New Survey says majority of Nova Scotians want more land protected: Citizens favour wilderness conservation over development on Crown land
Feburary 4, 2004
A new poll released this week has found that a majority of Nova Scotians believe more publicly owned Crown land should be protected in Nova Scotia. The survey was conducted by Corporate Research Associates and commissioned jointly by the Ecology Action Centre and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. A representative sample of 400 adult residents from across the province was polled for their attitudes on protected areas versus industrial development on Crown lands. The poll is considered accurate +/-4.9%, 19 times out of 20.
The survey asked the question: "Some people say that protecting more wilderness areas in Nova Scotia is necessary to conserve native plants and animals and for outdoor recreation. Others say there are already enough protected areas, and that to create more would be too costly, particularly for resource-based industries such as forestry and mining. All things considered, do you personally believe there should be more, the same amount, or fewer protected wilderness areas on publicly owned Crown land in Nova Scotia?"
96% of survey respondents expressed an opinion, and of these:
"Given a choice, a clear majority of Nova Scotians favoured wilderness conservation over industrial development for publicly owned Crown land," says Raymond Plourde, Wilderness Coordinator for the Ecology Action Centre. "These results are in line with other recent polling that consistently show the majority of Nova Scotians are deeply concerned about what is happening to our wilderness and our native wildlife," says Plourde. "Our government obviously needs to do a better job at responding to these concerns. The bottom line is: they need to protect more Crown land."
Earlier this year (May 2003), World Wildlife Fund Canada released The Nature Audit, a ground-breaking report on the state of Canada's environmental health. In it they found that the Maritime Provinces contained the most disturbed natural landscapes in the country. In Nova Scotia's case, almost 90% of the land has been used or changed by man in some way. The result is a fractured landscape with shrinking patches of wilderness for native plants and animals to survive - approximately 10% of the total landmass. The Nova Scotia Public Lands Coalition, a coalition of some 40 recreation, tourism, and environmental groups from across the province have proposed 18 "hotspot" areas on public land that are still relatively pristine for permanent protection under the Wilderness Areas Protection Act such as Ship Harbour Long Lake on the Eastern Shore and Humes River in Cape Breton and the Herring Cove Backlands on the Chebucto Peninsula just outside Halifax. So far the government has not designated any of them despite significant public support.
"Scientists have been saying for years that we need to protect more land to conserve wildlife and maintain ecosystems," says David Millar of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. "These survey results show that it is not only the ecologists who are concerned: the general public also wants to see more land protected."
One aspect of the survey question focused on outdoor recreation, something valued by most Nova Scotians and promoted heavily by the province in its tourism campaigns. Areas designated under the province's Wilderness Areas Protection Act are off limits to logging, mining, and industrial development, but still available for most forms of outdoor recreation including hunting, fishing and eco-tourism. 80% of Crown lands have no protection.
"Our natural resources are part of our tourism product", says Judith Cabrita, Executive Director of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia. "How we value wilderness conservation is intrinsically linked to our ability to ensure Nova Scotia as a destination of choice. Its scenic and outdoor activity potential are key factors for the traveler and for Nova Scotians. As a province, we must do more to conserve our natural areas and natural beauty. It is quite literally the product we sell to the rest of the world."
In it's recent Green Plan (Towards a Sustainable Environment, June 2003), the Nova Scotia government specifically committed to designate two new wilderness areas - Gully Lake and Eigg Mountain-James River as well as 5 small new nature reserves. More significantly, the government committed to "continue to work towards a comprehensive system of protected areas". These commitments reaffirm previous commitments by the Province in the 1990s to create a completed network of Protected Areas by the year 2000. All of this as a result of international conservation commitments made by Canada at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and endorsed by the provinces later that same year. "Some progress was made in the 90s but we missed the mark by a long shot. We're only about a third of the way there," says Plourde. "What is needed now is an action plan from government to get the job done."
In a recent speech in Halifax, Monte Hummel, the president of World Wildlife Fund Canada and one of the country's most respected environmentalists made it clear "The fact is that Nova Scotia is lagging behind its commitment to complete a representative network of protected areas, more needs to be done, and time is of the essence. WWF's Nature Audit indicated clearly that Nova Scotia has very little intact wilderness to choose from," said Hummel. "So you have to save the best of what's left quickly before it's gone".
The new EAC/CPAWS poll confirms that a majority of Nova Scotians supports that goal as well.
© Nova Scotia Public Lands Coalition, Ecology Action Centre, 2006