Another recent announcement committed federal money to buying at least 200,000 hectares of private land and fresh water in southern Canada, where experts agree nature and wildlife face the greatest pressures.
But even with that financial commitment and a promise to reach the 2020 goal, CPAWS maintains the 17 per cent target is still "woefully below what results of most scientific studies show are necessary to meet widespread conservation goals, such as maintaining viable populations of native species."
"There needs to be a much greater recognition of the magnitude of the problem. The evidence is showing we really need to think on a much bigger scale and make sure we are focused on protecting and restoring enough space for nature to thrive," Woodley said.
"We know what's needed. We really just have to scale up those initiatives and that requires finances, political will and leadership."
There's an urgent need to act now, the group said, because since 1970, half of all monitored species in Canada have declined. Of those, half declined on average by more than 80 per cent.
The advocacy group maintains bolstering protected areas will benefit nature and improve air quality, soil quality, pollination and seed dispersal, continued access to food and medicines, protection against extreme weather (coral reefs and mangrove swamps protect against cyclones and tsunamis) and help with general health and well-being.
"As species decline, the capacity for ecosystems to provide clean air, water, food, climate stabilization and other essential services declines as well. It is in all our best interests, and in the best interests of future generations, for Canada to take swift action," CPAWS said in its report.
Beyond protecting wildlife, the group said further investment in land protection also would help with Canada's fight against the other pressing environmental 'emergency' — climate change. CPAWS said more "natural solutions" to climate change should be championed by government.
The report said Canada has the potential to be a "conservation superpower" through more aggressive measures because Canada already is the custodian of 20 per cent of the Earth's wild forests, 24 per cent of its wetlands and almost one third of its land-stored carbon.
In 2015, the forestry sector was an important "carbon sink," pulling some 34 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions out of the air, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Canada already has identified increased investment in the forestry sector as an important driver of emissions reductions and a key part of the country's plan to reach its Paris climate accord target. Under that agreement, Canada committed to lowering emissions by some 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.
Story re-posted from CBC. Written by John Paul Tasker