The Canadian Council on Ecological Areas /Conseil Canadien Des Aires Écologiques (CCEA/CCAE) is a national conservation organization incorporated in 1982 (received registered charitable status in 1985) to help Canadians establish and manage a comprehensive viable network of  protected and conserved ecological areas representative of Canada’s terrestrial, freshwater and marine biodiversity. The scientific approach and collaborative spirit driving this effort stems from CCEA’s origins dating back to the 1970s.

CCEA Beginnings

At the close of the International Biological Programme (IBP) in 1975 the Canadian IBP/CT Panels  comprised of  research scientists and agency personnel who were involved in helping to survey and document more than 1700 ecological areas across Canada felt a compelling need to continue collaborative efforts on identifying, protecting and managing significant ecological areas. To help with furthering this collaboration, Environment Canada established the Associate Committee on Ecological Reserves (ACER) to continue dialogue and initiatives to advance  IBP’s aims.

While a central focus of ACER’s work was to champion the creation of ‘Ecological Reserves’ specifically dedicated for  biological conservation, research and environmental monitoring, it was recognized that a wide array of protected and conserved areas was needed to provide a comprehensive network of these areas to serve these and other objectives. The efforts of IBP and ACER spawned the idea of a permanent forum to carry out this important work. Consultations and meetings led  by Environment Canada involving  other key federal agencies, all provinces and territories, Indigenous interests, non-governmental organizations, the research community and others gave rise to the creation of CCEA in 1982.

Start up secretariat, operational and project  support provided to CCEA by Environment Canada was supplemented with financial and in-kind support contributed by the provinces and territories. Of particular note has been the continuous involvement of the federal government and all provinces and territories through their  participation  in CCEA  since 1982. Over the years, this core involvement and  support has been supplemented by contributions from various other contributors and sponsors, research grants, private donations and other sources. This formula of pooled resourcing from partners and other sponsors has sustained CCEA’s work over the past 40 years yielding dividends to the full complement of agencies, organizations and practitioners involved in identifying, protecting and managing ecological areas.

CCEA Perspectives

The spirited broad-based collaboration and comprehensive  view that spawned CCEA has remained at the core of CCEA’s work which embraces a wide perspective on protected and conserved areas. The generic term, ‘Ecological Areas’, was carefully chosen recognizing that a wide range of protective designations coupled with surrounding sympathetic land and water stewardship and  sustainable resource management that are required to support  viable  regional networks of protected and conserved areas.

In addition to setting CCEA’s panoramic view, the strong scientific  and  research orientation cast by IBP and ACER also shaped CCEA’s evidence-based orientation centred on providing technical guidance rooted in conservation science. CCEA’s fabric was reinforced further by its early strong  ties to IUCN through CCEA’s first Chair, Dr David Munro, who served as Director General of IUCN (1977-1980) after closing out a distinguished career in the federal government  as Director General of the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Together the foregoing  underpinnings shaped CCEA’s view on protected and conserved areas as being discreet but complementary segments of the wider biodiversity conservation and environmental sustainability spectrum. In this respect, CCEA was a frontrunner  in helping to champion IUCN’s global leadership on protected and conserved areas as central hub in advancing  efforts on biodiversity conservation and environmental sustainability in the 1990s, which have now assumed mainstream prominence over time.

CCEA Achievements

Since its inception, CCEA has concentrated its efforts on setting standards and providing guidance on establishing, managing and protecting ecological areas making noteworthy contributions in many areas, notably:

  • recognizing and involving from the outset the full breadth of the community of practice engaged in protected and conserved areas;
  • developing and utilizing schemes for documenting, tracking and reporting protected and conserved areas for Canadian and global accounting and reporting;
  • establishing a national framework for representing Canada’s terrestrial ecological diversity based on the ecozones/ecoregions of Canada;
  • championing Marine Conservation Areas, notably convening a task team of international experts to advise on the development of MPAs;
  • exploring specific needs for protected and conserved areas in fragmented, southern settled regions and northern vast landscapes;
  • assessing climate change impacts and adaptation, notably including work on ecological connectivity in network design;
  • providing guidance on achieving key Aichi biodiversity conservation targets central to protected and conserved areas;
  • staging annual meetings, workshops and conferences yielding occasional papers, other reports and publications;
  • conducting international liaison and collaboration as a member of IUCN to harmonize and share Canadian efforts with the global community;
  • working with Pathway to Canada Target 1 on setting guidelines on protected areas and Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures;
  • issuing graduate student research awards and achievement recognition awards to support training and foster excellence; and,
  • injecting key aspects of the foregoing initiatives into ongoing efforts to help Canada to meet its 2025 and 2030 commitments on protected and conserved areas;

Over time, these and other CCEA contributions have had a marked influence in helping  to shape and advance  Canadian efforts on establishing and managing a comprehensive nationwide network of protected and conserved areas.

CCEA Outlook

With Canada’s commitment to meeting the ambitious international targets set for 2025 and 2030  to establish and manage a comprehensive network of protected and conserved areas this decade could well be the most significant period for the protected areas movement in over a decade. With its many past collaborative contributions to this effort in its first 40 years, coupled with its 2020-2030 Strategic Plan, CCEA is poised to continue with providing  mainstream guidance and support in the realization of this important goal. Foremost in this endeavor is the need to establish,  protect and manage the finest representative and biodiverse ecological areas to the highest possible standards, focal points that CCEA will continue to advance in collaboration with partners and associates.

Protected and conserved areas are the nucleus of collective efforts to protect Canada’s biodiversity. Now celebrating its 40th Anniversary, CCEA’s many  contributions toward helping to guide and assist with meeting this challenge have truly been the result of collective community-based involvement and support. With this foundation in place CCEA looks forward to the continuing involvement and support of federal, provincial and territorial partners, Indigenous communities, non-governmental organizations, the research community, environmental sustainability interests and others to participate in and support this critical community-based work.

With sincere thanks and appreciation to all partners, supporters and associates for past and ongoing support, and looking forward to  achieving future collaborative success in the collective effort to identify, protect and manage a comprehensive viable network of protected and conserved areas fully representing the terrestrial, freshwater and marine biodiversity of Canada.

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