Nova Scotia government has no timeline for completing its protected land goal
Right now, the province has protected 12.4% of land in the province, but 13% is the goal
Nova Scotia's environment minister says the government remains committed to reaching its target of legally protecting 13 per cent of the land in the province, but Margaret Miller cannot say with certainty when that will happen.
"My goal is to have it done as quickly as possible," Miller said in an interview Wednesday.
"I would hope that in the next year we're going to have it all accomplished."
Right now, the province has protected 12.4 per cent of land in the province.
100 sites without protection
Miller was responding a day after the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) released a report looking at efforts to protect land across the country.
Chris Miller, a conservation biologist and executive director for the society in Nova Scotia, noted the protection goal was part of a report that is now almost five years old, and that 100 identified sites for protection remain without legal designation.
"There's not really a good reason to wait any longer," he said, noting that protecting all remaining identified sites would take the province to about 14 per cent total protected areas.
"This in no way is an overreach of protecting too much land."
Province won't go beyond 13% protection
But the minister said there is no certainty all of those 100 sites will be protected and, in fact, she said the government doesn't have plans to go beyond its own goal, given the limited amount of Crown land relative to other provinces.
"We're trying to identify the very best sites for protection," she said.
"We're not going to be working to go beyond 13 per cent."
The minister said remaining properties on the list are assessed as their mineral rights expire. She confirmed several pieces of land will soon go to cabinet for protection approval, including a piece of land in the Wentworth Valley that conservationists, including Chris Miller, have long called to have legally protected from possible industrial practices such as clearcutting.
Margaret Miller said she believes the 13 per cent commitment here is proportionate to efforts by other provinces and territories with much more available Crown land.
Tapping into federal fund for land purchase
Aside from protecting more land, the CPAWS report calls on the province to re-establish a fund in the Environment Department for land acquisition. That fund was ended when Nova Scotia reached its original target of protecting 12 per cent of lands. Acquisitions are now handled by the Lands and Forestry Department.
The report also recommends the province work with Ottawa to access the $1.3-billion federal Nature Fund, which provides money for incentives to create new protected areas. The environment minister said she's had talks with her federal counterpart about the fund and what might be possible for Nova Scotia. The province also continues to work with the Nova Scotia Nature Trust to identify pieces of private land that could be purchased and protected, she said.
"If we can add more properties and protect more properties with a minimal investment, it certainly would benefit all Nova Scotians."
Chris Miller said legally protecting areas is a way to have places "where nature comes first, where conservation is the priority" while preserving recreational uses, including hunting and fishing.