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Groups applaud New Brunswick government’s land conservation pledge

New Brunswick launching plan to increase amount of protected lands
WATCH: New Brunswick is launching an ambitious plan to increase the amount of protected land in the next year. As Travis Fortnum reports, an announcement at Fundy National Park aligns with federal conservation goals.

Environmental and conservation groups are applauding a commitment from the New Brunswick government to protect 10 per cent of the province’s total landmass by 2020.

Energy and Resource Development Minister Mike Holland made the announcement Monday morning at Fundy National Park, saying the federal government’s Canada Nature Fund will help New Brunswick reach its target.

“By the time this is all said and done, we will have conserved the geographical land space of Prince Edward Island,” said Holland.

READ MORE: New Brunswick announces $2.5 million Environmental Trust Fund

Currently, the province has the second-lowest percentage of total protected land compared to the rest of Canada at 4.6 per cent.

It lines up with a national initiative to protect at least 17 per cent of the country’s land and freshwater by the end of next year.

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Five environmental and conservation organizations — the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Nature NB and the Nature Trust of New Brunswick — have issued a joint statement in support of the provincial government’s move.

They say conserving more habitat will protect both native and migratory plants and animals, including species at risk, that rely on New Brunswick habitats for their survival.

“I think it’s a very ambitious schedule and I wish we had started 15 years ago but that’s not the point and it shouldn’t detract from today’s good announcement,” said Lois Corbett, executive director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick,

“We have to make progress.”

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Leave the leaves on the ground
Leave the leaves on the ground

There remain questions over how the province will balance environmental protection with the industries that draw from those lands.

“We’re certainly not opposed to finding conservation opportunities to increase conservation objectives for the province,” says Mike Legere, executive director of Forest New Brunswick.

“Woodflow is very much a tricky aspect. Any time you start taking wood out of the land base, locking it up for conservation purposes… that has an impact on how wood will move to the mills that need the wood.”

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Holland didn’t wait to address these concerns.

“There is an opportunity for collaboration between industry and the conservation groups,” he said.¬†“The best mechanism with which to achieve that is through communication.”

This report by the Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2019.