The Department of Natural Resources is seeking public input on which forested areas of the province should be protected forever.
But the amount of land the government plans to protect remains just a fraction of what some other provinces are protecting.
The department has identified 190 candidate sites, totalling 143,000 hectares, said Minister Bruce Northrup.
He expects about 122,000 hectares will be designated Protected Natural Areas (PNAs), which would double the amount of forested Crown land under permanent protection to eight per cent.
By comparison, in Nova Scotia, the government currently protects 12 per cent of forested areas.
Challenge choosing candidate sites
Choosing the potential New Brunswick sites was difficult, said Pascal Giasson, manager of the Department of Natural Resource's species at risk and protection natural areas division.
"The biggest challenge has been identifying land that doesn't have other demands on it," said Giasson.
"New Brunswick has a long history of forestry, we also have mining interests, oil, natural gas, recently, wind mill farms. So there's all these other competing demands for the same land we want to conserve for bio-diversity, for the future of the life on the planet, essentially."
Department officials, scientists and naturalists have spent the past two years collaborating to identify the candidate PNA sites, which serve as sanctuaries that allow nature to exist without human interference.
The 190 locations were selected based on their ecological value, their importance as wildlife habitat and their distribution throughout the province.
Protected forever under act
Previous attempts to impose protection haven't always prevented land from being developed, including an old growth site near Shomogoc Stream two years ago, where an entomologist said he had discovered a bug species never before documented.
But Giasson contends areas chosen to be Protected Natural Areas will have better protection that lasts forever.
"One of the things that the act prevents is harvesting trees, and mining, and mining exploration, prospecting. So there is protection under that [Protected Natural Areas Act]
… Absolutely. It's spelled out in that act."
PNAs can still be used for hiking, camping and fishing, but industrial activities and higher impact recreational uses are not permitted.
A new website has been created where New Brunswickers can view the candidate sites and submit comments online until Nov. 15.
The department will also hold five open houses this month.
- Fredericton, Oct. 16, 6 p.m., Hugh John Flemming Forestry Centre, Main Lobby, 1350 Regent St.
- Edmundston, Oct. 17, 6 p.m., Edmundston Convention Centre, Madawaska Room, 100 Rice St.
- Bathurst, Thursday, Oct. 18, 6 p.m., Atlantic Host Hotel, Salon B, 1450 Vanier Blvd.
- Blackville, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 6 p.m., United Church Centre, 143 Main St.
- Richibucto, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 6 p.m., Richibucto Town Hall, 9235 Main St.