A group promoting Canada's wilderness says New Brunswick is lagging behind other parts of the country in creating natural protected areas and parks, according to a new report.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society's annual report says New Brunswick has only three per cent natural areas protected and the plans to increase that slightly have been delayed.
Roberta Clowater, the executive director of the New Brunswick branch of the society, said she believes the provincial government is more concerned about development than protection.
"In New Brunswick, the decision-makers have, time and time again, chosen to restrict the amount that's protected in favour of allocating more for forestry and mining and other industrial uses on Crown land," she said in an interview on Monday.
New Brunswick had committed to increasing the amount of protected areas to 4.5 per cent. Even with the small increase, Clowater said New Brunswick still would have been near the bottom in terms of protected space.
She said the provincial government began asking citizens in October 2012 about areas that they thought should be protected. Now she said she’s concerned that process could be in jeopardy.
"We encourage the government to make a decision soon that will respect their commitment to that proposed increase and provide permanent legal protection to those important old forests, roadless areas and wildlife habitats that were identified last autumn," Clowater said in a statement.
"To credibly claim a balanced approach to Crown land management, there has to be a significant safety net of well-protected lands and waters."
The Department of Natural Resources declined a request for an interview on Friday.
The department would only say its information will be submitted to the cabinet’s policies and priorities committee this summer and a decision is expected by 2014.
Other Maritime provinces, however are not finding it difficult to set aside protected areas.
Nova Scotia, for example, is working to protect 12 per cent of its Crown lands.
Clowater said protecting natural parks and wilderness can increase eco-tourism, which brings in substantial revenue for Nova Scotia.