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Nova Scotia stalling on protecting wilderness — report

Nova Scotia is stalling on the province’s plan to create protected areas, says a new report. Four years back, it approved a plan to create more than 200 new protected areas totalling a quarter of a million hectares. About half of them remain unprotected.

Nova Scotia is stalling on the province’s plan to create protected areas, says a new report.

Four years back, it approved a plan to create more than 200 new protected areas totalling a quarter of a million hectares, according to a Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s report issued Monday.

“Good progress has been made so far, but implementation is stalling,” says the report titled From Laggard to Leader?

“Since approved in 2013, about half the sites within the Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan are still awaiting legal protection.”

About 100 sites are still waiting to be designated. The total combined area of land awaiting protection is 83,500 hectares, it says. The report names Wentworth Valley, the St. Mary’s River Conservation Lands, Mabou Highlands, Sackville River, Giants Lake, McGowan Lake, Shingle Lake and Pleasant River as spots in need of protection.

“For a long time we were making really good progress creating new protected areas and demonstrating to the rest of Canada that this was a priority for us,” Chris Miller, the society’s national conservation biologist, told Local Xpress.

“But it kind of feels like we’re just coasting now. While other provinces and territories are gearing up to meet these national protected area targets by 2020, Nova Scotia is still talking about what we did several years ago.”

The Nova Scotia plan called for 13 per cent of the province’s land mass to be protected by 2015.

According to the province, we’re currently at 12.39 per cent.

“The 13 per cent is the key deadline that’s been missed so far,” Miller said

In the last 18 months, “only a handful of sites have been protected,” he said.

It’s unclear what’s caused the slowdown, he said.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that the previous minister of natural resources (Lloyd Hines) was not a big fan of protected areas. Certainly on the forestry side of things a lot of protections that were put in place for things like controlling the amount of clearcuts and requiring green certification for harvesting on public lands — a lot of that was rolled back. So with new ministers in place now both for the Ministry of Natural Resources and also Environment, I’m hoping that a greater priority will be placed on conservation issues and that the province will follow through on the promises it’s made to create the hundred new protected areas.”

The Environment Department is primarily responsible for the creation of protected areas.

“But before they can do that, it requires sign-off by the Department of Natural Resources,” Miller said.

Environment Minister Iain Rankin denied the province is stalling on designating new protected areas.

"We're going to continue to look at those pieces of land from that plan and choose the ones that have the significance of value in terms of ecological biodiversity, species at risk — those types of core elements," Rankin said.

He pointed out that Nova Scotia has met the goal laid out in 2007 legislation of protecting 12 per cent of the province's land by 2015.

"We're focused on the ecological value of the land and not as much on the quantity of land that's protected," Rankin said.

The province is going to "move forward with some more sites," he said.

Rankin said he has spots in mind. But he wouldn't name them or say when they will be protected other than "in the near future."

"We're not just going to set arbitrary timelines on ourselves," he said. "We're going to protect the land that has the most value."

Canada promised in 2010 to protect at least 17 per cent of land and inland waters by 2020.

“Canada currently ranks last among G7 countries, with only 10.6 per cent of our land and fresh water protected,” says the CPAWS report.


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Chris Lambie

About the Author: Chris Lambie

Chris Lambie is a journalist based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has worked at newspapers from Newfoundland to the Northwest Territories.
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