NB designates 100,000 hectares of protected land and water
The New Brunswick government said Thursday it will protect an additional 100,000 hectares of land, as part of its commitment to double the amount of land and water protected in the province.
The new designation would allow hiking, camping and hunting in protected areas, but would restrict activities such as timber harvesting, mining and quarrying, Natural Resources Minister Mike Holland.
“The land doesn’t protect itself and the forests don’t conserve – they need a voice,” Holland said.
The Progressive Conservative government made a 2020 election promise to double New Brunswick’s permanently protected land and freshwater to 10% from 4.6%. With Thursday’s announcement, the province has protected a total of about 420,000 hectares, and it expects to reach 700,000 hectares by April 2023.
One hectare is roughly the size of a football pitch, including the end zones. Holland said that by April 2023, the total area of land under protection will equal approximately 19 Fundy national parks.
Environmental groups cheered the announcement, saying it’s an important step in the province’s conservation.
“It’s a big step in the right direction that the new protected areas include significant wild forests in the Gaspereau headwaters, old-growth forest habitats in the Restigouche, and natural areas that connect to Kouchibouguac, Fundy and Mount Carleton,” said Roberta Clowater, Executive Director. with the New Brunswick Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
Holland said when the province asked for nominations for areas to conserve, it received 1,000 nominations and 800 comments to review.
“Everyone thinks their nature is the best nature. It’s a happy problem for me,” joked Lois Corbett, executive director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.
But the six chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick say the province has ignored its duty to consult with Indigenous nations. In a statement released Wednesday, the chiefs said what had been promised as a collaborative effort has turned into a unilateral directive from the provincial government.
“We have repeatedly called on the province to abandon its one-sided approach to the Nature Legacy Initiative,” said Tobique First Nation Chief Ross Perley.
Madawaska First Nation Chief Patricia Bernard said the process failed to protect her community members’ inherent rights to the land.
But Holland said he strongly disagreed with the Chiefs’ statement.
“This initiative started in 2019 and we engaged with First Nations at the beginning, throughout the process up to and including today, and we will continue to move forward,” he said. Input from First Nations, he added, has informed some of the boundaries of new protected areas.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 14, 2022.