Why we need protected areas

Nature NL recently hosted a panel discussion about the new Protected Areas Plan for the Island of Newfoundland. The consultations on this plan are open now, so it’s a great time to learn more about these proposed areas. The consultations are a way for WERAC and our provincial government to hear everyone’s opinions, and listen, and then refine the plan. The plan will be changed as needed as we go ahead, and each proposed protected area will go through local consultations as well. You can read more about the stories to date on this plan as well.

Here we will take a look at some of the reasons that we at Nature NL support protected areas. This post covers the same ideas as in the introduction at our Protected Areas Panel, with some changes to the phrasing for clarity.

Why do we even need protected areas?

A lot of the time, we look out on what we might think is the unspoiled wilderness of Newfoundland. And yes, it is vast and wild! But sometimes we don’t see what has already changed. The white pine trees that originally covered much of our island have mostly been lost (Remember in Ode to Newfoundland, the part about pine-clad hills? They are gone…). And the Great Auk – gone. So we have already lost part of what makes Newfoundland unique and beautiful. And many more species are declining on our island. We don’t want to lose any more.

What benefits could protected areas bring?

Land, for us, forever

For me, it’s land for us. Over the past few years people have come to me many times saying: My favourite piece of land is going to be sold – or – The spot where I love to fish is getting destroyed – or – The place where I like to berry pick is going to be developed – or – My house backs onto a nice marsh, and they’re going to put development there. Can you help?

And usually, unfortunately, my response is the same: I’m so sorry, there is very little I can to do help you, because that is Crown land. Sometimes we look at the Island, which is ~90% Crown land, and we think that it’s protected for what we want. But the truth is, is that Crown land is just land that hasn’t really been formally spoken for – yet. And so that Crown land can be sold, and this might affect you. Because you might think that it’s there for you, and it might look remote and very wild, and there might be no signs on it, but it can still be sold. And so our perspective on this is that land use planning, when done well, can fix this.

I have worked in areas where people said that it would never be developed, but only a few years later, it was. So what you might consider remote right now, might catch the eye of someone else some years down the road.

The truth is, that without any action, the Crown land that you love and enjoy can be bought and sold.

The species we care about

At Nature NL, we care about caribou, birds, lichen, mushrooms, you name it, it’s important to us. Protecting habitat is one key way that we can make sure these animals, plants, and other species can survive, so that future generations can enjoy and benefit from them.

Places for people to play, learn, explore, adventure

At Nature NL we often host events in parks – they are great places for us to take a group.

Parks and reserves are great places to explore and enjoy the freedom of our wilderness. They are open, affordable (or free!), healthy ways for the whole family to get outside, connect with nature, and learn outdoor skills. Having a protected area in place in these special spots means that it will stay this way.

Economic impact – for people

Newfoundland is just as beautiful as Banff or Yosemite or all sorts of the famous parks around the world. Why shouldn’t we have gorgeous, well-functioning parks that conserve wildlife and also support jobs, tourism, and a sense of pride in our own landscapes?

In some cases, having clear protected areas can provide stability to businesses, too. Sometimes they want to know where they can, and can’t, operate. For example, a private business may want to use parts of a protected area. If it is unprotected Crown land, it can be sold or changed. When it is a protected area, the conditions are known. Similarly for someone looking to start a new business or project, having clarity upfront on where they can and cannot operate can be very helpful.

Thanks for reading, and we hope that you will join us in supporting protected areas for the Island of Newfoundland. Take a look at the plan, the fact sheets, and add your voice to the conversation. And stay tuned for our next post and event!