On May 11, CCNB Action brought to the public’s attention the Environment Minister’s failure to protect wetlands in the province of New Brunswick. The environmental non-governmental organization says that Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney has relieved developers of legal obligations pertaining to building in wetlands.
In March of this year, Blaney suspended permitting processes and environmental reviews for all wetlands which do not to appear on the GeoNB Regulated Wetlands Map.
“The Regulated Wetlands Map was created through aerial photography by the Department of Natural Resources and is in no way complete. There are significantly sized wetlands that exist on the ground that are not included in the GeoNB map. The Minister says these wetlands do not exist even though they are clearly there for all to see”, says Stephanie Merrill, CCNB’s Freshwater Protection Coordinator.
“Roughly 50% of our wetlands are not on her map. We have identified 16 wetlands that are no longer included on the map that the Minister is now using to regulate developments in wetlands or their buffers. As they do not appear on the map, Minister Blaney has informed the developers that they need not comply with the laws governing wetland protection.”
Minister Blaney says that she will have her staff look at the 16 wetlands identified by CCNB Action. Following Blaney’s listening tour on wetlands in March of this year, she announced in a government media release that the provincial government will launch a wetland stakeholder engagement initiative on the future of wetland management in New Brunswick as part of a long-term strategy.
Merrill argues that, “any infringement on a wetland that is greater than one hectare in area or its 30m buffer is required to have a permit. Failing to do so is a violation triggering enforcement action by the Department of Environment. If a wetland is greater than two hectares in area, developers must also register their proposed development under the Clean Environment Act’s Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation so it can be reviewed by environment department staff.”
CCNB Action has investigated a 14 hectare property off of Harrisville Boulevard in Moncton slated to be developed for an apartment building. Merrill points out that, “the proposed development had been registered for an Environmental Impact Assessment at the Department of Environment because the work was planned within the buffer of a wetland which exceeded two hectares in size. The 3.7 hectare wetland is currently full of water and teeming with wildlife such as ducks and beavers. CCNB Action obtained a copy of a release letter to the proponent informing them that they are no longer bound by the law and could proceed because the wetland does not appear on the GeoNB Regulated Wetlands map.”
“The infringement of this wetland or its buffer, though clearly in violation of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Environment Act, is allowed to go ahead with permission by the Minister of Environment. CCNB feels that the Minister has exceeded her authority and needs to issue a clarification that development in wetlands or their buffer that meet the definition in the Clean Water Act and Clean Environment Act, do indeed require permits,” stresses Merrill.
Tracy Glynn is the forestry campaigner for CCNB Action.