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Saturday, 1 March 2014

Wetlands in the Province are in Jeopardy                                 

Sackville Tribune-Post
5 February 2014

In the summer of 2013, a recreational fisherman on wetlands in Kent County, found
evidence that seismic testing for shale gas was in progress.  The Conservation Council
of New Brunswick (CCNB) began to investigate how such blatantly industrial development could be possible in such an environmentally sensitive area.  They learned that the N.B. government had given SWN Resources Canada a blanket permit to test for shale gas along watercourses and wetlands in;  Albert, Kent, Kings, Queens, Sunbury, Northumberland, Westmorland and York counties.  

The Department of Environment and Local Government cited the use of Wetland and
Watercourse Alteration (WAWA) permits allowing for potential shale gas development in 
these areas of the province. Stephanie Merrill, Freshwater Protection Director for CCNB commented that;  ""The Rules for Industry" that government is so proud of are permit conditional, like most of our environmental regulations in N.B.  A proponent can apply for a variance, they write a cheque for the fee, it's given the stamp of approval and off they go." In the wetland of about 16 hectares in Kent County there was evidence of shot hole blasts less than 400 meters from the banks of the Richibucto River, a clearly identified wetland area.

There is, as is so often the case when governments collude with big oil and gas, more bad news.  50% of the wetlands in New Brunswick are "regulated wetlands", these are areas acknowledged by the Department of the Environment through the GeoNB mapping system.  The other 50% are "unregulated wetlands", on the provincial landscape, but not formally mapped.  

In 2011 then Minister of the Environment, Margaret-Ann Blaney made changes to how wetlands are regulated in the province, now the unregulated wetlands require no provincial protection or oversight and will continue to be leased accordingly. Merrill explains, "We've been saying since these changes were made 2 years ago, that the department is actually in violation of their own Clean Water Act by ignoring these wetlands and relieving them from any protection, permitting, tracking and monitoring.  

How can government expect the public to be comfortable with new rules when the old one's aren't even followed"?  The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands bases its philosophy on the conservation and "wise use" of wetlands.  The conventional wisdom here suggests that the best way to maintain the ecological character of wetlands and protect them from extinction is through sustainable development.  "Wise use", therefore, has at its heart the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands and their resources, for the benefit of humankind".  

Local environmental activist Megan Mitton describes the characteristics of wetlands that make them so essential in the natural world.

-  Wetlands filter sediment and debris and remove impurities from the water
-  Wetlands provide flood protection by absorbing water (and holding it for a long time)
-  Wetlands are nurseries for young wildlife
-  Wetlands are a biodiverse ecosystem (2nd to the rainforest in biodiversity)
-  Wetlands provide nutrients and food for plants and animals
-  Wetlands provide habitat and resting places for migrating birds
-  Wetlands provide beautiful places for recreation (hiking, canoeing, birdwatching, photography, etc.)

Since 1900, 50% of the earth's wetlands have disappeared mostly through urban development and population growth, hard to control on a planet of over 7 billion people.
Additional threats to these ecological treasures;  industrial expansion, invasive species, pollution and climate change we do have control over.  That is to say, no drilling, no stripping and no dynamite allowed.

Donna Mclellan for the

Tantramar Alliance Against Hydrofracking

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