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Protected Areas in Newfoundland and Labrador

The variety of natural environments in this province is spectacular.

They span everything from Newfoundland's rugged south coast, maritime barrens, and the Tablelands of Gros Morne, to the windy peaks of the Torngat Mountains and the sub-Arctic tundra of northern Labrador. And each one of our distinctive 35 natural regions provides habitat for its own blend of plants and wildlife.

Strongly influenced by geology and our location on the edge of the North Atlantic, this rich natural heritage has fed our families, our economy, and our culture for centuries. It continues to contribute to our enviable way of life today.

Knowing how important environmental health is to our survival and prosperity, the Province realizes that safeguarding our environment for the future is an important responsibility.

Creating and maintaining a network of properly designed and legally designated "protected areas" is one of the key ways it intends to do its part to ensure the survival of Newfoundland and Labrador's natural heritage.

What is a Protected Area?

The Province subscribes to the World Conservation Union's definition of a protected area:

An area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, protected areas take many forms. The four main types the Province is responsible for are: provincial parks, wilderness and ecological reserves, and wildlife reserves. But there are several other types of protected areas here, as well. See Protected Areas in Newfoundland & Labrador for more information.

Each type of protected area provides a different kind of protection, and is designed to contribute to specific aspects of our conservation, outdoor recreation, and education goals.

Why Does the Province Create Protected Areas?

Newfoundland and Labrador's parks and reserves are created and maintained for five key reasons:

  • biodiversity conservation
  • scientific research
  • recreation
  • education
  • ecotourism

Many of our protected areas are places where important or rare species live and/or breed in safety. Creating and maintaining these protected areas supports our ongoing commitment to preserve the province's biodiversity.

To be successful, however, our conservation strategy must include more than a network of protected areas. It must also encompass sustainable development practices, support endangered species legislation, and include other conservation-minded initiatives such as community stewardship. It is critical that our protected areas not exist as "islands of wilderness," but be designed and networked in a way that establishes connections for species to move among all parts of their natural range.

Scientific study—even casual observation—can easily demonstrate that Newfoundland and Labrador's wilderness is not as vast as many of us still want to believe. In fact, because of the cumulative effect of a variety of human activities at home and far away, only small areas of pristine wilderness are left on the Island portion of the province.

In addition, environmental and climate alterations—local and global—are affecting our ecosystems. The status of the province's plant and animal species reflects this. In recent history, a number of unique provincial species such as the great auk, Labrador duck, Newfoundland wolf, and the sea mink have disappeared. In 2005, the continued existence of 21 species is considered to be at risk, and the pressures on natural habitat mount daily.

Does this mean that all future resource development-which often is the human activity that has the broadest effect on ecosystems-is bad? Of course not. Our economic future will doubtless rely on and benefit from using our natural resources long into the future.

But our natural environment-and all the species and processes it supports-needs protection to be able to sustain us now, and into the future. This protection should be considered one of the most important land-uses of all. And so, establishing and maintaining a sound network of protected areas must be the foundation for future sustainable and responsible development in the province.

The Benefits of Protected Areas

There are many ways that a system of protected areas benefits society. Briefly, they provide:

  • Reservoirs to protect and preserve biodiversity
  • Study areas for scientific research and education
  • Venues for enjoying and appreciating outstanding scenery, landscape, and wildlife
  • Opportunities to continue enjoying many traditional outdoor activities
  • Outdoor classrooms for public education
  • Benchmarks that help us measure the health of lands and wildlife outside natural areas
  • The basis for new ecotourism and adventure tourism business opportunities
  • An "insurance policy" against loss or damage to similar ecosystems in other locations

How Are Protected Areas Created?

In this province, different types of protected areas are created under different provincial Acts.

The Province uses the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Act to create wilderness and ecological reserves. This Act—along with its associated Regulations—defines and gives legal protection to each reserve, and outlines the types of activities that can and cannot take place within its borders.

New reserves are created on the advice of the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council (WERAC). An independent group of appointed volunteers from across the province, WERAC members come from a wide variety of backgrounds and share an interest in conservation and an awareness of the importance of protected areas. WERAC also advises the provincial government on management of existing reserves.

Show me a more detailed description of the steps in the reserve establishment process PDF (66.7 KB).

Provincial Parks are created using the Provincial Parks Act. Parks are formally defined and designated by legislation after proposals are reviewed by Government. Parks too, have legislated Regulations.

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