The province has reached their 2015 goal of having 12 per cent of Nova Scotia's land protected a bit early.
Last week the provincial government unveiled the new lands getting protection all around Nova Scotia, which amount to over 200,000 hectares of new land. The government actually surpassed their goal, hitting 13 per cent of land.
Despite over 200,000 hectares of land being purchased from Resolute Forest Products late last year, only a small portion of that was included in this latest plan. The rest of the land is going through a consultation process by the Department of Natural Resources, and the report will come out later this year.
"Four years ago, the province set an ambitious target to move from having one of the poorest land protection records to being a national leader," said environment minister Sterling Belliveau. "I thank the many organizations and people who contributed to not only meeting, but surpassing, our 12 per cent goal."
The process will designate 44 new wilderness areas and expand 31 more, and create 118 new nature reserves and expand 11 more. The plan will also add four new provincial parks, and expand 12 more.
In Queens County most of the new land will be turned into nature reserves, with a few new wilderness areas as well. Many small pockets are being added to the Medway and Mersey River watershed, as well as other ecologically sensitive areas. The largest is the Dunraven Bog Nature Reserve at 3,200 hectares, located just below Lake Rossignold by the West Brook. Coffin Island, Ten Mile Lake and Eighteen Mile Lake are also getting expanded protection as nature reserves.
Nature Reserves are the highest level of protection the government can designate.
Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq were consulted to ensure historically sensitive areas are protected and traditional activities and access can continue.
"Protecting our lands and resources has always been important to the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia," said Chief Rod Googoo, Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs. "This plan not only ensures this protection, but also respectfully takes into consideration our traditional use and access."
Environment groups applauded the province's actions on land protection.
"This is a monumental achievement for nature conservation in Nova Scotia. Preserving and protecting these critical wilderness areas will benefit wildlife and citizens for decades to come," said Raymond Plourde, wilderness co-ordinator with the Ecology Action Centre. "We commended the government enthusiastically for their hard work and steadfast support for conservation. Today, Nova Scotia is a national leader."
Extensive public consultation was conduction on protected areas and provincial parks.
To see the plan and interactive maps, visit www.gov.ns.ca/parksandprotectedareas/