Update Thursday, April 1, 2021 - The Biodiversity Act (Bill#4) passed its 3rd reading.
The Biodiversity Act, Bill #4 is under attack once again from Forests Nova Scotia (the forestry industry’s lobby group) and others. Following a campaign to spread misinformation and stoke fear about the Act, the provincial government caved and removed the sections which enabled the Province to create Biodiversity Emergency Orders, and removed the power to create offenses and fines under the Act (a standard section in Acts of this nature).
But despite these disappointing changes, there remains much that is still constructive and worthwhile in the Act.
Let Nova Scotia's MLAs know that you support the Biodiversity Act. Calling, emailing, or mailing your MLA makes a huge difference! To find your MLA and their contact info, CLICK HERE.
Click here to read EAC's response to the changes made to the Act
Click here to read a blog about the Act, written by East Coast Environmental Law's Executive Director and Senior Lawyer, Lisa Mitchell.
Scroll down to read a backgrounder on the Biodiversity Act!
A Biodiversity Act for Nova Scotia (Bill 4) was proposed for the second time on March 11, 2021, but may be defeated once again due to misrepresentations of the Act by certain members of the forestry sector (click here for an example).
The proposed Act contains many pro-active, constructive mechanisms for working on biodiversity loss, including through education and collaborating with community groups. It calls for a State of Biodiversity report, and public consultation on regulations stemming from the Act. It includes enforcement tools that would allow government to intervene to save biodiversity if needed in specific circumstances, such as preventing the introduction of invasive species. This Act is improved over the one proposed in March 2019 as a result of public consultation and stakeholder input (in 2019, 2020, and 2021).
The Act does not allow just anyone to go on someone else’s land for a biodiversity-related reason. The Act allows for the Minister of Lands and Forestry may establish a Biodiversity Management Zone where activities may be promoted (e.g. education, monitoring) or restricted in order to help with the conservation or sustainable use of biodiversity. For example, there may a parcel of provincial Crown land where the harvest of an edible mushroom is being done in excess and is threatening the sustainability of the species. A Biodiversity Management Zone could be implemented in this area to manage harvest levels and would be enforced by provincial Conservation Officers. On private land: “The Minister may establish a biodiversity management zone on private land with the consent of the owner of the private land by entering into an agreement with the owner.” A Biodiversity Management Zone can only be designated on private land with the landowner’s consent. Also, there is a change from the version of the Act brought forward in 2019 – the 2021 version allows for the possibility of a landowner to receive compensation in specific circumstances where the landowner lost some use of their property as a result of a Biodiversity Management Zone. Members of the forestry industry advocated for this during consultations.
For Biodiversity Emergency Orders, only when “there are reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a person has contravened or is about to contravene Section 38 in a manner that resulted in, or is likely to result in, serious adverse effects to biodiversity and for which corrective action is needed to prevent, control, eliminate or manage such serious adverse effects, the Minister or an employee of the Government authorized to act on behalf of the Minister may issue a biodiversity emergency order.” So this doesn’t require landowner consent, but has a very high bar for when it would be used.
Public consultations were completed by the Department of Lands and Forestry in summer 2019. Five public sessions were hosted in different parts of Nova Scotia. Since then, DLF staff have met with stakeholder groups.
Biodiversity loss is happening in Nova Scotia and we need a coordinated approach to working on it together – this Act provides one piece of that puzzle. However, we risk having no Biodiversity Act at all if misinformation about the Act is believed and acted upon. The contents of the Act have been worked on for more than 2 years, and it now includes some of the elements recommended by EAC and East Coast Environmental Law in a joint recommendations report. Changes were also made to the Act based on input from the forestry sector.
EAC supports the Biodiversity Act, and is hopeful that many other Nova Scotians will to. It creates new tools to work on the threats to biodiversity in our province, and enables us to work together on conserving life on our lands and in our waters.