Montreal demonstrates tangible action in building CitiesWithNature

On the occasion of International Day for Biodiversity on 22 May, Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montreal and ICLEI Global Ambassador for Local Biodiversity, penned a compelling letter, calling on mayors and leaders of local and subnational governments from around the world to jointly take urgent action to halt and reverse the trends of biodiversity loss. She points out that the COVID-19 pandemic provides a sobering opportunity to reflect on our relationship with nature.

In the letter, Mayor Plante also draws attention to the unique opportunity to act in the coming year, firstly in developing COVID response plans, and secondly as the local and subnational government constituency prepares for the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). It is at COP 15 where the Parties will adopt the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), and it is critical that local and subnational governments are positioned as central to its implementation.

Local and subnational governments around the world are making ambitious commitments to conserve, restore, and live in harmony with nature in the coming decade. As a proud pioneer of the CitiesWithNature partnership initiative, Montreal is among over 150 front running cities and regions who are raising their ambition in support of the Post-2020 GBF. However, these ambitious commitments need to be met with the same level of action when it comes to implementation. Furthermore, this action needs to be captured as collective contributions to achieving the global biodiversity agenda.

On the occasion of World Environment Day, Montreal leads by example once again and demonstrates how their biodiversity actions are linked to the action targets in the CBD’s Zero Draft of the Post-2020 GBF.

“By planning our cities with nature – through nature-based solutions, green infrastructure and green open spaces – we can dramatically improve the quality of life for all. We need to halt and reverse the trends of biodiversity loss and take the path of Living in Harmony with Nature. On this World Environment Day, I call upon cities all over the world to become CitiesWithNature and to share their good practices, as Montreal is doing, to create a dynamic community of practice! Let’s take strong action to create vibrant cities and ensure a healthy planet, where people and biodiversity can thrive.”

~ Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montreal and ICLEI Global Ambassador for Local Biodiversity

The six good practice sheets below, compiled by Montreal, each present a key initiative of interest for the protection of biodiversity that is being implemented by the city, provide advice to facilitate the replication of the initiatives in other cities, and indicate which of the Post-2020 global biodiversity targets the initiative contributes to achieving. The sheets are a source of inspiration that showcase local and subnational leadership in the global biodiversity arena.

The launch of this initiative by Montreal, with support from the ICLEI Cities Biodiversity Center, the CitiesWithNature partnership initiative, and the Secretariat to the CBD, is timely. It stands as a further demonstration of the critical role of local and subnational governments in the CBD, and offers a blueprint for other cities and regions to demonstrate how they are achieving their biodiversity commitments. No action is too small. Instead, collective local action is our best chance at achieving global impact. Montreal is calling on other cities to join the journey to create vibrant cities, where people and biodiversity can thrive. Mayor Plante and the City of Montreal encourage other cities to develop similar resources that demonstrate their commitments in action, as well as the linkages between their local initiatives and global biodiversity targets.

As momentum builds towards COP 15, we need to think globally, and act locally! Global biodiversity targets need to be translated to the urban context to ensure that urban dwellers can enjoy the benefits of nature in their lives. Turning commitments into concrete action is critical now, more than ever before. Montreal’s initiative is an invitation to join a community of practice of local and subnational governments who stand ready to implement the Post-2020 GBF.

You can access the good practice sheets below:

Sheet 1: Ecosystem Management

The Ecosystems Management Program in Montreal’s major parks, preserves an essential balance between the protection of environmental integrity and general public access to sites, so that citizens can continue to enjoy the physical and psychological health benefits of nature. Inventories of the flora and fauna are maintained in order to paint a portrait of the major parks’ ecosystems. Through data collection and database management, the City monitors changes within habitats in order to intervene appropriately. When planning the development of a recreational space, such as a trail, the ecosystems portrait allows informed decision-making. Various management actions are carried out in response to the inventories, such as the removal of invasive alien plants and the subsequent planting of native vegetation.

Sheet 2: Conservation of Wildlife Trees

The holes, decomposing wood, and bare branches of Montreal’s trees, both dead and alive, serve as roosts and shelters, as well as feeding and reproduction sites, for a wide range of biodiversity. Woodpeckers, owls and other birds of prey are wildlife trees’ main occupants, but squirrels, raccoons and voles are also found there. In its nature parks, the City preserves wildlife trees and keeps parts of their main branches safely in place. This ensures that the trees can provide this supporting service for wildlife for 20-30 years before decomposing and returning to the earth. The City aims to densify the number of wildlife trees per hectare to support nesting birds and vary the species, sizes, diameters and stages of decay of these trees to promote biodiversity.

Sheet 3: Coexisting with Coyotes

Coyotes are very discreet and seek to avoid human confrontation. However, the expansion of coyote territory has resulted in an increased presence of the native species in North American urban areas. In 2017, coyotes were observed in Montreal’s neighbourhoods, causing some concern among residents. To ensure that humans live in harmony with nature in Montreal, a joint action committee was quickly established and a coyote management plan was created. Based on best practices and leading-edge scientific knowledge, its goal is to promote safe coexistence with the coyote. Communication is central to the plan, as well as scientific data collection to better understand the coyote’s behaviours and movements.

Sheet 4: Environmental Action Days

The City of Montreal hosts environmental action days in their major parks. These days are designed to engage citizens through concrete action and collective effort. Citizens who take part in these days have an opportunity to contribute directly to the protection of ecosystems in their major parks, while acquiring new knowledge. Mentored by City of Montreal experts, the participants – volunteers of all ages – contribute to picking up garbage left behind, controlling invasive plant species and planting native vegetation, based on the day’s objective.

Sheet 5: Renewed and Improved Wildlife Observatories

Montreal has been redeveloping wildlife observatories in its nature parks in the past few years. Promoting collaboration among experts to design facilities that embody principles of sustainable design and construction, while respecting wildlife and environmental imperatives, these facilities allow citizens to observe the surrounding wildlife without disturbing it, thanks to a wall equipped with viewing slots arranged at varying heights to accommodate visitors of all ages and physical conditions. The redevelopment of these observatories also provides opportunities to plant native vegetation and improve the biodiversity of the surrounding area.

Sheet 6: Wildlife Passages in the Urban Environment

Montreal has created a wildlife passage under a Boulevard that is currently being extended through a green corridor to restore habitat quality and enhance connectivity. The Boulevard has, over the past few years been under construction and now runs through a portion of the city’s eastern green belt. This corridor houses significant natural environments including a wooded border and wetlands. The wildlife passage is a 26-metre-long, culvert-type, two-level wildlife passage that was created under the boulevard as part of the construction process. A raised walkway allows species the choice of staying out of the water. Furthermore, approximately 600 native shrubs have been planted to block the incursion of reeds and enhance the area’s biodiversity. Through infrared camera technologies, Montreal has demonstrated the use of the culvert and its surrounding vegetation by a range of species, including the long-tailed weasel and the eastern milk snake.