Public education needed for buffer zone regulations
The general public needs more education when it comes to buffer zone regulations, according to officials.
Gary Linkletter, chair of the PEI Potato Board, says the focus up until now has been on farmers, but that needs to change.
"I think a lot of the public perceives that these are farmer regulations. I think they've certainly targeted farmers because we are the ones in the broad acreage of the land," Linkletter said.
But Wade MacKinnon, the province's chief enforcement officer says this year, farming isn't the big problem.
MacKinnon says of the 10 charges laid so far this year for buffer zone violations, just two have been against farmers.
The rest mostly involved private property development.
"They're primarily development issues — people building new properties and then clearing the trees or creating a lawn in these situations where the areas protected," MacKinnon said.
"The majority of them are private property owners or the construction industry — people in the business of developing lots or properties."
Any activity within 15 metres of a watercourse or wetland boundary requires a permit.
Linkletter said, "There needs to be a balanced approach. The focus has to be on the environment and what the needs of the environment are."
In fact, MacKinnon says in the past few years, charges against farmers have gone down, while they've gone up for development.
"We've seen fewer issues with the farming community under the buffer zone regulation requirements, and I think that's due to the education with our department, the potato board and the federation of agriculture," MacKinnon said.
MacKinnon thinks the general public needs that same level of education.
On July 23, the province set up a new action committee to examine current land management practices and buffer zone legislation.
Any changes will eventually end up before cabinet.