Human Footprint

The Human Footprint for Newfoundland and Labrador illustrates the level of human industrial development on the natural landscape as of 2012. Read more

To estimate the extent of human indiustrial influence on the natural landscape, activities that significantly affect the natural landscape
were mapped for Newfoundland and Labrador. The Human Footprint includes five categories of land uses and activities:

  1. Habitation.
  2. Access (roads and trails).
  3. Power generation and distribution.
  4. Resource development activities.
  5. Military, aviation and communications (Labrador only).

For each of the five categories, scores were assigned that range from zero (no influence) to 10 (high impact). For some land uses, there are zones of decreasing effect away from land use itself. To map these, buffers of different widths were extended outward from the land use and
assigned a decreasing score. For example, roads were assigned a maximum score for the road bed, where the land has been converted. Within 100 to 500 metres of the road, where there are associated noise, water and pollution effects, a lesser score was assigned. From 500
to 1000 metres from the road, where indirect impacts may occur from fishing, hunting and firewood cutting, a lower score was assigned. Where more than one type of land use overlapped, such as where an area adjacent to a road is part of an urban area, the scores were added
up to a maximum score of 10. It is important to note that such generalized mapping cannot be considered accurate at local, fine scales.


Labrador’s total population is less than 26,000 people. ‘Urban’ population centres are Happy Valley-Goose Bay (7,552) and Labrador City-Wabush (11,089; Statistics Canada 2011). Parts of Labrador City have both the highest housing density (1409/km2) and population density
(3389/km2). L’Anse-au-Clair has the lowest housing density (2/km2) and population density (4/km2). Urban areas received a score of 10, while rural areas with less than 9.5 inhabitants/km2 or less than 6 dwellings/km2 were assigned scores less than 10.

Access (roads and trails)

The road and trail network in Labrador includes the Trans-Labrador Highway, paved roads, forest access roads, and registered ATV and snowmobile trails, but only those that have been mapped. The Trans-Labrador Highway was scored 10 with a maximum zone of influence
out to 5000 m, a distance reflecting its heavier use. Other paved roads scored 8 with a zone of influence to 1000 m. Forest access roads were scored 6, and trails 4.

Power generation and distribution

Power developments in Labrador, except for small diesel installations on the coast, are hydroelectric. Exising plants include Churchill Falls, and Menihek, which provides power to iron ore mines in Labrador City. The watersheds of the Upper Churchill, Menihek, Ossokmanuan, and Naskaupi Rivers are affected by dams and diversions. The Upper Churchill site has 88 dykes, which total 62 km in length and average 9 meters in height. The Smallwood Reservoir is 6527 km2 in size. (Bazjak and Roberts 2011a,b,c). The Menihek site provides power to western Labrador. Another site, at Twin Falls, is no longer operational. Transmission lines from Churchill Falls supply power to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Northwest River, Sheshatshiu, Labrador City and Wabush. The largest lines deliver power to Quebec. Muskrat Falls, on the Lower Churchill River is under development (Nalcor 2013), and several other sites have have potential for future hydroelectric development (Millan 1973). Various small dams supply community drinking water. 

Resource development (including forestry, agriculture, mineral extraction, and tourism and outdoor).

Forestry. The extent of forest harvesting and silviculture (including thinning and plantations) is relatively local. Tree growth is slow in Labrador and the impact of forest harvesting was scored a 6.
Agriculture. Agricultural lands, including fur farms, are limited in Labrador, with most activities occurring within community boundaries such as Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Mining and Mineral Exploration. Mines themselves were scored 10, and an associated affected area related to waste deposition, air and water pollution, noise, and human influence was scored up to 10 km for large open-pit mines. Mineral-exploration data were not included but density of drill-site locations was used as a proxy.
Tourism and Outdoor Recreation. Cabins, cottages and camps associated with tourist outfitting were included, as were registered cabins. An affected area of 500 m was scored around them. Ski hills and golf courses are located within the vicinity of Happy Valley- Goose Bay and Labrador City.

Military, aviation and communications

Mapped data in this category included the Department of National Defense’s Practice Target Area and Safety Template Area, which was scored relatively low. Runways, Northern Warning System sites (including former Pine Tree line sites) and military camera targets are very small sites, although Northern Warning System sites had impacts through localized pollution. Communication sites (towers, dishes, etc.) and fuel storage locations were added because of clearing effects and risks of fuel contamination.


Analysis methods, data sources, and details on the scoring system are outlined in the full NL Human Footprint report. Individual maps for each of the five categories (human habitation, human access, electrical power generation and distribution, resource development and military/aviation/communications) are also included. Hardcopies can be obtained from Parks and Natural Areas Division, Department of Environment and Conservation, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (webpage:

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