New Brunswick

New Brunswick loiters at back of the pack in wilderness protection, report shows

New Brunswick trails eight other provinces and three territories in protecting wilderness, says a national group keeping track.

As of December 2017, province only protects 4.6 per cent of land

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society says New Brunswick continues to fall behind other provinces when it comes to protecting wilderness areas. (Nature Conservancy of Canada)

New Brunswick trails eight other provinces and three territories in protecting wilderness, says a national group keeping track.

"Natural beauty and wildlife are at the core of New Brunswick's identity," the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society says in a report released this week.

"Yet over 95% of the province's landscape remains unprotected, lagging well behind most other Canadian provinces and leaving the health of New Brunswick's landscapes and wildlife at risk."

Canada is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, which mandates countries work toward protecting 17 per cent of their landmass.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, a charity that calls itself Canada's voice for wilderness, said it's confident the country can reach the UN goals. 

But in its "What's Next: Parks and Protected Areas to 2020 and Beyond" report, the group chastised New Brunswick for not doing enough. 

Second to last

Roberta Clowater, executive director for the New Brunswick chapter of the wilderness group, said there is a lack of political will to protect more public land and water. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

As of 2017, New Brunswick has protected 4.6 per cent of the province.

This would include Crown and private land that has received some kind of protection against development.

The only province or territory that protects a smaller proportion is Prince Edward Island, at 3.19 per cent. But  P.E.I. is an anomaly, the report said, since it's about 90 per cent privately owned.

The opposite is true in the rest of Canada.

Not only has New Brunswick lagged behind in action, it is also the only province that hasn't set a target.

  *P.E.I. treated as an anomaly by CPAWS, Alberta includes newly protected land 
JurisdictionPercentage of protected land (Dec. 2017)
Prince Edward Island*3.19
New Brunswick4.6
Newfoundland and Labrador6.88
Northwest Territories9.27
Nova Scotia12.4
British Columbia15.3

Roberta Clowater,  the executive director for the organization's New Brunswick chapter, said the percentage of protected wilderness and the absence of a target are a case of won't rather than can't.

"The New Brunswick government has traditionally been at the back of the pack when it comes to protected areas and wilderness protection," Clowater said.

"It all comes down to a lack of political will that's got us up to this point."

CBC News sought an interview with the Department of Energy and Resource Development, the department responsible for the Protected Natural Areas Provincial Advisory Committee, but has not received a response.

Silver lining

Clowater said adding more protection to areas that already receive some protection, such as the Bay of Fundy mudflats, would help the province increase its protected wilderness. (Mike Dembeck)

Clowater said she hasn't lost hope the province will do better someday. 

After crunching the numbers, she estimated the government could easily protect 10 per cent of the province by 2020.

This could be done partially by upgrading protection of some areas that already receive some protection.

"They're areas like old forest habitats … there are the mudflats on the Bay of Fundy, the intertidal areas … and there are drinking-water watersheds, natural areas that could be protected as well," said Clowater.

"All of these areas are identified on maps. People know they're important."

With files from Shift