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Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits a stream with young students in New Maryland, N.B. on Thursday, May 15, 2014.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has unveiled a $252-million plan to strengthen the conservation and restoration of ecologically sensitive land and waters throughout Canada.

The National Conservation Plan, a commitment made in the 2013 Speech from the Throne, will invest money over five years to purchase land, support volunteer conservation efforts and expand the preservation of marine and coastal territory.

The cash will also underwrite new initiatives to restore wetlands "and to encourage Canadians to connect with nature close to home through protected areas and green spaces" in urban areas.

Ottawa is trying to recruit more partners in conservation and restoration such as municipalities, environmental groups, hunters and anglers, landowners and community groups. It wants the money to spur partners "to take practical actions to safeguard the land and water around them" in Canada.

Mr. Harper, speaking in Fredericton, N.B., said the government wants to work with Canadians "so that together we can provide effective stewardship of Canada's rich natural heritage for present and future generations."

The Prime Minister's Office said progress under this plan would be measured against a list of desired outcomes for land and ocean conservation, restoration of land and shorelines and how many opportunities are created for Canadian to gain easy access to natural areas.

The plan includes:

  • $100-million over five years to the Nature Conservancy of Canada to secure ecologically sensitive lands;
  • $37-million over five years to strengthen marine and coastal conservation;
  • $3.2-million over five years to support the development of a complete national inventory of conserved areas in Canada;
  • $50-million over five years to restore wetlands;
  • $50-million over five years to support voluntary actions to restore and conserve species and their habitats;
  • $9.2-million over five years to connect urban Canadians to nature;
  • $3-million over three years to Earth Rangers to expand family-oriented conservation programming.

The new program builds on past conservation efforts by Ottawa in recent years, including massively expanding Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories, secured almost 4,000 square kilometres of ecologically sensitive lands, added an area nearly twice the size of Vancouver Island to the network of federal protected areas and creating three new marine protected areas.