Meet our VP of conservation policy

Lisa McLaughlin (Photo by Mike Ford)

Lisa McLaughlin (Photo by Mike Ford)

Lisa McLaughlin, the Nature Conservancy of Canada's (NCC's) vice-president of conservation policy, was recently presented with the 2021 Leadership in Conservation Award by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). NCC and an SFI-certified company West Fraser are collaborating to ensure that conservation outcomes in Canada’s sustainably managed forests are fully recognized and contribute toward Canada’s goals for conservation protection (25 per cent of its land and 25 per cent of its oceans by 2025 and 30 per cent for each by 2030).

McLaughlin and West Fraser were recognized for innovative leadership in connecting sustainable forest management with Canada’s commitment to protected and conserved areas. Specifically, she designed an approach and tool to aid in identifying Other Effective Conservation Measures. This tool advances the understanding and recognition of conservation effective measures beyond traditional protected areas. By championing this tool, McLaughlin is helping to encourage innovative conservation partnerships and helping Canada achieve its ambitious conservation targets.

This following story first appeared in the spring 2019 issue of the Nature Conservancy of Canada Magazine. Donors who contribute at least $25 or more per year will receive four issues of the magazine. Click here to donate today and start receiving the magazine.

Recently named president of the Canadian Committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, NCC’s Lisa McLaughlin is leading the way for conservation in Canada.

There’s a quiet spot tucked off the road of an NCC property on the Niagara Escarpment, where the mixed hardwood forest stands tall, enveloping the area. You can sometimes find Lisa McLaughlin here. When she’s not working at the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), or serving as the newly appointed president of the Canadian Committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (CCIUCN), she finds solace in the natural areas she is working hard to protect.

“I love how the trees here change with every season. In springtime, the new leaves have this wonderful lime-green colour, which changes to a deeper green over the course of the summer. It’s cool and shady,” she reflects. “In the fall, the forest is a brilliant array of colours — reds and golds. And in the winter, there’s the haunting beauty. Every season is a new experience.”

McLaughlin joined NCC in 1999 as a stewardship assistant. After cutting her teeth out in the field and working in several different roles, she is now vice-president of conservation policy and planning for the organization. She is responsible for ensuring that NCC’s land acquisition and management activities are guided by NCC’s priorities and the best available science, and that precious habitat and natural areas are conserved for the future.

“I’ve always been connected to nature, but as I got older and learned about biology and ecology, I began to appreciate nature at a different level,” she says. “Now that I have kids, it’s important to me that they also learn to love it and see the value in protecting it. Nature provides an unmatched classroom. Having places protected that we can use to learn from as well as continue to provide ecological services — like clean water, fresh air — and a place for species to make their homes, means you have the confidence that these places will last for the long term.”

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A biologist and rural planner by training, McLaughlin has more than 20 years of experience in the management of conservation lands and the governance of private land conservation organizations. She brings this experience and passion to her work at NCC, while also helping other organizations do their part to help protect landscapes. Recently, she was named president of the Canadian Committee of the IUCN. This national committee is made up of government agencies, individuals and organizations with the common goal of protecting biodiversity in Canada.

“Every IUCN member country has a national committee. In Canada, the national committee serves as a vehicle to consult with governments and civil society on conservation policies that will help Canada achieve its conservation goals and the goals of the IUCN. We also assist with IUCN global activities, including delivering programs like #NatureforAll,” says McLaughlin. #NatureForAll is a global movement to build support and action for nature conservation among people from all walks of life. It aims to raise awareness and encourage people to experience and connect with the natural world. “I’m super excited to be in this new role, and honoured to be working with a group of people who have dedicated themselves to helping Canada fulfill the goals of the IUCN.”

As CCIUCN president, McLaughlin is helping Canada achieve its Target 1 commitment. Target 1 is Canada’s commitment to helping conserve at least 17 per cent of the country’s lands and 10 per cent of its inland waters by 2020.

“I’m very energized by Canada’s commitment to Target 1. For the first time in Canadian history, we’re seeing a focus on the need to recognize and establish Indigenous Protected Areas, privately protected areas and new government protected areas,” she says. “It’s going to take a lot of work. We are going to have to continue to work hard and do our best to reach that goal.”

“I’m so proud to work for an organization like NCC and at the same time be able to contribute to the CCIUCN. Nature is for everyone. We all need nature, and everyone has a role to help protect it,” says McLaughlin. “I know that by engaging Canadians, working together with governments, corporations and NGOs and accepting nothing but success, we can achieve the goals we’ve set. I know this because I see it happening every day.”

McLaughlin is breaking through the canopy to inspire women to become leaders in land conservation. In addition to working at NCC and with the CCIUCN, she has been a board member of the Ontario Land Trust Alliance, vice-chair of the Canadian Land Trust Alliance and is currently a steering committee member of the International Land Conservation Network.

Despite all this, she is never too busy to get out and find solace in nature.

“I’ve always been amazed by nature’s diversity and interconnectedness: the insects that pollinate plants, prey and predator relationships,” she shares. “Nature has always been like a friend to me. A place to go; a refuge that provides comfort.”

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