Nova Scotia bucks national trend by creating new protected areas

HALIFAX - In the run-up to Canada Parks Day on the 3rd Saturday in July, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is releasing its fifth annual report on how Canada’s parks are faring. The report shows an overall worrying trend in Canada of a slowdown in creating new parks and protecting existing ones.

But Nova Scotia is bucking this national trend.  The province stands out as one of the few examples across the country where an ambitious plan to create new protected areas is turning into real conservation outcomes on the ground.

“The proposed new protected areas will vault Nova Scotia from its current status of middle-of-the-pack to second in Canada for the total percentage of lands protected, behind only British Columbia”, says Chris Miller, National Conservation Biologist for CPAWS, based in Nova Scotia.

“Nova Scotia is emerging as a leader in Canada for conservation,” says Miller. “In a year with very little progress across the country creating new protected areas, Nova Scotia is a noteworthy standout.  Good progress is being made here and the province is definitely bucking the national trend”.

The Nova Scotia government released a protected areas plan earlier this year that will see over a quarter million hectares of additional lands in the province dedicated for conservation.  This plan includes some of the best remaining wilderness in the province, including the St. Mary’s River, Eastern Shore Islands, Kelly’s Mountain, Wentworth Valley, and several expansions to the existing Tobeatic Wilderness Area, among many other sites.

In total, an additional 700 kilometres of Nova Scotia’s coastline will be protected as a result of the new protected areas when officially established.  The new protected areas will also result in about half of all remaining large intact forests in Nova Scotia being protected.

When fully implemented, Nova Scotia’s protected areas plan will result in 13.7% of the province dedicated to protected areas.  The current level of protection is 9.4%.
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia is well ahead of neigbouring jurisdictions creating new protected areas.  Newfoundland and Labrador has 4.5% protection; New Brunswick 3% protection; and Prince Edward Island 2.5% protection.

The CPAWS Parks Report does raise some red flags for the management of national parks in Nova Scotia, including the decision to leave Sable Island National Park Reserve vulnerable to potential future oil and gas exploration on the island, as well as the seasonal closure of Kejimkujik National Park from October to May.

“We remain very concerned about the overall cutbacks to Parks Canada and what this means for the management of Nova Scotia’s national parks for ecological integrity”, says Miller.  “We will be monitoring this closely and keeping a very close eye on it over the coming months”.

CPAWS has been issuing an annual report on the state of Canada’s parks since 2008. The first report lauded the rate of new parks creation by the federal government that year. Subsequent reports noted the slowdown in parks creation, the need to increase the number of marine protected areas, and some inappropriate developments that were starting to be noted.

View full report here.

Chris Miller, Ph.D.
National Conservation Biologist
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
twitter: @NSwilderness