Inactive for years after government failed to appoint new members
After years of inactivity, the provincial government’s Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council (WERAC) appears to be back in business.
On Tuesday, the Department of Environment and Conservation announced new appointments to the council. For more than two years, the province failed to appoint new members or reappoint old ones, leaving it inactive.
Created in 1980, WERAC is an 11-member committee that advises the government on the creation, management and termination of wildlife and ecological reserves in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The revamped committee includes eight new members and three reappointments. Their three-year terms are effective May 1. One of the reappointed members is seabird expert Bill Montevecchi, a research professor at Memorial University.
“I think it’s just terrific that this committee is up and running again,” he told The Telegram Wednesday.
The backgrounds of those set to fill out the committee are varied, including representation from people with past or current involvement in the adventure tourism sector, mining, law enforcement, academia and environmental groups.
“It looks like a really good, solid hard-working committee,” said Montevecchi.
Joe Goudie, a newcomer to the committee, brings a wealth of work experience to WERAC. He’s a former CBC journalist, served as a provincial cabinet minister for several years, was president of the Labrador Métis Association and most recently has assisted with efforts to establish a national park in Mealy Mountains.
“I have some experience here in Labrador dealing with various levels of government and so on, so when they asked if I’d agree to be nominated, I agreed,” said Goudie, who lives in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and is the only member of the committee based in Labrador.
“I’ve got an interest in preserving much of the area of our province, and there are some areas that haven’t even been addressed yet in my opinion, so I hope to have them discussed somewhere along the way.”
Having spent 15 years previously on the committee, Montevecchi told The Telegram he was admittedly surprised to be asked back into the fold. Interviewed by The Telegram in March, Montevecchi was highly critical of the PC government for its handling of environmental matters and WERAC in particular.
“To tell you the honest truth, yes, I was surprised. I’m glad it happened.”
Being invited back to the committee will in no way temper his perspective.
“There’s only one reason that you give advice, and that’s to help. That doesn’t mean there won’t be conflicts. It doesn’t mean there can’t be tensions. That’s just part of the job.”
He also gave the department credit for reappointing him.
“I take it that’s a fairly courageous and forthright action on their part, and I’ll try and act in exactly the same way and work to help.”
The Telegram attempted to arrange an interview Wednesday with Environment and Conservation Minister Joan Shea, but she could not be reached for comment. In a news release issued Tuesday, Shea said she was pleased to be announcing the appointments.
“These members will bring expertise and regional representation to the advisory council and make a valuable contribution in our efforts to ensure the preservation of our wilderness and ecological reserves and the protection of natural areas in our province,” she said in the news release.
A firm date for when the committee will first meet has not been set, but Goudie said it’s his understanding this will happen in September.
The committee’s other members are Keith Frampton, Victor French, Barbara Genge, Luise Hermanutz, Victoria Neville, Thomas Philpott, Yolanda Wiersma, Graham Wood and Len Zedel.