KEY FINDING 9. Stewardship activity in Canada is increasing, both in number and types of initiatives and in participation rates. The overall effectiveness of these activities in conserving and improving biodiversity and ecosystem health has not been fully assessed.
Stewardship is the responsible management of land and water to ensure its values and services are maintained for future generations. Strong stewardship initiatives are based on ecological principles and involve long-term commitments. They build on a strong connection between people and their natural heritage and encompass a broad suite of strategies. Stewardship is important because, while protected areas are the most visible form of ecosystem conservation, they conserve only a small fraction of the land and seascape. With continued pressure on the land and oceans, effective conservation tools that encourage good stewardship are crucial to ensure long-term ecosystem viability and sustainability. Stewardship also contributes to the economy by creating jobs and sustainable businesses.
Although stewardship is not new, it has increased greatly since the 1980s.1 There are now over a thousand stewardship groups and over one million people in Canada2 participating in thousands of initiatives on private and public lands. These vary from small grassroots community projects to programs operated by corporations, environmental non-government organizations, and all levels of government. In the last ten years, the importance of stewardship to long-term sustainability has been increasingly recognized and is being translated into policy and practice.1, 2 A good example is Canada’s Stewardship Agenda,3 endorsed in 2002 by Canada’s resource ministers.
There are no comprehensive national data on stewardship activities in Canada, nor are there comprehensive analyses of trends in its overall success in conserving biodiversity. This key finding uses examples from across the wide spectrum of stewardship initiatives to provide evidence of its growth. Improved monitoring of stewardship activities is required to determine its success.