N.B. conservation groups say ‘serious action’ needed, more Crown land needs to be protected

Click to play video: 'Conservation groups looking for climate justice talk in N.B. election' Conservation groups looking for climate justice talk in N.B. election
WATCH: New Brunswick conservation groups are looking for campaign commitments during the provincial election to help combat climate change. They want political parties to commit to protecting crown land, wetlands and coastal areas. Callum Smith has the story – Sep 2, 2020

Several conservation groups say New Brunswick needs more protected Crown land — about 20 per cent more.

Advocates say only 4.6 per cent is protected, but that the province needs to hit 25 per cent by 2025.

Lois Corbett, the executive director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, says carbon pollution needs to be reduced and action is needed to protect the province.

Corbett points to a drought this year, following back-to-back record flood seasons.

Read more: All our New Brunswick election 2020 coverage

“Any (political) party that’s not prepared to both reduce pollution and protect towns and villages and its citizens from the impact of climate change, does so, I can argue, at its peril,” she says in an interview.

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“Our water is under stress, our land is under stress … and its pandemic is climate change,” she says. “Its pandemic is mining and forest practices. … We need to see some serious action.”

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She says concrete plans are needed from the party leaders to address these issues.

“We need to peel back some of those big allocations given to some of the big companies,” she says. “This is pretty serious and absolutely necessary to protect nature.”

The dominant use in our Crown forests is to help pulp and paper companies get trees, at a cheap cost, to make toilet paper, she says.

“We need to reintroduce the concept of a Crown forest that is protected with no clear cuts, with much wider buffer zones, with protected areas,” she says.

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Roberta Clowater, the executive director of New Brunswick’s chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, says our focus should be on two of the top threats to economies across the world, as highlighted in the World Economic Forum.

“The biodiversity crisis and the climate change crisis,” she says. “If we don’t get serious about dealing with those two elements, then our economy is going to struggle to be resilient.”

When asked Wednesday, no party would commit to the 25 per cent goal.

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Jeff Carr, who served as the environment minister under the Higgs’ government, says he’s pleased his party is committed to increasing that percentage.

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“Twenty-five is a big number,” he said. “But there’s no reason why we shouldn’t sit down with partners of ours and continue talking about how do we get to 25 per cent in a balanced way.”

Liberal leader Kevin Vickers would only say he was open to listening to all New Brunswickers.

“Obviously, the environment and our land is most important for all our citizens,” he says, “but most importantly, for our children and their children.”

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Green leader David Coon says more details from his party will come out Thursday, but he says the quantity of protected areas is not adequate because it fails “to address the very real needs to protect wildlife, to protect our watercourses, and to ensure that we have a good, healthy, diverse forest, have a diverse forest economy. And to do that, we need to reduce the amount of indiscriminate clearcutting going on and replace it with more selective cutting.”

In a statement to Global News from a People’s Alliance party spokesperson, the party can’t commit to the 25 per cent target with this timeline, but that the party is committed to continuing conservation efforts.

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