CPAWS report says we lag in land protection nationally and in Nova Scotia but sees signs of change

CPAWS, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, just published its latest annual report on the state of protected areas in Canada and is “is calling Canada out for ranking last among G7 countries in the percentage of land and freshwater protected for nature.” However, the report “highlights that Canadian governments are finally starting to take this commitment seriously after years of inaction.”

About Nova Scotia the report comments:

The Nova Scotia government has made a strong commitment to protect natural biodiversity in the province, through the implementation of the Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan. That plan includes 205 new protected areas, totaling a quarter million hectares, and contains some of the best remaining natural areas in the province, including large intact forests, long stretches of wilderness coastline, species-at-risk habitat, significant wetlands, and important waterways.

Good progress has been made so far, but implementation is stalling. Since approved in 2013, about half of the sites within the Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan are still awaiting legal protection with a total combined area of 83,500 hectares. Some of the sites still requiring legal protection include the St. Mary’s River Conservation Lands, Wentworth Valley, Mabou Highlands, Sackville River, Giants Lake, McGowan Lake, Shingle Lake, and Pleasant River. The Nova Scotia government needs to follow through on
its commitments to protect these areas and fully implement the Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan.

An article in the LocalXpress cites comments by Chris Miller, CPAWS’ national conservation biologist who is also responsible for running the CPAWS conservation programs in Nova Scotia:

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”…It’s unclear what’s caused the slowdown.

“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.”

However, according to the LocalXpress, Environment Minister Iain Rankin denied the province is stalling on designating new protected areas.

Read more:

Canada lags the world in land protection, but improved performance possible
Post on CPAWS website, July 19, 2017

From Laggard to Leader? Canada’s renewed focus on protecting nature could deliver results
CPAWS report, July 2017

Nova Scotia stalling on protecting wilderness
Chris Lambie in LocalXpress, July 24, 2017

It’s not the first time I have heard that forestry interests are causing the delay in formally protecting lands identified for protection in 2013. In a post on June 13, 2017 I wrote:

Clearcut in lands designated for the Raven Head Protected Area, 2011 : “To negotiate a price within the province’s budget, Wagner Forestry [was] allowed to harvest about one quarter of the Apple Head area”.

Currently Nova Scotia is at 12.4 while 13% was the goal for 2015.

I have been told that the holdup is due to DNR being difficult about approving the larger blocks of land that were identified as potential Protected Areas in 2013* because they want the wood. Does that mean they want to harvest on those blocks before agreeing to see them protected, like Wagner Forestry did when the province purchased lands for Raven Head?. *Those lands can be viewed at NS Parks and Protected Areas Interactive Map. Harvests proposed on Crown Land are posted at Forest Harvest Allocation Maps 20 days before they are finally approved.

Getting to 13% via small increments is… incremental (12.24% in 2015 to 12.4% in March 2017).

Mr. Rankin’s denial that the province has been stalling on designating new Protected Areas does not inspire confidence that the government is serious about finding “the right balance“.

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