Canada creates new priority place for protecting species at risk


A stopover location for many migratory birds at risk, the priority place in the Great Northern Peninsula plays a crucial role for many species

Newfoundland, Canada. (Photo: Bennekom/Adobe Stock)

Newfoundland, Canada. (Photo: Bennekom/Adobe Stock)

Canada is inhabited by approximately 80,000 species ranging from mammals, birds, and fish, to amphibians, reptiles, insects, and plants.1 However, with thousands of species in Canada facing the risk of extinction, its biodiversity is at risk.1 In a step towards addressing the biodiversity loss crisis, Steven Guilbeault, PC MP, minister of Environment and Climate Change of Canada, and Elvis Loveless, Canadian minister of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture, announced the creation of a new priority place for endangered species in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.2

Priority places are regions characterized by rich biodiversity and recognized as distinct areas with a shared ecological focus. As areas that harbor notable concentrations of species at risk, these places present opportunities for advancing conservation initiatives.2

The newly established priority place—the Limestone Landscapes of the Great Northern Peninsula Priority Place–includes ecosystems found on the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland. These include limestone barrens and outcrops, limestone coasts and islands; and limestone highlands, forests, and wetlands. These landscapes are home to around 40 federally and provincially listed species at risk. The area also plays a crucial role as a stopover location for many migratory birds facing conservation challenges.2

"The Limestone Barrens are a unique habitat that support many highly specialized and rare plant species that live nowhere else in the world. The Limestone Landscapes of the Great Northern Peninsula Priority Place will build on the important work set out in the provincial Limestone Barrens Species at Risk Recovery Plan, which maps the road to recovery for several at-risk species and the conservation of many more rare species," explained Loveless in a news release.2

The Limestone Barrens is the 12th priority place established in Canada, and the first location in the Newfoundland and Labrador province. Moreover, the new priority place in this province will help advance goals and strategies set forth in the Limestone Barrens Species at Risk Recovery Plan, which was unveiled in July 2022.2

To provide support and funding for on-the-ground recovery actions, capacity building, and adaptive management in the Limestone Landscapes of the Great Northern Peninsula Priority Place, the Canadian government is collaborating with various partners, including the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, local First Nations, and environmental organizations. Additionally, the Government of Canada has allocated $2,294,978 over 3 fiscal years to support partners of the Limestone Landscapes of the Great Northern Peninsula Priority Place. The government of Newfoundland and Labrador has also committed $1,256,550 to the initiative.2

"Collaboration is key to protecting biodiversity and species at risk. Priority places for species at risk allow us to work with provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous peoples, and other Canadians to protect important habitats and unique ecosystems, such as the Limestone Barrens found on the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland and Labrador. said Guilbeault in the release.2 “Together, we can implement effective conservation projects that help halt and reverse biodiversity loss."

Biodiversity loss in Canada

In its 2021 Making Peace with Nature report, the United Nations (UN) Environment Programme highlighted biodiversity loss among the most urgent global emergencies. “Species are currently going extinct tens to hundreds of times faster than the natural background rate. One million of the world’s estimated 8 million species of plants and animals are threatened with extinction. The population sizes of wild vertebrates have dropped by an average of 68 per cent in the last 50 years, and the abundance of many wild insect species has fallen by more than half,” wrote the UN in the report.1

More than 300 species are endemic to Canada. Population decline among Canadian species like bison, Atlantic cod, and the monarch butterfly have put these species at risk. Moreover, the passenger pigeon, previously North America's most prevalent bird, is now extinct.1

According to the Making Peace with Nature report, the decline in biodiversity is projected to accelerate in the upcoming decades unless steps to stop and reverse human activities that transform and degrade ecosystems and to mitigate climate change are taken.1


  1. Biodiversity in Canada: Commitments and trends. Office of the Auditor General of Canada. October 2022. Accessed July 8, 2024.
  2. Governments of Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador announce new priority place to conserve species at risk. News release. Environment and Climate Change Canada. July 8, 2024. Accessed July 8, 2024.
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