Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a National Conservation Plan in New Maryland, N.B., on Thursday that commits $252 million over the next five years for a series of conservation initiatives.

Harper said the plan, which was a commitment in the 2013 throne speech, will allow for a more co-ordinated approach to conservation projects. He said the plan complements biodiversity goals for 2020.

"These actions will involve significant steps towards achieving our biodiversity targets, that is, protecting 17 per cent of our land and inland waters, and 10 per cent of our marine and coastal areas," he said.

National Conservation Plan

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced the National Conservation Plan, which commits $252 million to conservation initiatives over the next five years. (CBC)

The prime minister said the plan has three main priorities: conserving Canada’s lands and waters, restoring Canada’s ecosystems and connecting Canadians to nature. 

In particular, Harper told the news conference the goal of the plan is to foster an appreciation of nature in all Canadians.

“An ethic of true stewardship cannot be imposed by regulation, it is of the heart,” Harper said.

“If the central vision for Canada’s National Conservation Plan is to be achieved it will require nothing less than this, and this is our goal, Canadians should become willingly and eagerly a community of stewards.”

The conservation plan will see the federal government work with environmental groups, hunters and anglers, landowners and community groups to “safeguard the land and water around them.”

The federal government said the funding will be spent in the following areas:

  • $100 million for the Nature Conservancy of Canada to protect sensitive lands over five years.
  • $37 million for marine and coastal conservation over five years.
  • $3.2 million to assist a national inventory of conserved areas in Canada over five years.
  • $50 million to restore wetlands over five years.
  • $50 million to help voluntary actions to restore and conserve species and their habitats over five years.
  • $9.2 million to connect urban Canadians to nature over five years.
  • $3 million for an Earth Rangers program to expand family-oriented conservation programming over three years.

NCC president John Lounds said he is pleased to see the Conservative government fulfill a 2011 election promise.

He said the plan engages with conservation organizations to "work with communities, work with industry, work with corporations and individuals to raise matching money to do projects that are important in communities right across the country."

Lois Corbett, the head of New Brunswick's leading environmental group, said the plan also commits Canada to do a lot more to protect biodiversity.

"I can tell you it was good to hear the Prime Minister of the country to commit to a 10 per cent oceans protection plan by 2020. But I want you to understand that means we have a long way to go."