Friday, June 11, 2010

So that's how federal protected areas designations work... Update on Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve

I published a post a couple of days ago suggesting that the formal designation of the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA) Reserve in Haida Gwaii was a fait accompli. Well, that's not exactly how these sorts of things work.

My earlier Gwaii Haanas post mentioned that in order to make the NMCA Reserve designation official, Environment Minister Jim Prentice had to table an amendment to Schedule 2 of the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act in both Houses of Parliament - to be reviewed by their respective committees responsible for protected areas designations. According to the Act, the committees have 31 sitting days to review and collect evidence on the amendment (called an Order in Council) and decide whether or not to reject it. This is largely a formality to ensure that new protected areas are not squeezed into law without oversight, and is parliamentary process nonetheless.

Minister Prentice tabled the amendment on Monday, June 7th, at which time it was passed along to the House Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development and the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. The Senate committee did "not disapprove" Prentice's Order in Council on June 8th, but it took the House committee until yesterday afternoon to arrive at a similar decision. The House committee heard testimony from several of Parks Canada's senior executive staffers before it decided to waive the 31 day review period and allow the Gwaii Haanas NMCA Reserve to be added to Schedule 2 of the Act without delay. Excellent news!!

But here's the best part: Nature Canada staffers were on an elevator with Parks Canada's senior executives when they heard the news about the committee's decision!! Just as news of the committee's decision broke, myself, Ahmed Zedan and Kim Pham-Huy were crammed into an elevator in Parliament's West Block just after the committee went in camera, alongside Parks Canada CEO, Alan Latourelle; Director General of the National Parks Directorate, Ron Hallman; Director of Park Establishment, Kevin McNamee; and Senior Counsel of Legal Services, Louise Bourbonnière, as well as senior staff from CPAWS and the Nature Conservancy of Canada. We all heard that the Gwaii Haanas NMCA Reserve was official via Alan Latourelle's Blackberry - quite a coincidence!

So there you have it - a bit more insight into what exactly has to happen to formally designate a federal protected area. And a funny coincidence that we heard the great news where and with whom we did! Congrats to the Haida Nation, CPAWS, CPAWS BC, Parks Canada and other organizations for the many years of hard work they put into getting this protected area established!


moreparksppl said...

what great news and a fabulous coincidence.