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Make Room for Nature

Getting to 30% Protected Areas

Scientists have advocated for greater global biodiversity protection for many years, insisting that large-scale protected areas commitments could help mitigate not only the current extinction crisis but also complement the Paris Agreement on climate change, helping to conserve species, avoid catastrophic effects of climate change, and secure essential ecosystem services that all people depend on. In an April 2019 Science article, scientists presented an updated Global Deal for Nature that included land, freshwater and marine ecosystems and called for protecting at least 30 percent of lands by 2030, with an additional 20 percent of land protected as “climate stabilization areas.” 

In response to the following UN Convention on Biodiversity call for expanded global protected areas, Canada has committed to a two-stage expansion of our protected areas system. The federal budget will invest $3.2 billion, over five years, to establish new terrestrial and marine protected areas across Canada, including in Nova Scotia. There has never been a bigger investment for nature protection, so it is a milestone worth celebrating! 

While more funding will be needed to ensure Canada meets its commitment to protecting 25% of land and ocean by 2025 and 30% by 2030, Budget 2021 has charted a clear path for action on species loss and climate change. For Nova Scotia’s part, the provincial government is committed to increasing protected areas to 20% by 2030. Nature Nova Scotia supports these ambitious goals and encourages all Nova Scotians to take up the call to action. Over 2022-2023, we are sharing educational snapshots about Nova Scotia’s protected areas system, why protected areas are so important, and how you can get involved in the processes in place to create new protected areas. Help us Make Room For Nature by getting informed and engaging your local or national representative on this important issue.

Protected Areas in Nova Scotia


There are several kinds of protected areas in Nova Scotia, each afforded varying degrees of legal protection and administered by different bodies: National Parks and Provincial Parks, which both protect important natural features and provide for some recreational activities, Wilderness Areas, which allow for some economic and recreational activities, Nature Reserves, which generally limit human use, and Private Conservation Lands owned or stewarded by land trusts.

Unfortunately, many protected areas in Nova Scotia are not as protected as the public assumes. Owl’s Head Provincial Park, long assumed to be officially protected, was secretly delisted from the Parks and Protected Areas Plan in 2019 and nearly sold off to a private developer before action from local citizens saved the area. Then, in 2022, the province entertained yet another proposal from the Cabot Group to build a golf course at West Mabou Beach Provincial Park, and citizens again had to come to the rescue.

How many times must concerned citizens fight the same fight?

The issues aren’t changing – so the legislation has to. Together, we can put pressure on the government to update and strengthen the Provincial Parks Act to ensure that all of our provincial parks and park reserves remain protected forever. Will you sign onto our letter asking government to strengthen protections for these important natural and recreational spaces?

Owls Head by Sea, by Peter Copus
It can also be difficult to get new protected areas designated in Nova Scotia. Start with these pieces from the 2021 and 2022 State of Nature Report, where we profiled the creation of new protected areas over the last couple years and shed light on concerning misinformation being spread by industry lobby groups:
Read our summary of the issues Ingram River faced on its way to protection:
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Now, write to the Department of Environment and Climate Change and your MLA and encourage them to designate all pending Protected Areas left in the 2013 Parks and Protected Areas Plan!

Learn about the decades-long fight to protect Sandy Lake in Bedford:

Much of Sandy Lake is still awaiting legal protection. In 2022, the province identified Sandy Lake as an area they would fast-track desperately-needed housing development, despite existing plans to finish the Regional Park and outcry from scientists, hobby naturalists, and the public. Write to the Premier, your MLA, and municipal councilor and ask them to finally protect this rare wild gem in the city.

Then, read our profile of Nova Scotia’s under-appreciated biodiversity hotspot, the Eastern Shore:
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Take Action for Old Forests and Species At Risk! Demand government finally designate Core Habitat for the Mainland Moose. Practice your ID skills and report the biodiversity around you. Report 10 observations on iNaturalist from 10 hikes around Nova Scotia, and you can apply for Hike Nova Scotia’s Biodiversity Badge!

How Do Protected Areas Benefit Nova Scotians?

They safeguard our fisheries!

Marine Protected Areas are a kind of federal protected area, like our National Parks, that set out a long-term conservation approach for especially rich areas of Canada’s oceans. They protect marine biodiversity but also economically important fisheries, archeological sites, and indigenous cultural areas. Learn more about MPAs in Canada and reach out to your MP to tell them you support the federal 30% by 2030 goal!

They protect us from the worst effects of climate change!

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About 1/4 of the world’s remaining wetlands are found in Canada and 10,456sq km are found right here in the Atlantic maritime and highland ecozones. We think that more wetlands should be formally conserved through the Protected Areas system as well as through updated legislation and policy affecting other public lands. Read our summary from the 2023 World Wetlands Day workshops we co-hosted with Ecology Action Centre, where we heard from wetland professionals and members of the public on how they think wetlands could be better protected in Nova Scotia.

They protect Species At Risk!

For some species, Protected Areas are the only safe refuge from an increasingly fragmented, resource-depleted, urbanized, polluted world. Take the Endangered Mainland Moose, once found throughout the peninsula but now reduced to a disconnected population of perhaps just 1,000 individuals. In 2021, the province finally identified Core Habitat for the Mainland Moose, areas which represent some of the last remaining suitable habitat required for species survival. To date, however, the province has done nothing to meaningfully protect these areas. We think that public lands supporting moose Core Habitat should immediately be designated through the Protected Areas system. Help us convince government to Make Room For Nature by signing our petition to designate Core Habitat for the Mainland Moose. Read our updates on recovery planning efforts for other wetland species, the Canada Warbler and the Wood Turtle.

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They Protect Old Growth Forests!

As is the case for many Species At Risk, for many kinds of old forests the only place safe from human expansion and exploitation is inside Protected Areas. The province updated its Old Forest Policy in 2021, without adopting many of the suggested edits from the natural history community. Read our review of the new policy in the 2022 State of Nature Report.

Take Action

Sign onto our letter asking government to designate all remaining pending protected areas in the now out-of-date Parks and Protected Areas Plan and get to work on a robust new plan for achieving 20% by 2023.

Designate All Remaining Parcels in the Parks and Protected Areas Plan

Your postal address will be automatically added to your message when it is sent.

Together, we can protect these important areas for generations to come

Learn more about the 30% by 2030 goal and how we can help Canada get there by visiting our friends at Nature Canada.

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