Liberal Government commitment to 13% land protection goal within mandate to go unfulfilled | Ecology Action Centre

Liberal Government commitment to 13% land protection goal within mandate to go unfulfilled


K’JIPUKTUK (Halifax)  – The Ecology Action Centre is very concerned that, with a provincial election seemingly imminent, a longstanding commitment by the McNeil government to reach 13% land protection within their first/current mandate has fallen by the wayside and will not be met. That mandate appears to be about to end and the government is still well under that number at around 12.3% and with very little progress to show since 2015.

Wentworth Valley
Wentworth Valley (above) and St. Mary's River (below), two of the areas purchased by the province for the purposes of conservation, but not yet protected.

St. Mary's River


“Premier McNeil and his government have been very clear and unequivocal in their promise to reach 13% land protection under the Parks and Protected Areas Plan within their first term” says EAC Wilderness Coordinator Raymond Plourde.  “But it now looks like they will miss that promised target by a country mile. The government remains almost 34,000 hectares short, with some very important natural areas which have been identified for protection for many years now languishing and potentially under threat. It’s very, very disappointing.”

Examples of areas still waiting in the que for protection include Wentworth Valley in Colchester County, Giant’s Lake in Guysborough County, Holden Lake in Lunenburg County, Sackville River in Halifax County, Holden Lake in Lunenburg County and Cape Mabou in Inverness County.

“Many of these irreplaceable natural areas were actually purchased by the government from forestry companies over the last ten years for many millions of dollars specifically for protection” says Plourde. “They were identified in the provincial Parks and Protected Areas Plan back in 2013. There is no reason in the world for them not to be protected by now except a lack of political will.” 

Examples of land parcels specifically purchase for conservation from forestry companies include additions to Portapique River Wilderness Area and Economy River Wilderness Area in Cumberland County, Middle River Wilderness Area in Cape Breton and several parcel’s along the St. Mary’s River in Guysborough County.

“We met with government officials about this important issue several times over the last few years and were assured repeatedly that the 13% commitment would be met within the Liberal government’s current mandate. Yet here we are, on the apparent eve of an election, and it appears to be a forgotten promise that will go unfulfilled. At this point we ask all three political parties to state clearly what their intentions are with regards to completing the important conservation work committed to in the provincial Parks and Protected Areas Plan. Nova Scotians deserve nothing less.”

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For further information, please contact:

Raymond Plourde

Wilderness Coordinator



Background Information

NS Liberal Commitments to Protected Areas

Election Campaign 2013

Environment — Protecting our most valuable resources

Liberals know the environment is important to Nova Scotians. That’s why we support the protection of land. (NS Liberal 2013 Election Platform document)


“With regards to the 12% goal initially established in 2007 (which received unanimous support from the House of Assembly), the Nova Scotia Liberal Party fully supports protecting land in our province. The health and well-being of our environment and eco-systems is important to us, as it is to all Nova Scotians. We fully support protecting land for environmental purposes in this province but also believe that municipalities and residents must have their say. It should be noted that it was the last Liberal government that set up the process to begin protecting lands and a Liberal government will finish the job of protecting lands in Nova Scotia. We voted in favour of the amendment in 2012 which stated at least 12% shall be protected and now that this target has reached 13%, we fully support this measure.

(NS Liberal Party Response to NSEN 2013 All-Party Election Survey – signed by Stephen McNeil)


In the Legislature:

HANSARD – December 11, 2013

Mr. Speaker

The honourable member for Queens-Shelburne.

Oral Questions Put by Members

Natural Resources: Fibre Supply/protected Lands Balance

Sterling Belliveau  NDP MLA for Queens-Shelburne 

Mr. Speaker,. The member for Yarmouth isn't the only Liberal who opposes land conservation efforts. On April 11th the Liberal member for Guysborough- Eastern Shore-Tracadie called the 13 per cent land protection target a complete farce. He went on to say, "Whoever the heck the Crown is - I don't know if that's the Queen, I guess it's held by the province in trust for the Crown." I'll table that.


My second question to the minister is, when he has a member of his own caucus who is obviously opposed to finding a balance between protection and supply, what is his strategy for dealing with his colleagues who don't think conserving our forests should be a priority?

Zach Churchill  Liberal MLA for Yarmouth 

Mr. Speaker, I view any dialogue in this Legislature as just that, a dialogue between two parties. Regarding the protected lands question, of course there was some disagreement in the public. I know the goal of this Legislature was to accommodate, in a balanced way, all interests when it comes to those lands. I believe that the government has done its best to do that. We've settled on a 13 per cent target, that is a target that this government remains committed to, unequivocally, and if there is any debate about this issue we can talk about it further.


Mr. Speaker

The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River.

Oral Questions Put by Members

Natural Resources: Protected Lands - Moratorium


Lenore Zann  NDP MLA for Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River 

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment. Last week, the Minister of Natural Resources told this House that he has "never been a proponent of reducing protected land targets." I will table that. My question for the Minister of Environment is, has his colleague, the Minister of Natural Resources, written any correspondence to the Department of Environment within the last 12 months calling for a moratorium on protected lands?

Randy Delorey  Liberal MLA for Antigonish 

Mr. Speaker, since the question posed actually details correspondence from my colleague, the Minister of Natural Resources, I'd like to defer to him, since he would be the source of the correspondence in question.

Zach Churchill  Liberal MLA for Yarmouth 

And again for the clarification of the House, all Parties unanimously voted in favour of that 13 per cent target. This government remains committed to it.


Oral Questions Put by Members

Natural Resources: Protected Lands - Moratorium

Lenore Zann  NDP MLA for Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River 

My question for the Minister of Environment is, can he please confirm unequivocally that at least 13 per cent of our province's land will be protected for future generations of Nova Scotia by the year 2015, as committed by our previous NDP Government?

Randy Delorey  Liberal MLA for Antigonish 

Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank the member for her question - finally a question that is actually directed to my attention.

Before answering this specific question I'd like to make a couple of clarifications. First and foremost, the 12 per cent and 13 per cent that have been referred to do not refer to lands specifically owned, or any change in the ownership specifically to the Province of Nova Scotia. What those percentages refer to in the parks and protected lands are lands that are protected by the Province of Nova Scotia - it does not refer specifically to lands owned by the Province of Nova Scotia. So let's make that clear. (Applause)

I would also like to clarify, as the Minister of Natural Resources stated earlier to a final point that was made in the preamble to the question, the fact that the decision to pursue an initiative to protect increased lands in the Province of Nova Scotia was not just an initiative of the former government, it was a decision that was unanimously passed by the House by all Parties in the Province of Nova Scotia. So let's get that clarified as well. (Applause)

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would like to answer the actual question that the member opposite raised. In fact, yes, this government, the Departments of Environment, Natural Resources, and all members of this government and I believe this House, still stand by the decision that was previously made, unanimously, which is to continue to pursue the parks and protected lands and pursue the initiatives to continue to protect the lands that have been identified - currently we're at about 9 or 9.5 per cent that have actually been protected.

There have been initiatives in place over the last year or so that have increased that amount of land identified. We're in the process, and continuing the process, to make the necessary adjustments in the designations of those lands. That is moving forward and we are moving forward on that initiative and it will be taking place - any suggestions that the government is not committed to it is off ground. (Applause)


Government land purchases for conservation

There are many sites yet to be designated that include lands bought from forestry companies specifically for protection.  Here are a few highlights:

  • Wentworth Valley - Almost entire site purchased from Northern Pulp for protection in 2010.
  • Economy River WA - About 1,350 ha (3,338 acres) purchased from Irving (north side) and an additional 1,700 ha (4,100 acres) from Northern Pulp (west side).  Both identified and recommended for purchase by CSFF.  Also 29.5 ha purchase in 2011-12 from Protected Areas budget.
  • Portapique River WA - parcel on east side purchased from Wagner from Protected Areas budget.
  • Middle River WA addition - Lake O'Law parcel purchased from Protected Areas budget, plus former Stora private land protected site.
  • Panuke Lake NR addition - 2007 Bowater purchase
  • Porcupine Brook NR - 2007 Bowater purchase
  • Jordan Lake NR - 2007 Bowater purchase
  • McGowan Lake NR - 2007 Bowater purchase
  • Lower Mersey NR - partially 2007 Bowater purchase
  • St. Marys River TBA - several parcels purchased by DNR and NSE for protection
  • Glendyer NR, Inverness Co. - former Stora private land protected site acquired for protection
  • Waverley Salmon River Long Lake WA addition - north of Porters Lake - purchased for protection from Northern Pulp.


Government press releases about land purchases for protection:

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