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Land and Resources, Environmental Issues

Canadian environment, Urban growth, acid rain, environmental impact assessment, global competition

The Canadian environment is being altered by many human activities. The growth of industries and urban areas has caused air quality to decline, raising concerns among many people about the effects of fossil fuel use, acid rain, and global warming. Urban growth has reduced agricultural lands and has become a major issue near large urban centers, especially in the Windsor-Montreal corridor of Ontario and Quebec and in the Fraser River valley adjoining Vancouver. Waste management in urban areas is also a growing environmental problem, and many communities are having problems siting waste facilities and reducing the volume of waste generated.

Outside cities, agriculture, forestry, fishery, hydroelectric development, and mining have increasingly met with controversy over their effects on environmental quality and loss of wilderness areas. In agriculture, global competition has intensified, leading to lower prices for many agricultural products. Farmers have tried to stay competitive by adopting practices, such as the use of chemical fertilizers, that degrade the natural resource base. In other resource industries, notably forestry and fishing, concern has been expressed that historical and current rates of extraction threaten the viability of the resources. Thus government resource management policies are under more scrutiny than ever before.

Since the 1970s the federal and provincial governments have required an environmental impact assessment for new projects, such as mines, pulp and paper mills, and irrigation projects. At first these reviews were not very demanding and were not universally applied, but they became more stringent over time. Finally, in January 1995, federal law made such reviews universal. This legislation mandates that all projects on federal land, using federal funds, or run by federal agencies must be reviewed to determine their impact on the environment. Most provinces now have legislation requiring environmental assessments of projects within their jurisdiction.

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