In 1992, the government of Nova Scotia formally committed to completing a comprehensive system of parks and protected areas which represents our landscape diversity. Other jurisdictions across Canada all made the same commitment. The recent Federal-Provincial Parks Council report, Working Together: Parks and Protected Areas in Canada, provides an overview of the important progress which different jurisdictions have made since 1992.
In the early 1990s, existing National and Provincial Parks, National Wildlife Management Areas, and few properties held by conservation organizations provided a starting point towards meeting Nova Scotia's commitment. Beginning in 1990, Nova Scotia launched an important new, multi-year protected areas planning and public consultation process, which provided a significant new boost.
This planning process led to the selection of 31 Crown-owned areas through a systematic process which recognized the value of protecting (1) representative (typical) examples of our natural landscapes and ecosystems; (2) outstanding natural phenomena (unique features); and (3) opportunities for wilderness recreation.
To provide a framework for protected area planning, an ecological landscape classification system was developed which recognizes eighty distinct natural landscapes throughout Nova Scotia.
The initial system planning process followed a five phase progression, over a period of nearly a decade, which resulted in the 1998 enactment of the Wilderness Areas Protection Act and the designation of 31 Wilderness Areas. This achievement has greatly improved the extent to which representative examples of Nova Scotia's landscape diversity are protected in parks and protected areas.
Phase 1 - Province-wide Natural Areas Inventory
Close to 900 natural areas, greater than 200 hectares in size, were identified and mapped, beginning in 1990, using a province wide air-photo inventory. The selected areas were in relatively natural condition and roadless, and showed minimal cultural impacts.
Phase 2 - Evaluation of Selected Natural Areas
Using the inventory data, 74 large (>2000 hectares), Crown-owned natural areas were then evaluated to identify priority candidates for protection. Areas were scored based on representation values in relation to the surrounding landscape, outstanding natural features, wilderness recreation opportunities, and the occurrence of pre-existing land use commitments. The presence of existing parks and protected areas, such as National and Provincial Parks, was also considered.
Phase 3 - Field Checking of Selected Areas
The most highly rated natural areas were field checked to verify the results of evaluation. Thirty-one potential candidate protected areas were then selected.
Phase 4 - Internal Review of Candidate Protected Areas
Competing resource values, provincial commitments and potential land use conflicts were assessed for each area. Boundaries were finalized, and a moratorium on all new land use commitments was placed on the areas in 1993 to ensure that protection-oriented values would not be compromised while the review process continued. The moratorium applied to all candidate protected areas, or to about 287,000 hectares of provincial Crown land.
Phase 5 - Public Review and Designation
The proposed system plan, including the 31 candidate protected areas, was released for public review and comment in 1994. The planning process, to this point, is summarized in the publication, A Proposed System Plan for Parks and Protected Areas in Nova Scotia. An independent public review committee held 26 meetings in 13 locations and received many written submissions. This process garnered nearly 600 public submissions, which are reflected in the public review committee's report. The report, with recommendations, was accepted by the province in 1995. A protected areas strategy was subsequently adopted by the province in 1997, including an action plan and interim management guidelines for the 31 candidate protected areas. The 1998 enactment of the Wilderness Areas Protection Act effected the designation of these special areas.
Looking Ahead: A Future Built on Partnerships
A management framework is currently being developed to guide implementation of the Wilderness Areas Protection Act, and to ensure protection of Nova Scotia's Wilderness Areas. Public consultation will play an important role in managing Wilderness Areas, as will shared environmental stewardship. Partnerships, especially at the community level, will be encouraged for the planning, development, and ongoing management of these areas.