HALIFAX - Nova Scotia is adding four new provincial parks and designating dozens of new wilderness areas in a decision politicians and environmental experts are calling “monumental.”
Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau said Thursday the new plan will ensure protection of 13 per cent of provincial lands by 2015, bypassing the 12 per cent target most provinces are working towards.
“This is a tremendous day,” Belliveau said during the announcement at the Museum of Natural History in Halifax. “Nova Scotia has become a national leader in land conservation. Mostly importantly, we are leaving an incredible legacy for generations to come.”
The plan will protect 200,000 new hectares, create 44 new wilderness areas, four parks, 118 nature reserves and expand many current reserves.
Raymond Plourde, wilderness coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre, said in a couple of years Nova Scotia will be just behind British Columbia’s national record of protecting 14 per cent of provincial lands.
“This is a significant step forward for Nova Scotia in terms of meeting commitments for conservation,” he said.
He added the province is “light-years” ahead of our Maritime neighbours, with New Brunswick protecting just over three percent of their land and Prince Edward Island hovering just below three percent.
Plourde said this move is especially important as the world is in the greatest “extinction spasm” since the time of the dinosaurs.
Last year in Nova Scotia, 16 more names were added to the list of endangered species in the province, bringing the total to 60.
“There is a worldwide decline in biodiversity, we know that, we feel that,” Plourde said. “This our part in the global effort to halt that decline and reverse that trend.”
Natural Resources Minister Charlie Parker said while the plan is a step forward for environmental protection, it won’t affect forestry or mining opportunities.
“There’s still a lot of Crown land available for other uses,” Parker said.