A shortlist of three areas for selection as Northern Ireland's first national parks has been published.
The Mournes; the Causeway Coast and Antrim Glens, and the Fermanagh Lakelands were chosen by an expert panel.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood hopes to designate two national parks.
He said: "Northern Ireland is the only part of these islands that does not have national parks.
"It is time to grasp the opportunity."
He added: "This would advertise the scale and wonder of our heritage and create jobs in times of need. The shortlist should excite interest and be a catalyst to move the argument on positively."
He is seeking legislation that will enable him to designate the areas as national parks. He is circulating a paper to Executive colleagues recommending they endorse the principle of the new law and hopes to achieve this before the July holidays.
A panel of experts was appointed last autumn to create a shortlist from 12 options.
The panel included Dr Brendan Murtagh, from the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering at Queen's University, Belfast; Dawson Stelfox, from the Royal Society of Ulster Architects; Michael Starrett, from the Heritage Council; and Tim Birley, an adviser on sustainable development in Scotland.
There are six national parks in the Republic and 15 in the UK.