Survey on the Importance of Nature to Canadians


Nearly 20 million people, or about 85% of the population aged 15 and over, participated in one or more nature-related activities in 1996. These ranged from a simple picnic at the beach to camping, canoeing, sightseeing, fishing or hunting. About one-third of these individuals (6.7 million) visited a provincial or national park or other protected area.

The economic benefit of nature-related activities was immense. People spent an estimated $11 billion on nature-related activities, an average of $550 per participant. These expenses, which represented about 2% of total household spending in 1996, included campground fees, outdoor clothing, binoculars for birdwatching, transportation and hotels.

About 44% of the population aged 15 and over, or just over 10 million people, took part in one or more of the 17 activities included in the survey during trips to natural areas such as forests, water bodies, wetlands and open fields. Most people participated in a mix of activities. For example, about one-third of the population reported visiting these areas for sightseeing. In addition, almost 20% reported that they went camping and 20% reported that they used the natural areas for hiking and backpacking. Other activities included power boating (9%), canoeing, kayaking or sailing (10%), downhill skiing (5%), off-road vehicle use (3%), and snowmobiling (3%).

Canadians devoted substantial amounts of their leisure time to nature in 1996. On average, each individual aged 15 and over participated in some form of nature-related activity on just over 100 days during the year, even if the majority of time was spent simply observing and feeding wildlife around the home. During the year, individuals took 191.0 million trips to participate in nature-related activities. About one-quarter of these trips involved overnight stays.

About 5% of the population aged 15 and over reported that they had hunted wildlife in 1996, down from 7% in 1991. About 18% reported that they had fished for recreational purposes in 1996, also down from 26% five years earlier.

Some Canadians also participated actively in maintaining Canada's natural areas and wildlife. A core group of 1.3 million, or just over 5% of the population aged 15 and over, joined or contributed to nature-related organizations, such as naturalist, conservation or sportsmen's clubs. An additional 19% indicated interest in joining or contributing to these clubs in the future.

Another core group of about 760,000, or about 3% of the population, maintained, restored or purchased land for conservation. These individuals provided food or shelter for fish and wildlife in areas such as woodlots, hedges, marshes, ponds and open fields, or they took steps to conserve or restore a natural setting.

Note: The survey, which sampled 87,000 Canadians aged 15 and over, was conducted between February and June 1997 by Statistics Canada on behalf of Environment Canada and a partnership of 14 federal, provincial and territorial agencies. The information will contribute to the management of Canada's wildlife, water resources, forests and protected areas. The Survey on the Importance of Wildlife to Canadians is an update and expansion of a survey co-sponsored by a similar partnership every five years since 1981.

Custom tables produced from the survey's master micro-data file are now available. A series of reports produced from survey results are expected to be available from Environment Canada before the end of 1998. The screened public micro-data file will be available from Statistics Canada early in 1999.

For further information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods and data quality of this release, contact Marc Hamel (613-951-2495;, Special Surveys Division, Statistics Canada; or Chantal Hunter (819-994-2177;, Environment Canada.

Table: Nature-related activities in Canada
                            Participants     Participants     Same-day and    
                                              (population        overnight    
                                               aged 15 or            trips    

                                    '000                %             '000    
Canada                            19,911               85          191,100    
Newfoundland                         374               83            6,200    
Prince Edward Island                  91               85              868    
Nova Scotia                          630               85            7,400    
New Brunswick                        502               83            5,700    
Quebec                             4,900               84           42,000    
Ontario                            7,600               85           66,300    
Manitoba                             751               87            6,300    
Saskatchewan                         648               86            6,100    
Alberta                            1,900               89           16,400    
British Columbia                   2,500               82           33,600    
Yukon                                 15               77              232    


                                    Days     Expenditures    
                                                in Canada    

                                millions       $ millions    
Canada                             1,493           11,004    
Newfoundland                        31.7              194    
Prince Edward Island                11.2               25    
Nova Scotia                         65.8              245    
New Brunswick                       50.0              208    
Quebec                             262.1            2,100    
Ontario                            634.4            4,300    
Manitoba                            48.8              428    
Saskatchewan                        41.0              388    
Alberta                            124.6            1,200    
British Columbia                   221.6            1,900    
Yukon                                1.6               16