LETTERS: A case for protecting and preserving our land

Dear Editor:

Carol Hughes, our MP, highlighted the need to protect land for wildlife in her article, “Our wild spaces require strong protection,” (August 17). As she explained, Canada’s wildlife reserves only amount to about 10 percent of our land mass. The federal goal of reserving 17 percent of land as natural habitat by 2020 is actually a modest goal, but without strong action it will not be met.

On Manitoulin Island, protected land is much less than 10 percent. I have calculated that it is a tiny four percent, just 98 square kilometers of our total land mass of 2,480 square kilometers, not including lakes. This is extremely low, especially considering that the alvar habitat here is globally rare and Manitoulin is home to species at risk that depend on alvar.

Protected land here is as follows: Queen Mum Reserve 65 (kilometers), Misery Bay 8.6, Mac’s Bay 6, Strawberry Island 11, McLean’s Park 1 and Escarpment Biosphere Conservation 9.

If anyone knows of other significant parcels of protected land to add to this list, I would love to  know.

Manitoulin should preserve land not just for the integrity of our wildlife but also to promote our tourism industry. The EBC land includes part of Cup and Saucer Mountain, a popular tourist attraction despite the large gravel quarries at its foot. Misery Bay Provincial Park, the only provincial park on the Island, is an important draw to the West End. In addition to many trails, it has excellent exhibits created by Science North that explain about our very special alvar habitat.

Other pockets of parkland are scattered around the municipalities, but they are always in jeopardy, as it seems municipalities can sell the land at any time. The Municipality of Central Manitoulin showed that a couple of years ago when they sold part of Wagg’s Park.

Contrast our lack of protection for nature to Costa Rica, perhaps the world leader in conservation. There 25 percent of the land is reserved for nature, and the tourism industry benefits greatly. Far from complaining about parks and nature reserves and lost tax revenue, the Costa Ricans take pride in their record of protection of nature. Many visitors also come to Manitoulin to experience nature. We need to recognize that and protect it better.

Jan McQuay