While many species remain common, they are at risk because of steep population declines. Fortunately, there’s a lot more we can do to make migratory songbirds feel more welcome. You can help by creating migratory bird pit-stops on your property. Planting clusters of native shrubs or trees can provide important habitat. If every Canadian provides just one small patch of vegetation for songbirds in their yard, we’d add more than 7 million new sites for nesting and resting.

Soak it all in:  On many yards and properties, water no longer sits and soaks into the ground, but runs off roofs, driveways, fields and lawns into drains and eventually into our streams and lakes.  One of the biggest issues for Canada’s freshwater is too much runoff. The problem with runoff is that it’s not just water. It carries sediments, nutrients and other pollutants into our streams and lakes. This can clog streams with silt and cause algal blooms in even very big lakes such as Lake Erie and Lake Winnipeg.

Nature’s solution is to hold water on the land in wetlands, forests and prairies. This not only releases water more slowly, but helps remove sediments and recharges our aquifers.

Where you can, slow the flow. Think about how water can be held on your property in rain barrels, rain gardens, wetlands or other natural habitats.

Cover it Up:The canopy cover of a forest and the shade of a tree have an incredible impact on nature and people. An acre of conserved forest can provide thousands of dollars of important services, such as reducing floods, removing air pollution and sequestering carbon.

There are millions of places in our cities, around our homes and farms that could support more trees. If you can, find a place to plant a native tree on your property or support NCC’s forest restoration efforts. You’ll be helping create important habitats and make the world a cooler place.

Know your place:when we lose our sense of wonder and appreciation for nature, the importance and urgency of conservation is lost.

The good news is that learning about nature is getting easier. While a walk through the woods or grasslands with an elder or experienced naturalist may still be the best way to learn, a few clicks on the internet can reveal not only the species in and around your home, but also how to identify them.

Go and learn to identify the plants and animals that share your ecosystem. Even learning about five new species a year can change the way you see the world. Knowing and teaching nature literacy, the wonder that lies around all of us, can lead to important conservation actions.

Leave some nature: nature is pretty generous. In most ecosystems, humans can use a quarter, or even a half, of natural habitats and most species can be maintained.  Our challenge in Canada is that while we have the rare opportunity to protect some of world’s last true wilderness in our northlands, we have lost significant amount of our natural habitats in the south. We may have over-extended that generosity, and this impacts both nature and the well-being of people.

We have nature in our cities, farms and homes. It may not the same nature that was there several years ago, but it can provide important habitat. There are hundreds of species that will share our space, if we provide room for them. Even in cities, there are many rare and declining species, from monarch butterflies to chimney swifts that will benefit from patches of wild. Supporting privately protected areas and conservation efforts by groups like NCC is also a major help.

(Dan Kraus is Senior Conservation Biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada)

Categories: GeneralOp/Ed

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