IUCN WCPA Chair Nik Lopoukhine honored for his commitment to Canada’s protected areas

02 February 2012 | News story

Nik Lopoukhine, Chair of IUCN WCPA, was honored with the J.B. Harkin Award yesterday for his life-long commitment to Canadian conservation. The award, named after the “Father of National Parks” J.B. Harkin, honors individuals who have made significant contributions to the conservation of Canada’s parks and wilderness.

The award presenters noted Nik’s continuous efforts in stimulating scientific discussion within Parks Canada and for promoting Canadian conservation and park values globally.

“To be numbered alongside the previous recipients of the J.B. Harkin Award, all conservation leaders, is indeed humbling. I am thrilled to have my conviction of the importance to society of parks and other forms of protection recognized by the granting of this prestigious award.", said Nik following the ceremony.

A highlight of the evening was a special presentation by members of Trans CanEAUda, a group of youth who had paddled over 7,000 km across Canada to raise awareness for watershed conservation.


Nik started his professional career with the Forest Management Institute and later moved to the Lands Directorate of Environment Canada. He took a leading role in bringing broad ecological thinking to the Government of Canada in the developing field of land mapping of ecosystems. Nik was behind the creation of ecological maps for some of Canada’s most noted parks.

In the 1980s, Nik was recruited by Parks Canada and initiated their fire management programme that ensures healthy ecosystems in the national parks. The programme had an impact not only throughout Canada but also internationally. Nik also played an important role in helping Russia develop their protected areas programme.

In 2001, Nik became the Director General of National Parks. He was responsible for monitoring the ecological integrity programme and the Species at Risk Act, and earned a reputation as a champion of conservation. He was a key supporter and mover of the idea of ecological integrity in the Parks Canada programme, of strengthening science, and coming to grips with the emerging challenge of climate change.

At the 2005 IUCN World Conservation Congress in Bangkok, Nik was elected Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA). During his time as Chair, IUCN WCPA has influenced the CBD by becoming their principal advisor on the Programme of Work on Protected Areas. Nik has promoted the importance of youth and has supported efforts to ensure that there is increased awareness and understanding of the value and role of protected areas in meeting such global challenges as combating climate change and desertification.