Drones Banned In Canada's National Wilderness Areas

by Jennifer Smith June 04, 2019

Aerial drones will be banned, dog leashes made mandatory and small group picnics allowed inside Canada's 55 national wilderness areas under a proposed overhaul of rules governing access to federal wilderness lands.

Environment and Climate Change Canada says its goal is to better manage more than a million hectares of wildlife habitat across the country.

Manager Sabrina Kemp says much has changed since the national wildlife area rules were created more than forty years ago.

Like the arrival of aerial drones.

"That's a new reality. We've proposed prohibiting the taking off and landing of drones within the national wildlife area because that would minimize low level flight of drones and that's of most concern," says Kemp, manager of wildlife compliance, promotion and regulatory development in the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Wilderness area different from national park

Federal wildlife areas are not national parks, which are designed to reflect eco-regions of Canada and attract people.

The wildlife areas are set aside to protect wildlife first and foremost.

The regulatory update proposes new prohibitions, changes existing ones and clarifies activities allowed under permit.

Some of the changes:

  • Bans the introduction of organisms to protect from invasive species.
  • Wildlife officers will have the power to capture, even destroy domestic animals that pose a danger in a national wildlife area.
  • Domestic animals must be on a leash no longer than three metres.
  • The new regulations would lift a ban on picnics, but limit them to 15 people to prohibit large groups such as organised bus tours.
  • Bans selling of goods and services inside a wildlife area, allows paid non-intrusive wildlife trips sold outside.

If adopted, new regulations would come into force in the winter or spring of 2020. Ottawa has invited public comment until July.

Sea Wolf Island National Wildlife Area, locally referred to as Margaree Island, is located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, about four kilometres off the coast of Cape Breton. (Environment and Climate Change Canada photo)

Garry Donaldson, manager of wildlife assessment for the Atlantic region of the Canadian Wildlife Service, says the modernisation has been in the works for a while.

"We're hoping to really strengthen our ability to protect nature and I think that these new regulations allow us to do that in a fair way across the country and certainly Atlantic Canada and Nova Scotia will benefit from those changes."

Nova Scotia's national wildlife areas

There are six national wildlife areas in Nova Scotia. All but one are on the coastline.

  • Sand Pond is the lone inland wildlife area. It covers 531 hectares in Yarmouth County.
  • Boot Island is in the Minas Basin at the mouth of the Gaspereau River.
  • Chignecto near Amherst
  • John Lusby Marsh, a large salt marsh also near Amherst.
  • Wallace Bay on the Northumberland Strait.
  • Sea Wolf Island near Margaree in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

A seventh national wildlife area is progress. It is Isle Haute, an 80-hectare area in the upper Bay of Fundy.

Story re-posted from CBC. Written by Paul Withers. 

Jennifer Smith
Jennifer Smith