“This act will improve protection of our forests, lakes, animals, plants and citizens,” said the provincial Liberal party’s 2017 platform…
The Biodiversity Act for Nova Scotia was re-introduced at the provincial legislature last week, after a 2-year-long delay stemming from concerns that not enough public consultation had taken place during the first introduction in 2019. The idea of an Act to protect biodiversity in Nova Scotia was first brought up by the Department of Lands & Forestry in 2018 and discussed (at least) with some nature conservation groups at that time. Concerned that the Department may not lead any public consultations on the Act, Ecology Action Centre and East Coast Environmental Law collaborated on a series of stakeholder engagement sessions over 2018 and 2019. They released a report in which they made several recommendations for what would make for good biodiversity legislation in Nova Scotia. The Act was first formally introduced in the Spring of 2019, but was pulled from the process because, government said, “more work was needed.”
Lands & Forestry eventually held their own public consultations in the summer of 2019 and also met with stakeholders like EAC and ECELAW, who repeated their original recommendations. Some of these recommendations, and those of other stakeholders, were incorporated into a new draft of the Act and finally introduced by the new Minister Chuck Porter last week as Bill 4: Biodiversity Act.
Why is it needed? Here’s what the Biodiversity Act will do:
- Set out measures for protecting Nova Scotia’s native ecosystems from the threat of invasive species, which are not fully covered by other legislation, such as through the banning of commercial operations selling these species.
- Offer greater protection for plants and other non-mammalian species, to expand the measures of the Wildlife Act to include more wildlife.
- Set out temporary management zones, with the co-operation of landowners if on private land, to allow for better landscape-scale management measures. This could be especially important for fighting new invasive species.
- Introduce new regulations related to land use and compensation for landowners where biodiversity conservation may conflict with current goals. These will each go through new public consultation periods.
Nature Nova Scotia recognizes the dire need for biodiversity law in Nova Scotia, and beyond. Though we would have liked to see more of the recommendations put forward by EAC and ECELAW incorporated into the current draft, we worry that to wait longer will only expedite the decline of our native species and ecosystems. Early environmental laws in Canada (some of which are younger than NatureNS board members and NS Lands & Forestry staff), focused more on point-source pollution, large developments and the environmental assessment process than complex landscape-scale hazards to biodiversity. Facing threats from urbanization, overharvest, invasive species, acidification, climate change, and more, it is clear we need broad legislation that is synergistic with existing Acts to effectively protect and manage our shared natural capital. A Biodiversity Act would not only put us one step closer to saving our natural capital, but also put Nova Scotia at the forefront of biodiversity law in Canada, and the world.
A lot needs to happen still for the Act to become reality…
Next, the Bill will go to Law Amendments, some time in the next couple days or weeks. This is a process in which members of the public (who have registered) may speak for up to 10 minutes about the proposed Bill and recommend changes to it. After this, during a private session of the legislature, changes can be made before the Act is finalized. For information on how to participate in the Law Amendments period, see the Legislature page on presenting to committees.
In the meantime, write to your MLA! Tell them that the time for biodiversity legislation in Nova Scotia is long overdue. Remind them of their commitment to Nova Scotia’s natural capital and to the future of our lands and waters. Don’t let Nova Scotia’s biodiversity slip through the cracks.
You can use our template letter below, copy our messaging to email yourself or print and mail-in, or you can write you own! You can also sign onto or edit a letter drafted by our friends at EAC. Find your MLA’s contact info here.
This action has ended, thanks to those who participated.