Wetland Policy – Where is it?

In the news: Chronicle-Herald, October 20, 2010

The Nova Scotia government still hasn’t enacted a wetlands conservation policy almost a year after it was supposed to be in place.

And the Ecology Action Centre is displeased.

Jennifer Graham, the Halifax centre’s coastal co-ordinator, said Tuesday that the process had been running on time until a couple of stakeholder groups received a two-month extension to last November’s deadline for input into the draft document.

“Then there was no sign of it,” Graham said. “We ask and we ask. We hear that there has been some disagreement at the cabinet table and we wonder what the holdup is.”
The policy was to be in place last December as part of the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act.

Graham said she has heard from various sources that some agricultural groups and the provincial departments that support agriculture “aren’t liking the way this rolled out.”
She thinks some of the issues involve scrublands or areas with a mix of alder bushes and cattails normally not thought of as wetlands.

“A lot of the frustration I’m having is that there are concerns . . . (but) the industry interests that are concerned and the departments that are concerned should actually talk to the staff that are working on this and have participated in the process,” Graham said. “There was a lot of time to consult on this, and to try to stall it at the political level, that’s not cool.”

Environment Department spokeswoman Michelle Lucas said the policy is still at the department level and hasn’t reached the cabinet table.

“We certainly would like to have (the policy) done by now, but it is a complex piece of work,” she said. “It’s an important policy . . . and we want to make sure we get it right.”
The department is trying to balance opportunities for sustainable economic development with a commitment to prevent a net loss of wetlands in the province, Lucas said.
She said there were a lot of submissions and feedback on the draft policy.
“The input was quite large,” she said. “We wanted to make sure we considered all of that input.”

Lucas said Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau “has said he would prefer to have a missed target than a policy that doesn’t work for Nova Scotians.”

Graham said that up to 65 per cent of the province’s salt marshes have been lost to human activities such as diking and development.

“It seems like there’s a lot of pressure to fight back against some pretty basic legislation,” she said.

The draft policy’s goals include preventing further loss of salt marshes and ecologically significant wetlands, Graham said. Another goal is specifying that wetlands of more than 100 square metres could not be altered without a permit.

Graham said she’s worried that more wetlands may be filled in while the policy remains stalled.

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