The provincial government passed the Newfoundland and Labrador Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Act (WER Act) in 1980. Through it, the Province can establish and protect natural areas in wilderness and ecological reserves.
Wilderness reserves protect large wilderness areas, and are usually defined by the habitat requirements of a wide-ranging mammal such as caribou. They also provide wilderness areas for traditional outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, canoeing, and hiking. Ecological reserves are smaller, protecting representative ecosystems or special species and their habitat.
The province's WER Act is considered one of the best examples of wilderness-protection legislation in Canada. It allows the public to give input into reserve creation and management. It can designate high levels of protection to ensure that protected areas will safeguard the unique natural qualities within their borders. And it allows the Province to create "provisional reserves"—that is, it can provide protection while areas are considered for designation as permanent ecological or wilderness reserves. In addition, in situations of immediate threat, the WER Act allows the Minister to establish "emergency reserves."