Fisheries and Land Resources

The WER Advisory Council

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador passed the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Act (WER Act) in 1980. It was designed to guide the creation of a system of protected areas in the province that would preserve wilderness, representative or unique ecosystems, species, or natural phenomena.

Under the Act, an 11-member council called Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council - or WERAC - was also created. WERAC's mandate is to advise government on the establishment, management and termination of wilderness and ecological reserves within the province. WERAC is an independent group made of citizens from a variety of backgrounds and all regions of the province. Its members are appointed by Government for three-year terms, which can be renewed. The Council's work and recommendations are directed by scientific research and public input. WERAC makes its recommendations on reserve creation to Government; Government itself makes the final decisions.

The vision of WERAC is the conservation and preservation of natural landscapes and seascapes in Newfoundland and Labrador for current and future generations through the timely establishment of a functioning network of protected areas throughout the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Using an open and consultative process, WERAC accepts the following values:

ValuesAction Statements
TransparencyThe Council will exercise due diligence when considering the opinions and points of view of different parties for the purpose of advising the Minister on matters related to ecological and wilderness reserves.
AccountabilityThe Council is dedicated to providing accurate and timely information to primary clients and to working within legislated timeframes.
ResponsibilityThe Council will work to ensure that the interests and concerns of the public are considered and accurately represented. The Council will use a comprehensive understanding of ecology, and the social and economic impacts on reserves when advising the Minister.
Stewardship of Our Natural HeritageThe Council is dedicated to ensuring long term conservation and preservation of our natural heritage, using best available science and local knowledge.
Appreciation of Our Natural HeritageThe Council will work to ensure appreciation of protected areas. This will include engaging the public and supporting appropriate activities in reserves.

The council's lines of business include:

  • Examining areas of the province in order to determine which areas are suitable for the establishment of a reserve (i.e., three criteria guide reserve creation; large wilderness areas, ecosystem representation and rare natural phenomena)
  • Accepting recommendations from the public in relation to the establishment of, change to, or termination of a reserve (i.e., through presentations, letters of nomination, etc.)
  • Consulting stakeholders and conducting public hearings to consider submissions, representations and objections respecting the establishment, change to, or termination of a reserve
  • Reporting to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, through the Minister, on the advisability of reserve establishment. This includes a review of the benefits and disadvantages of the establishment, and with a review of the public hearing proceedings.
  • Making recommendations to the Minister on the management of existing reserves.

The Province's Natural Areas Program, which oversees management and establishment of wilderness and ecological Reserves, works cooperatively with WERAC. Typically, the council meets four times a year, for two days each time. The WERAC Secretariat, consisting of an Executive Secretary, operates from the Program's headquarters in Corner Brook.

Propose an Area for Protection

Individuals, groups, government departments or non-governmental organizations can propose an area for protection under the WER Act by completing the WERAC Study Area Nomination Form PDF (129 KB). Together, WERAC and the Natural Areas staff work to ensure that all public and private interests are fairly heard and considered when reserves are being planned and established. Public meetings are called to acquire input when reserves are proposed; WERAC members are in attendance. Once a reserve is created, the Natural Areas Program manages it, and ensures that it keeps its ecological integrity.

The Province has made great progress in its conservation goals. Twenty reserves have been created since the WER Act was passed in 1980, and more are planned. WERAC's important and challenging task remains: to work towards the public release and review of the natural areas system plan, and then work cooperatively with communities, industry, and other members of the public to create a viable protected areas system.

Learn more about Newfoundland and Labrador's Protected Areas Strategy.

Today's Council

The Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council has 11 volunteer members. Appointed by Cabinet for a three-year term, they have a variety of backgrounds and come from all regions of the province.

Members were appointed to the council in June 2017. Current membership and bios are below:

Dr. Bill MontevecchiMemberPortugal Cove - St. Phillips
Dr. Luise HermanutzMemberPortugal Cove - St. Phillips
Mr. Graham WoodMemberLewisporte
Ms. Erin StapletonMemberSt. John's
Mr. Evan EdingerMemberTorbay
Mr. Joe BrazilMemberPasadena
Mr. Bryn WoodMemberHappy Valley - Goose Bay
Ms. Victoria NevilleMemberHappy Valley - Goose Bay
Mr. Thomas PhilpottMemberCorner Book
Ms. Lanna CampbellMemberSt. John's
Mr. Stanley OliverMemberHappy Valley - Goose Bay

Mr. Graham Wood
Mr. Wood has Bachelors degrees in Biology and Biochemistry and in Education from Memorial University and a Masters degree in Curriculum and Administration Education from the University of Ottawa. He has spent the last 36 years in a variety of roles in the Newfoundland and Labrador, NWT, Manitoba and BC education systems, including as Principal, Vice-Principal, and Program Specialist (Math and Science). Mr. Wood is committed to preserving our natural heritage and values outdoor activities, including, snowmobiling, hunting, fishing, and hiking. He has served as a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Seabird Advisory Council, Aquaculture and Emerging Fisheries Committee of the Schooner Economic Development Corporation, Notre Dame Rod and Gun Club, and former Marystown Shipyard Board. Mr. Wood has operated an ecotourism boat tour business for 14 years, showcasing local bird colonies, whales and Beothuk heritage sites, and Exploits Island. He has previously served on the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council (1998-2003 and 2014-2017), including twice as co-chair.

Dr. Luise Hermanutz
Dr. Hermanutz is a Professor of Biology at Memorial University specializing in plant ecology and conservation biology. Her current research focuses on endangered species, effects of climate change on the northern ecosystems, and protected areas management issues in national parks and ecological reserves. Dr. Hermanutz was a member of the "Panel on Ecological Integrity of Canada's National Parks," which produced a two-volume report on the management and viability of Canada's national parks. She is co-chair of the Limestone Barrens Species at Risk Recovery Team and served as a member of the Species Specialist Advisory Committee (SSAC), which advises the provincial government on species at risk. She lived in Portugal Cove for 25 years and loves the outdoors and our wild spaces. She has previously served on the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council (2000-2017).

Dr. Bill Montevecchi
As University Research Professor in Psychology, Biology and Ocean Sciences at Memorial University, Dr. Montevecchi researches environmental influences on animal behaviour and ecology, and explores the use of animal responses as indicators of prey and ecosystem conditions. He has conducted extensive fieldwork at the Province's seabird ecological reserves, particularly Cape St. Mary's, Witless Bay, Baccalieu Island, and Funk Island. Dr. Montevecchi's many publications include co-authoring Newfoundland Birds: Exploitation, Study, and Conservation, with Leslie Tuck. He participates regularly in radio and television shows about animal ecology and conservation biology, and gives many invited lectures. He is a former Vice-president of the Canadian Coast Guard Regional Advisory Council on Preparedness for Large Oil Spills in Newfoundland and Labrador, a member of the National Science Advisory Council of Bird Studies Canada, the NL Species Status Committee (SSAC), and a former Director of the Nature Conservancy of Canada/Atlantic Region. He was the former Chair of the Canadian Endangered Species Recovery Team for Harlequin Ducks, and a former Director of the Canadian Nature Federation. He has previously served on the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council (1993-2017).

Ms. Victoria Neville
Victoria Neville is a resident of Happy Valley Goose Bay, Labrador where she works with the Torngat Wildlife Plants and Fisheries Secretariat. She is also finishing her Ph.D. in Biology at Memorial University, where her dissertation examined contemporary movements of the Newfoundland Atlantic Cod. Victoria has a lasting connection with the coasts of this province, through working on at-sea surveys, and coastal marine research projects. She is actively working on protected areas research (including marine zones). Victoria has previously served on the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council (2014-2017).

Mr. Thomas Philpott
Mr. Philpott holds a Master's degree in Natural Resources Management from the University of Manitoba and Bachelors' degrees in Biology, Psychology and Education from Memorial University. He worked as an educator in Western Newfoundland for over 30 years as a school teacher and curriculum developer for the District 3 school board as well as the private college system. Most recently he has been a lecturer at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University. He has also worked as researcher and consultant for the Western Newfoundland Model Forest, mining, fishery, and aquaculture companies in the private and public sectors. His areas of work in the natural resources ranged from algae and fish behaviour studies, benthic biodiversity, and mercury sediments, to waste management, composting, wind power and forestry issues. He has published " Community Forests Network: A Consultation on the Eastport Peninsula" and "Where Continents Collided : An Outdoor Education Curriculum". Tom is a founding member of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Ltd's Public Advisory Committee (PAC). He is President of the Harbour Authority of Sweet Bay, NL and is currently leading an environmental project in the community. He enjoys many outdoor pursuits including hiking, boating, canoeing, fishing, hunting and skiing.He has previously served on the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council (2014-2017).

Ms. Erin Stapleton
Ms. Stapleton is an independent environmental consultant in St. John's. She has been a project manager and associate with some of Canada's most reputable environmental consulting firms. Her past projects include natural gas pipelines, electric transmission lines, power plants, onshore wind farms, marine terminals and mine expansions, from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador. Her current work focuses on renewable energy and community engagement. Ms. Stapleton is a registered professional planner with the Canadian Institute of Planners (MCIP) and a certified Environmental Professional (EP) in Natural Resources Management. She has a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Biology from Memorial University and a Master of Environmental Design (Planning) from the University of Calgary. She is a volunteer mentor with Women in Science and Engineering - Newfoundland and Labrador (WISE-NL) and is a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association (NEIA) Sector Development Committee. Ms. Stapleton supports the responsible development of our natural resources, but believes it must be balanced with the protection of our natural heritage. She grew up in the community of St. Thomas' (now Paradise) and resides in beautiful downtown St. John's.

Mr. Joe Brazil
Joe Brazil has a BScF. degree from the University of New Brunswick's Forestry program where he specialized in wildlife management. Now retired he spent most of his career with the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador's Wildlife Division where he was the Manager of the Endangered Species and Biodiversity Program. In that role he developed and steered through the legislative process the Province's Endangered Species Act, Regulations and Policy. He also oversaw the Province's species assessment, listing and recovery planning processes and participated on a number of provincial and national recovery teams, chairing several of them. He helped oversee, develop and sometimes co-authored management and recovery plans. He was also responsible for carrying out a number of species inventory and monitoring programs for species as varied as bats, piping plovers, Newfoundland marten, peregrine falcons, and bald eagles. He was the Province's Scientific Authority to CITES and attended several international meetings as part of the Canadian CITES delegation. He was also, for many years, the Province's representative on COSEWIC as well as other provincial and national committees dealing with species at risk and biodiversity issues. He has also been involved in the establishment of protected areas such as wildlife, wilderness and crown land reserves for species at risk. In retirement he has been able to pursue his passion for photography and family history and has worked on several species at risk contracts. He currently lives in Pasadena NL with his wife Marg.

Ms. Lanna Campbell
Ms. Campbell is the Program Director of the Nature Conservancy of Canada in Newfoundland and Labrador; a role that includes coordinating land purchases and donations for their conservation as well as maintaining relationships with a wide range of partners. Originally from the mainland, Lanna grew up on a family farm in rural Quebec. She has an undergraduate degree in geography and environmental studies from Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, and a master's of environmental studies from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. During her academic years she explored the forests of Atlantic Canada, pursuing forest ecology research from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, to Main River, Newfoundland. Over the past ten years Lanna has worked in a variety of sectors; including academia, non-government, industry, and not-for-profit. A self-proclaimed "Newfoundlander by choice," Lanna is endlessly impressed with the rugged, natural landscapes of the province. She lives in Quidi Vidi with her husband, young daughter, black Labrador, and orange cat.

Mr. Bryn Wood
Mr. Wood is a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Analyst working at the Torngat Wildlife Plants and Fisheries Secretariat. He has held similar positions with Nunatukavut, the Nunatsiavut Government, and the Provincial Department of Natural Resources. Through this work he has had opportunity to participate on the Labrador Institute Advisory Board, the Mealy Mountains National Park Steering Committee, the Labrador Conservation Blueprint Project, and Forest Management District Plans for much of Labrador. He has completed the postbaccalaureate certificate program in GIS through Pennsylvania State University and is currently completing a Master's degree at Memorial University with the Department of Geography focused on the use of traditional knowledge and GIS to investigate aspects of climate and environmental change.

Dr. Evan Edinger
Dr. Edinger is a Professor of Geography, Biology and Earth Sciences at Memorial University, specializing in coral reefs, cold-water corals, marine habitat mapping, and marine conservation. Current research projects focus on cold-water corals, cold-water carbonate sediments, and marine habitat mapping in the Arctic and in Newfoundland and Labrador waters, including estimating and predicting the distribution of endangered and sensitive marine species. He has taught conservation biology/geography at Memorial since 2002. He has also contributed to compiling the Marine Special Areas Atlas for Newfoundland and Labrador waters (CPAWS, 2009, 2nd edition 2017), which is used to help guide marine conservation decision making in our province. He lives in Torbay, and enjoys a variety of outdoor pursuits including hiking, skiing, and canoeing.

Mr. Stanley Oliver
Mr. Oliver has been directly involved in the natural resources industry ranging from Forestry to Fisheries for over twenty years. He has worked as a front line conservation officer all the way to senior management within Provincial and Aboriginal governments, including as Director of Renewable Resources with Nunatsiavut Government. He has also been involved in numerous not for profit organizations such as the Labrador Inuit Association, Torngat Fisheries Joint Board, Central Labrador Environment Association and the Lower Churchill Goose Bay Advisory Committee. He has extensive experience as an aboriginal hunter/gather and fisher and has been a senior negotiator and advisor for several indigenous groups specifically as it relates to fisheries.

Joining the Council

Individuals interested in becoming a WERAC member can apply through the Independent Appointments Commission website. The Public Service Commission reviews applications using set criteria, including the following:

  • significant training, experience, or employment in a natural-resource field
  • appreciation for the role of WERAC and the reserves-establishment process
  • interest in and commitment to the protection of the province's natural heritage
  • ability to work in a committee setting and time to commit to the working of the Council

The Department recommends a list of nominees to Government. Once government has decided on the appointments, the Department notifies successful members.

The Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council meets for four two-four sessions per year, in a variety of locations around the province. In addition, members may attend public meetings held to discuss proposed reserves. Members are not paid for their time, but their expenses are covered.

Contact the Council

Please contact WERAC via the WERAC Secretariat at the Natural Areas Program, Land Management Division, Department of Fisheries and Land Resources.

Executive Secretary, WERAC

c/o Natural Areas Program, Land Management Division
Department of Fisheries and Land Resources
P.O. Box 2006
Corner Brook, NL
A2H 6J8
Tel: (709) 637-8051
Fax: (709) 637-8060

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