Protected Natural Areas are a precious heritage for the people of New Brunswick. They are nature reserves that are legally protected under the Protected Natural Areas Act. The first Protected Natural Areas were designated in 2003. Thirty of these areas had been previously protected as conservation areas or ecological reserves and were then converted to the Protected Natural Areas status.
Protected Natural Areas are sanctuaries that allow nature to exist with minimal human interference. They host a diversity of wildlife and plants across a range of forests, lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands. Forests in Protected Natural Areas are allowed to grow old and maintain primeval characteristics such as standing dead trees, or large decaying trunks on the forest floor. These are important to many wildlife species, ranging from butterflies to the American marten. Rich in biodiversity, Protected Natural Areas are linked to people and communities. They have cultural, spiritual and aesthetic value. They also provide benefits such as flood control, production of clean air and water, and assist in the maintenance of rare species.
While New Brunswickers can continue to enjoy the unique rewards of nature through activities like hiking, camping and hunting, these sites restrict industrial activities and higher impact recreation. They also offer natural areas for scientific research and education.
There are two classes of Protected Natural Areas where different restrictions apply. The majority of the new Protected Natural Areas were designated as Class II sites, thus allowing low-impact recreational activities. The more restrictive Class I designation is reserved for sites that host plant or wildlife species that are deemed too sensitive to sustain disturbance. One such site south of Perth-Andover was identified during the planning stage of the Trans-Canada Highway. Highway construction was rerouted to circumvent this exceptionally rich hardwood forest, which is now a class I Protected Natural Area.