The government of Newfoundland and Labrador passed the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Act (WER Act) in 1980. It was designed to guide the creation of a system of protected areas in the province that would preserve wilderness, representative or unique ecosystems, species, or natural phenomena.
Under the Act, an 11-member committee was also created. Called the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council—or WERAC—its purpose is to advise the government on the creation and management of wilderness and ecological reserves.
WERAC is an independent group made of citizens from a variety of backgrounds and all regions of the province. Its members are appointed by Government for three-year terms, which can be renewed. The Council's work and recommendations are directed by scientific research and public input. WERAC makes its recommendations on reserve creation to Government; Government itself makes the final decisions.
The Province's Parks and Natural Areas Division, which oversees the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Program, works cooperatively with WERAC. Typically, the council meets four times a year, for two days each time. The WERAC Secretariat, consisting of an Executive Secretary, operates from the Division's headquarters in Deer Lake.
Individuals, groups, government departments or non-governmental organizations can propose an area for protection under the WER Act by completing the WERAC Study Area Nomination Form (129 KB). Together, WERAC and the Division work to ensure that all public and private interests are fairly heard and considered when reserves are being planned and established. Public meetings are called to acquire input when reserves are proposed; WERAC members are in attendance. Once a reserve is created, the Parks and Natural Areas Division manages it, and ensures that it keeps its ecological integrity.
The Province has made great progress in its conservation goals. Eighteen reserves have been created since the WER Act was passed in 1980, and more are planned. WERAC's important and challenging task remains: to work towards the public release and review of the natural areas system plan, and then work cooperatively with communities, industry, and other members of the public to create a viable protected areas system.
Learn more about Newfoundland and Labrador's Protected Areas Strategy.
The Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council has 11 volunteer members. Appointed by Cabinet for a three-year term, they have a variety of backgrounds and come from all regions of the province.
The current members of the Council are:
Born in Port aux Basques, Phyllis moved to St. John's when she was a small child and returned to her home community in 1949, following Confederation. Her husband's occupation meant 12 moves in the first 13 years of their marriage, including a shift to the United States. In 1972, the Bairds returned to Newfoundland and settled in the Codroy Valley. An active volunteer when her children were young, Ms Baird has been a board member of the Codroy Valley Development Association since 1989. She also sits on the boards of the Farmers' Association, the Codroy Valley Waste Management Committee (she is the current Vice-president), and Codroy Valley Vacations. Since 1997, she has been the Executive Director of the Codroy Valley Area Development Association. She is also a member of the Stewardship Association of Municipalities. This is her first term on the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council.
A senior wildlife biologist with the Department of Environment and Conservation's Inland Fish and Wildlife Division (located in Corner Brook), Ms Doucet assesses the potential impacts of human development on wildlife habitat and populations. She has extensive knowledge of caribou and black bear research and is currently involved in land-use planning for wildlife values. She earned her B.Sc. in Biology from Concordia University in Quebec, an M.Sc. in Zoology from the University of Guelph, Ontario, and conducted PhD research at Texas A&M University. Her strong background in landscape ecology and experience in wildlife habitat management give her a solid basis for contributions to WERAC. Ms Doucet is also a member of the provincial Species Status Advisory Committee. She enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing and is an active Search and Rescue volunteer. This is her first term on the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council.
Peter Genge works for the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture program and is responsible for identifying habitat areas for waterfowl, and negotiating stewardship agreements between stakeholders in Western Labrador. He is a contributing editor for 53 North Magazine, a Labrador journal with significant natural history content. He began his professional career as a teacher. This is his first term on the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council.
Dr. Luise Hermanutz
Luise Hermanutz is an Associate Professor of Biology at Memorial University specializing in Plant Ecology and Conservation Biology. Her current research centres on endangered species, effects of climate change on the environment, and protected areas management issues in national parks and ecological reserves on the Island and in Labrador. Dr. Hermanutz was a member of the "Panel on Ecological Integrity of Canada's National Parks," which produced a two-volume report on the management and viability of Canada's national parks. She is also a member of the Species Specialist Advisory Committee (SSAC), which advises the provincial government on species at risk, and the Limestone Barrens Species at Risk Recovery Team. She lives in Portugal Cove and loves the outdoors and our wild spaces. This is her second term on the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council.
Laura Jackson is a national trustee of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and was for nine years a regional co-ordinator for World Wildlife Fund Canada's Endangered Spaces Campaign. She is the Executive Director of the Protected Areas Association (PAA) of Newfoundland and Labrador, a position she has held since 1991. The PAA is a province-wide, not-for-profit non-government organization that works to protect biodiversity through a province-wide network of parks and reserves. She is also a contributor to a chapter of the 1995 book Protecting Canada's Endangered Spaces. Her education and experience include writing, music, riding, native and adult education, and research and community development, focussed primarily in the Northwest Territories, Alberta, Ottawa, Nova Scotia, and Labrador. For 16 years she was a Field Representative and Program Developer for Memorial University (MUN) Extension Service in Labrador. Ms Jackson was awarded the year 2000 YM-YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, and in 2004 the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Award for an Individual. She has lived in St. John's since 1990. This is her fifth term on the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council.
Born and raised on the Burin Peninsula, Bill Kelly moved to Labrador in 1970 after graduating from Memorial University. He was a teacher during his professional career, retiring in 1996. He lives in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and enjoys many outdoor activities, including hunting, fishing, and snowmobiling. Bill Kelly is the current Coordinator of the Happy Valley-Goose Bay Ground Search and Rescue Team. This is his first term on the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council.
Born in St. John's, John McCarthy completed the Pre-Forestry Program at Memorial University, earned a Bachelor of Science in Forestry from the University of New Brunswick, and a Masters degree in soil science at the University of Florida (1983). He entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) the same year, and was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1994. Doctoral studies in boreal forest ecology were completed at the University of British Columbia in 2004. His doctoral research focused on the structure and disturbance dynamics of the primary forests of the Main River watershed, and on the forests of the Little Grand Lake Provisional Ecological Reserve. He was awarded the 2002 Canadian Environment Awards' Gold Medal (Lands and Forests category) for his work in boreal forest conservation in Newfoundland. He is deeply interested in historic and contemporary relationships between human culture and the natural environment, as well as the contribution that religious traditions can bring to the development of ethical and moral thinking that promotes the flourishing of both human and biophysical communities. This is his first term on the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council.
Dr. Bill Montevecchi
A biology professor at Memorial University's St. John's campus, Dr. Montevecchi has focused his research on environmental influences on animal behaviour and ecology, and explorations of the use of animal responses as indicators of prey and ecosystem conditions. He has conducted extensive fieldwork at the province's seabird ecological reserves, particularly Cape St. Mary's, Baccalieu Island, and Funk Island. Dr. Montevecchi's many publications include co-authoring Newfoundland Birds: Exploitation, Study, Conservation, with Leslie Tuck, and writing and narrating a CBC radio "Ideas" documentary ("Seabirds: Oceanic Barometers"). He participates regularly in radio and television shows about animal ecology and conservation biology, and gives many invited lectures. From 1991 to 2001, he chaired Memorial University's graduate interdisciplinary Biopsychology Program, which is designed around education and research in Behavioural Ecology. He is Vice-president of the Canadian Coast Guard Regional Advisory Council on Preparedness for Large Oil Spills in Newfoundland and Labrador, a member of the National Science Advisory Council of Bird Studies Canada and the Species Status Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador, and a Director of the Nature Conservancy of Canada/Atlantic Region. He was the former Chair of the Canadian Endangered Species Recovery Team for Harlequin Ducks, and a former Director of the Canadian Nature Federation. This is his second term on the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council.
A retired wildlife enforcement officer from Central Newfoundland, Mr. Porter has extensive experience in wildlife management and knowledge of the province's natural history, which is valuable to protected-areas planning and conservation education. This is his first term on the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council.
Mr. Ryan is a fisherperson from the Northern Peninsula with a strong connection to the marine environment and a high conservation ethic, both critical to the development of protected-areas planning. He is the mayor of Port Saunders. This is his second term on the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council.
Originally from the small fishing and logging town of Powell River, British Columbia, Dr. Len Zedel is currently an associate professor (Physics and Physical Oceanography) at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's. He graduated with an M.Sc. in Physics from the University of Victoria, and earned his Ph.D. in Physical Oceanography from the University of British Columbia. Since moving to Newfoundland with his wife, he has been an active member (and former President) of the Natural History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, and is currently Vice-president. Through his academic and volunteer endeavours, Dr. Zedel has gained extensive experience helping to protect our environment and natural heritage, including participating in reviews of environmental assessment reports, work on ocean pollution, underwater noises, and offshore oil developments, and participating in integrated resource management and forest management planning. This is his first term on the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council.
Members of the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council are appointed by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Each appointment is for three years, and may be renewed.
WERAC nominees are put forward by WERAC members, Members of the House of Assembly, government employees, and members of the public. The Department of Environment and Conservation reviews the responses using the following criteria:
The Department recommends a list of nominees to Government. Once government has decided on the appointments, the Department notifies successful members.
The Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council meets for four two-day sessions per year, in a variety of locations around the province. In addition, members may attend public meetings held to discuss proposed reserves. Members are not paid for their time, but their expenses are covered.
There are currently no vacancies on the council.
Please contact WERAC via the WERAC Secretariat at the Parks and Natural Areas Division, Department of Environment and Conservation.
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