Wilderness and ecological reserves are special places. They protect the province's natural heritage, and play a key role in the Province's conservation strategy. They are designed to help preserve wilderness, wildlife, and biodiversity for future generations. They also provide outdoor venues for learning, for research, and for enjoyment today.
See a list of our wilderness and ecological reserves. (Download A Guide to our Wilderness and Ecological Reserves, Newfoundland and Labrador (2.7 MB))
Newfoundland and Labrador's wilderness and ecological reserves protect wide-ranging caribou herds, diverse seabird colonies, globally important fossil sites, and habitat for endangered or threatened plants and animals. Several protected areas also capture representative examples of the province's natural regions.
With three exceptions (Cape St. Mary's, Mistaken Point, and Witless Bay Ecological Reserves), these protected areas have few services, no public buildings, no trail markers, and few roads. They are places where nature is meant to reign supreme.
The government of Newfoundland and Labrador designates wilderness and ecological reserves using the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Act (WER Act) . Eighteen wilderness and ecological reserves have been created in the province since the Act was passed in 1980.
The WER Act is considered one of the best examples of wilderness-protection legislation in Canada. It allows the public to participate in how reserves are established and managed, and its high level of protection ensures that the protected areas will always keep their unique natural qualities. The WER Act guides the creation of all reserves. Additional legislation outlines the regulations governing activities within individual wilderness and ecological reserves.
With its emphasis on scientific research and public input, reserve establishment can be a slow process, so the WER Act also allows for "provisional reserves" to be created. Provisional reserves receive protection while they are being reviewed for full designation as permanent ecological or wilderness reserves. In addition, in situations of immediate threat, the WER Act allows the Minister to establish "emergency reserves."
Wilderness and ecological reserves are administered by the Natural Areas Division of the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources. The Division works cooperatively with the Wilderness and Ecological Reserve Advisory Council (WERAC), an independent group of appointed volunteers from across the province who have a wide variety of backgrounds but share an interest in conservation and an awareness of the importance of protected areas. WERAC's mandate is to advise the provincial government on the establishment of new reserves and the management of existing ones.
At Cape St. Mary's and Fortune Head Ecological Reserves, the Division also works closely with "Friends of" groups. It also receives invaluable assistance from the Seabird Ecological Reserves Advisory Committee (SERAC). To learn more about these groups, see Our Partners.
In addition to the WER Act and associated regulations, the Natural Areas Division's Wilderness and Ecological Reserves program is guided by this vision:
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