Sierra Club of Canada: 1996 Rio Report Card


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New Brunswick

D

Biodiversity

1993 Grade : F

1994 Grade: C

1995 Grade: F

1996 Grade: D

The province of New Brunswick is still falling behind other provincial governments in setting aside protected areas. This is largely because a number of key ecosystems requiring protection are already within logging plans. Old growth forest is mostly gone in New Brunswick, which is intensively managed for industrial fibre production across the landscape.

Given the government and industry acceptance of an intensive short rotation management regime for the province, coupled with a very tight wood supply situation, it is unlikely that old growth forests, or the species that depend upon them will have a chance in the province. With native species like pine, hemlock, cedar and spruce that could live for 200 to 400 years being reduced to a 40-year rotation plan, it is inevitable that forest biodiversity is being lost. That is why so many New Brunswick residents have become committed to saving the Christmas Mountains, one of the last significant areas of old growth. The forested mountains have recently been damaged by blow-down, but opportunities still exist to preserve forested biodiversity in the Christmas Mountains.

Points go, however, to the province for the attempt to curb clear-cut "liquidation cuts" on the 30 per cent of the land base held by small private woodlot owners. On May 24, 1996, Premier Frank McKenna announced a change in government policy to disallow any clear-cut logging of more than 10 per cent of a private woodlot in any given year. If a management plan is filed and accepted, landowners could receive permission to harvest above the 10 per cent limit. But in the absence of a management plan, the province will increase taxes on the land by four to five times for four years. While it is unlikely this new policy will be effective in cases of absentee ownership, it is certainly worth giving credit for any efforts to arrest the spread of clear-cutting on private lands. We look forward to moves to reduce clear-cutting on Crown and large industrial freehold land as well.

On endangered species, the province deserves credit for amendments to its endangered species legislation. The new Act, coupled with new regulations will increase the number of species given legal protection, as well as extend habitat protection to fauna. However, the habitat protection provisions are considered weak. Moreover, the Act does not protect the full range of COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) endangered species in New Brunswick, eliminating those which might disappear from the province of New Brunswick, if found elsewhere. Due to public outcry, the Bald Eagle and the lynx will still be granted protection even though they are in this category. Many old growth forest plants remain at risk, without protection.

A litany of issues raised in last year's report card remain: the Peticodiac River, and its famous tidal bore, remain at risk due to the closure of gates at its mouth; the harvesting of rockweed from the Bay of Fundy was allowed to proceed; and the province is still planning to push a major four-lane highway through the province's largest freshwater wetland, in the riding of the environment minister.

The Grand Lake Meadows project, as the new twinned extension of the Trans-Canada highway is known, would be built in a massive 5,000-hectare wetland. Local conservationists have asked the federal government to intervene with an environmental assessment. They have also identified less environmentally damaging potential routing for the highway. Meanwhile, the Grand Lake Meadows project brings down the biodiversity grade on the protection of wetlands.

B


New Brunswick - Toxics/Pollution

1996 Grade: B

While we have not graded New Brunswick for this item before, it is important to credit the provincial government for its work on air issues. The Clean Air Act brought in this year is a substantial achievement in a province where people were dying for clean air. The province's aggressive stance on acid rain, an issue which emphatically has not gone away, as well as the impacts of cross-border ground level ozone from Maine is also worth a positive note.


New Brunswick - Climate Change

D+

1993 Grade: -

1994 Grade: C

1995 Grade: C+

1996 Grade: D+

Carbon dioxide emissions (kilotonnes)
1990: 14,327
1994: 14,346
Increase: 0.13%

Automobile emissions are up 146 kilotonnes over 1990.

New Brunswick gets a lower grade this year because it hasn't moved much beyond where it was for last year's Rio Report Card assessment, particularly on the automobile front. The Province needs to do more to raise the profile of climate change in the province and to defend the province's interests around potential impacts - risk to fisheries, forests and food production, water quality and availability, damage to coastal communities and habitat from extreme weather events and health impacts.

It should also consider mandatory vehicle inspection in urban centres, registration fees geared to vehicle efficiency, or rebate programs aimed at taxing gas guzzlers and rebating gas sippers, and vehicle labelling programs that show vehicle consumption and emissions. The province also needs to play a greater role nationally calling for higher vehicle efficiency standards.

The province also needs to bring climate change issues to the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canada Premiers which has just reactivated its environmment committee.

New Brunswick Action Plan puts a lot of faith in the potential of natural gas. The gas could come in from a number of sources, including the proposed Sable Island Offshore Project, with a pipeline being proposed by West Coast Energy, another proposal could bring eastern gas in from Quebec, another would pipe it in from Portland, Maine. Royalty issues with the Nova Scotia government were recently settled with offshore Sable Island developers and preparations are now under way for National Energy Board approvals and environmental assessment.

The New Brunwick government believes "natural gas is important for the economic development of the Atlantic Region and would play a key role in diversifying energy supply and meeting air quality objectives."

Once available, gas could be used to fire the Colson Cove thermal power plant outside Saint John, and perhaps Irving Oil's refinery; home heating is unlikely in the near future for cost and accessibility reasons - most homes are electrically heating making conversions expensive. Natural gas would definitely contribute to lowering acid and smog emissions which clearly are seriously affecting the maritime environment and human health; greenhouse gas emissions would also be lowered, but not substantially.


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