Canadian Nature Survey

Image of the cover of the 2012 Canadian NatureSurvey report.

More than two-thirds of Canadian adults choose to spend time outdoors in order to experience nature. This and other fascinating facts can be found in the report on results from the 2012 Canadian Nature Survey, the first national survey of its kind in Canada in over 15 years and the first ever to include information about all 13 provinces and territories. The results of the survey clearly demonstrate the importance Canadians place on spending time in nature and the significant contribution that nature-related activities make to the national economy. For example, 89% of Canadian adults participated in nature-based activities and, overall, Canadian adults made an estimated $41.3 billion (Cdn) in expenditures for these activities during the 12 months prior to completing the survey.

2012 Canadian Nature Survey available in format:

Erratum: A typographical error appeared in the original electronic and printed versions of the 2012 Canadian Nature Survey report on page 37, in Table 8: Expenditures by Expenditure Type and Activity Type (million$). In the Total expenditures column for Transportation, the cost associated with Hunting Large Game was incorrectly listed as $3548. Instead it should have read $348. The Totals column on the right side and the grand total for the table are correct. The error does not affect the representation of expenditures elsewhere in the report. The error has been corrected in the electronic versions of the report that are available here.

The survey results improve our understanding of the importance of nature and biodiversity to Canadians by measuring their awareness of nature-related concepts and their participation and investments in a wide range of nature-based activities. 

Here are just a few highlights from the report:

  • More than two-thirds of Canadian adults (70%) chose to spend time outdoors in the last year in order to experience nature, and almost half of Canadian adults travelled to experience more nature (47%).
  • Awareness of the terms "species at risk", "biodiversity", and "ecosystem services" was consistently high in every province and territory.
  • 89% of Canadian adults participated in at least one of over 30 different nature-based activities, with the most popular being picnicking or relaxing in nature (71% nationally), followed by reading or viewing nature media (66%); hiking, climbing, horseback riding (64%); and gardening or landscaping with plants (51%).
  • 13% of Canadian adults volunteered in nature conservation away from their homes during an average of 31 days per year. 
  • 4.6 million Canadians (almost 19% of all adults) gave money for donations or membership dues to nature or conservation organizations.
  • Over all, Canadian adults made an estimated $41.3 billion (Cdn) in expenditures for nature-based activities in the 12 months prior to completing the survey, with the greatest amount dedicated to non-motorized, non-consumptive activities.

Data was collected between Fall 2012 and Spring 2013. Participation in the survey was limited to Canadian adults age 18 and over. Over 24,000 responses were received. 

The 2012 Canadian Nature Survey was developed through active collaboration between the federal government and all 13 provincial and territorial governments, with the involvement of officials from departments including those responsible for managing natural resources, wildlife, land use, nature and biodiversity conservation.

The 2012 Canadian Nature Survey updates and expands on information provided by Canadians in the 1996 Survey on the Importance of Nature to Canadians, and the 1981, 1987, and 1991 surveys on the Importance of Wildlife to Canadians. The 2012 Canadian Nature Survey is part of the Value of Nature to Canadians Study, launched in 2009.