In 1994, the Great Lakes Wetlands Conservation Action Plan (GLWCAP) brought together various government and non-government partners in an effort to conserve and rehabilitate remaining wetlands. The Action Plan complemented the goals and objectives of the Federal Wetlands Policy (1991) and the Ontario Wetlands Policy Statement (1992).

It did not represent a new program with designated resources; rather it called for a new way of doing business (through coordination, partnerships and networking) and aggressive pursuit of wetland conservation opportunities through existing programs. It was an umbrella for reporting on collective wetlands conservation activities throughout the Canadian side of the Great Lakes Basin.

GLWCAP’s strategies and associated milestones are implemented by a team of representatives from Environment Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural ResourcesConservation OntarioDucks Unlimited CanadaOntario Nature,  and The Nature Conservancy of Canada. Other major partners include the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, and the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund.

The first plan of action (1994 – 2001) was produced under the umbrella of the 25-year Strategic Plan for Wetlands of the Great Lakes Basin. Launched in 1993, the Strategic Plan involves several public and private agencies working together with individual citizens and landowners. The long-term goal of the plan is to protect the area and function of 30,000 hectares of existing wetlands in the Great Lakes Basin by the year 2020.

In July 1994, the federal and provincial environment ministers signed the Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem (COA), a six-year agreement that set specific targets and time frames for restoring, protecting and sustaining the basin’s ecosystems. GLWCAP was a key delivery mechanism for COA’s goal of rehabilitating and protecting 6,000 hectares of wetland habitat by the year 2001. This target was surpassed, with over 5,000 hectares of wetland receiving protection and more than 12,000 hectares being rehabilitated.

The second Action Plan, launched in 2002, was also highly successful. In addition to the protection of several thousand hectares of wetlands in the Great Lakes Basin, accomplishments of the second Action Plan included the production of wetland publications, displays and facilitation of workshops, wetland restoration training, and the completion of a spatially explicit, seamless binational summary of coastal wetland distribution in the Great Lakes basin.

The third Action Plan was launched in 2005. It outlined a new series of milestones under the same broad conservation strategies developed in earlier Action Plans. Milestones focused on important issues such as wetland health status and trends monitoring, the functions and ecological goods and services of all wetlands, biodiversity and species at risk. Progress under each milestone was evaluated in 2010 and is reported on in the GLWCAP Highlights Report 2005-2010. A complete set of highlights reports, documenting progress made by partners since 1994, is available on the Publications page.

Stewardship will continue to be a focus of the plan into Phase Four, but not the only one. A ‘big picture’ approach to wetland conservation has been evolving and will continue to do so. As scientific knowledge about wetlands and watersheds advances, the focus on hydrological connectivity becomes even more important. Connectivity will help to ensure that important wetland functions are maintained, protecting our freshwater resources. In phase four, climate change will be an important consideration in all work of the GLWCAP partners. The next phase will continue the long tradition of the successful coordinated delivery of wetland conservation efforts in the Great Lakes Basin.