Setting aside land for protection is the first big step in conserving Nova Scotia's wild heritage, but simply drawing a border around a piece of land does not ensure that it will continue to function as a healthy ecosystem. Once land is formally protected, good management is an imperative part of creating a Protected Areas Network that actually protects natural places.
There are many threats to both existing and proposed Protect Wilderness Areas. Some of the most pressing issues are:
Worldwide, natural landscapes are under siege, the scale of which has never been seen before. In Nova Scotia, our landscape has changed dramatically, with an associated and significant loss of wildlife. We have all witnessed something of this dramatic landscape change; whether it is watching an urban centre sprawl out into a surrounding wilderness, witnessing wetlands drained to make way for a shopping mall, or seeing a forest entirely clearcut on the side of the road. Our ever-increasing population uses more and more land to live and travel, and to grow, travel, and harvest the many resources we have come to depend on.
We have also seen the by-products of these changing landscapes. Less wildlife, and even the loss of some individual species, is a reality that results from converting natural landscapes into human dominated ones. Clearcuts, parking lots and gravel pits simply do not support life in the same way as a mature forest does. The greatest threat to wildlife is the loss of habitat (space to live), and in Nova Scotia, we are losing natural habitat far too quickly. This province-wide landscape change is not likely to stop any time soon, as we will continue to need space to live, and space to grow and harvest resources. Knowing that we will continue to have a severe impact on many landscapes, however, should be one of the strongest reasons to ensure that we have set aside a Protected Areas Network which is large and diverse enough to guarantee that Nova Scotia's plant and animal populations will be able to survive into the future.
The threats are many and growing, and if we hope to be able to show our grandchildren the environmental diversity of Nova Scotia, we must protect more land now, before it is altered forever.
© Nova Scotia Public Lands Coalition, Ecology Action Centre, 2006