The public's opportunity to weigh in on an environmental protection plan that's been 25 years in the making has been extended into the fall.
Last Friday, the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council (WERAC) released its plan — “A Home for Nature: Protected Areas Plan for the Island of Newfoundland.” It identifies 32 areas to be protected across the island portion of the province.
Initially, the public was invited to comment on the document until June 22. But on Friday, WERAC announced in a news release the deadline for submitting feedback has been extended to Oct. 1. After that date, WERAC will submit its recommendations on the plan to the provincial government.
The Telegram first reported in February there was some consternation brewing over ongoing delays in the plan's release. Two members of the WERAC board — Bill Montevecchi and Victoria Neville — resigned earlier this year. The plan was initially drafted in 1995.
If adopted as is, the plan would increase wilderness protection in the province from 6.9 per cent to 8.7 per cent. Each of the 32 proposed protected areas would also be the subject of public hearings.
To aid the feedback process, a new online questionnaire can be found on the WERAC consultation page at www.engageNL.ca. According to the news release, WERAC is also reviewing options for community consultations. The advisory council would start with virtual consultations — due to the COVID-19 pandemic — and move to in-person consultations when possible.