Category Archives: Conservation

No Pipe Protest Pictou

Friends of Nature was well represented at last Friday’s No Pipe Protest in Pictou.

Brad Armstrong and Syd Dumaresq from the Friends of Nature Board were there as well as many of our members and friends from sister organizations. Congratulations to Ray Plourde and the EAC and others for getting thousands of people and 300 boats to Pictou to protest this incredibly backward proposal.

No Pipe Protest Pictou, Nova Scotia

Imagine if the mill decided to dump 70 to 80 million liters of effluent into Pictou Harbour every day. There would be blood in the streets. What makes them think the solution is merely to pipe said affluent out into the Strait, mid way between NS & PEI?

Here is a terrific article by Ray Plourde from Friday’s paper: http://thechronicleherald.ca/opinion/1582218-opinion-northern-pulp%E2%80%99s-pipe-plan-is-an-ask-too-far

No Pipe Protest Pictou, Nova Scotia

Stop the madness!

Forest Alerts – NOPIPE – Pictou Mill Rally – July 6

Dear Friends,

Friends of Nature strongly supports this No Pipe Rally. The idea of piping that pollution from the mill in Pictou into the Northumberland Strait is ludicrous. Keep reading below for more information.

Best regards
Syd Dumaresq, Chair, Friends of Nature.

The Healthy Forest Coalition Presents: Forest Alerts

No Pipe Rally in PictouNo Pipe Rally in Pictou

Your help is needed! Please make plans to attend the big No Pipe Rally in Pictou – July 6 – Noon to 2 PM. And please help spread the word far and wide. What happens next will affect our land, water, air and forests for years to come. Please come and bring lots of friends!

The Healthy Forest Coalition strongly supports the Friends of Northumberland Strait and Northumberland Fisherman’s Association in their efforts in the organization of this rally and we urge you to take part. These two groups have also made efforts to spread of awareness about some of the consequences that can be associated with not only the proposed straight effluent pipe, and it’s subsequent impacts on the surrounding marine ecosystems, but also the impacts of the excessive reliance on clearcut practices on our forests.

The following has been published on the Friends of Northumberland Strait Facebook event for the #NOPIPE: Land and Sea Rally.

Protect Our Strait!
Be a voice politicians cannot ignore!
Northern Pulp’s proposal to discharge 70-90 million litres of treated pulp waste into the Northumberland Strait daily has drawn broad concern from fishermen, citizens, businesses, municipalities, tourism associations, sport fishing groups and environmental organizations. They all say too much is at stake:

– ​Health of the Northumberland Strait and its many marine species
– $2 billion in fish exports annually
– $200 million in Northumberland Shore tourism revenue annually
– $56+ million sport fishing industry annually
– Small business
– Property values
– Social well-being and quality of life

Make July 6th a day to raise your voice for No Pipe in Our Strait. Join us to be a force that politicians cannot ignore.

RALLY BY LAND
12:00 pm Citizen March
Gather at Pictou Exhibition Grounds & bring your favourite NO PIPE sign! March will take approximately 15 minutes.

1:00 pm Rally Centre Stage, Hector Quay Marina
Cheer fishing boats into harbour, listen to messages of support, show we are united and strong.

RALLY BY SEA
All boats welcome!
12:30 pm All boats meet at the mouth of Pictou Harbour
12:30 pm Small watercraft to gather along Pictou waterfront shore
– If you have a VHF radio, switch to channel 68 for further instructions and to hear Land Rally activities.
– RCMP and Coast Guard will be in the harbour to ensure everyone’s safety. Boat Safely!
– Any passengers wishing to join rally activities on land, may be dropped off at Hector Quay Marina before 12:30pm.

For more information, please visit:
https://www.nopiperally.com/
https://www.friendsofthenorthumberlandstrait.ca

Please attend this pivotal rally in support of the both sustainable fisheries and forestry in Nova Scotia! Large number of attendees are essential to demonstrate that these are issues that Nova Scotians care about and are willing to stand up for.

Recruit your friends to join you and don’t just share the link on social media, or over mass emails, please call your friends, spread awareness about the issues and invite them to join you at this essential rally!

Let us know if you will be driving to Pictou and are willing to bring others along with you, or if you are looking for a ride yourself. You can get in touch with us by replying to this email.

A group calling themselves “Our Rising” will also be providing a small bus to take folks from Halifax. You can get in touch with them over Facebook here.

Everyone is also invited to stay after the event and join us for lobster and refreshments at the Pictou Lobster Carnival!

Presentation to the Independent Review of Forest Practices

Yesterday, December 7, 2017 a delegation from Friends of Nature made a presentation to the Independent Review of Forest Practices, led by Professor Bill Lahey. Our presentation was well received and resulted in a healthy discussion with Mr Lahey.

A copy of our brief is follows . . .

December 7, 2017
Presentation to Bill Lahey

Ken MacRury – Woodlot owner
Brad Armstrong – Conservation Director, Friends of Nature & woodlot owner
Syd Dumaresq –Chair, Friends of Nature

The current state of the forestry in Nova Scotia is reminiscent of the coal and steel industry that existed in the 1950’s and 60’s when valiant efforts on the part of all levels of government were made to save a dying industry that had served its time and was no longer viable. The industry died, not because Nova Scotia ran out of coal but because it was no longer able to compete in the global economy. We suspect that something similar is happening with the forest industry. We believe that both Stora and Bowater saw the future and took the actions they did. Stora moved to Argentina where trees grow five times faster, labour rates are lower, taxes are lower, and supply lines are shorter. The two remaining pulp and paper plants are being propped up with government subsidies which are likely to disappear.

As others have said, in the 1800’s Nova Scotia was producing the finest lumber in North America, for ship building, for export to Europe and the USA; by the early 1900’s the big trees were mostly gone so we started the pulp and paper mills making newsprint, toilet paper and eventually super calendar paper, mostly for export; and in this century the supply of trees has become so constricted that we are reduced to making biomass, mostly for export. The trees for the two remaining paper mills and for the saw mills are being supplied at rock bottom stumpage fees from Crown lands or from private woodlands where supply most often depends on a rural poverty motivator.

Friends of Nature believe the forest industry is dying in its present form, it’s just that most people have not yet realized that fact. Instead of discussing a paradigm shift the discussion is about minor shifts that may or may not extend the current situation.

This province has the capacity to grow wonderful large trees of high value but only if we give the forests time. The race to the bottom is being fueled by a desperate search for profits in an industry that is becoming more uneconomic every year.

A paradigm shift will not be easy or painless, jobs will be lost, companies will go bankrupt, but overall the province will emerge a better place and an industry will be rebuilt. Friends of Nature suggest that the Province should look at the sunsetting of current forestry practices over a long term renewal program for the forest. The first to go should be whole tree harvesting which should immediately stop on all crown lands, next would be clearcutting, say 25 years to be completely eliminated on all crown lands. After that the province would allow only selective harvesting on crown lands with a size or age range for trees harvested.

The main purpose of crown land would be to create a carbon sequestration forest that would be the lungs of the province, taking in carbon and breathing out oxygen.

The province would be able to sell carbon credits derived from the crown lands on a regulated market, which would help finance the transition from machine intensive clear cutting to selective forestry.
Nova Scotia would become a world leader in forestry.

There was a very interesting article in the Herald in November by Soren Bondrup- Nielsen, a retired professor from Acadia, which supplies interesting support documentation for such a radical transformation.

He provides real numbers. When we look at two of them, jobs in the forest industry and volume harvested, we see that employment in the industry has fallen from a high of 12,000 in the late 1990’s to about 5,500 today and we suspect this is still falling. The volume harvested in cubic meters hit a high point in the late 1990’s of six million cubic meters and has decreased to 3.5 million cubic meters in 2016.

Those numbers seem to speak of an industry in rapid decline and would again seem to mirror what happened in the coal and steel industry during its decline and eventual failure. Prof. Bondrup-Nielsen advocates the growth of large diameter trees and carbon sequestration in the forests of Nova Scotia which would allow for a supply of large logs harvested selectively for the value added sawmill industry and the sale of carbon credits under a cap-and-trade system.

Friends of Nature believe those objectives would be supported by most Nova Scotians.

During the transition period noted above we strongly recommend:

• Implementation of FSC certification on all crown lands. The only large amount of
wood left, except on private lands, is in south western NS. This is part of the former Bowater lands that was already FSC certified. With FSC certification we, the public, has input in all the harvest plans ( After all we own the crown lands). FSC is a much better standard of forestry, eg bigger buffers, longer harvest rotations, public input and protection of the forest canopy.
• An immediate halt to forest biomass for generation of electricity
• An immediate reduction of 50% in clearcutting on crown land
• A halt to the export of wood pellets for biomass
• More input from indigenous peoples in forest policy

Friends of Nature Conservation Society

Eulogy for the Forest

Funeral for the Forest Nova Scotia
(photo by Grace Bezanson)

Below is the Eulogy for the Forest given by Bob Bancroft at the recent Funeral for the Forest. The Funeral was a protest march organized by the Healthy Forest Coalition of which FON is a founding member. FON were well represented at the Funeral.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE GOOD FORESTS GONE?

Dear friends of the forest, Mi’kmaq people, family, foresters, scientists, and neighbours…

This forest story began about 12,000 years ago, as an ice age departed.

A great diversity of wild plants and animals evolved since that time in this forest, which towered as a green mantle over the land we now call Nova Scotia.

It is part of the great land occupied by the Mi’kmaq people.

There is a sense of spirit and peace in a natural forest with old trees.

Trees in natural forests are allowed to become elders.

They soothe our souls and we begin to feel a part of a larger community of other living beings.
………………………………………………………………..

When settlers from Europe began land clearing in the 1600’s, major disturbances such as human-set fires began.

Harvesting with axes and crosscut saws shifted to chainsaws in the 1950’s and then to the large, heavily-financed machinery we see today.

To quote Elizabeth May, woods employment went from “a bunch of fellers to a feller-buncher”.

Today we are living the latest chapter; an unprecedented loss of NS forests at rapid rates; “forest liquidation” through clearcutting, where even the shrubs may be chipped.

Like the cod’s demise, this story of government-sanctioned, forest liquidation is made possible by new technology and fossil fuels.

I would like to thank investigative journalists Linda Pannozzo, Joan Baxter and Jennifer Henderson for sifting through the industrial forest rhetoric for the truth.

For example, during the 25 years up to 2014, 42% of the forest in Nova Scotia that could be cut was clearcut.

On public land currently about 90 % of the cutting is clearcutting.

Most of these woodlands had already been harvested several times.

Many original tree species lived and still could live natural lives for 350-400 years.

So, how did forests become degraded to the sticks we see trucked on highways today?
———————————————————————-

Land disturbance favours short-lived, lower quality pioneer tree species.

That’s what naturally grows in here after a clearcut.

Forest succession takes much longer after a clearcut.

With government backing, the forest industry cuts long-lived hardwood and mixed wood forests that take at least 150 years to establish and mature; and turns them into short-lived softwood stands or plantations.

They intend to harvest these every 40 years or so.

It is better for cash flow. It’s not better for wildlife.

They need food and shelter.
————————————————————————–
All the industry sees in a forest is woodpiles.

Piles to be processed into fibre or wood chips to feed hungry mills and biomass burners!

The Mi’kmaq, informed biologists and many others see the forest as a living entity that fosters healthy streams for salmon and trout, provides habitat for woodland flora, and habitat for a wealth of animals.

The industry respect is saved for profits – the smell of money-most of which goes to foreign shareholders.

Priorities include grinding and chipping our forests for fibre.

Pulp, biomass and pellets to burn for heat and electricity.

Wood chips and pellets are going offshore for chip board and biomass.

Saw log supplies are dwindling.

Electricity produced by wood biomass is at very poor efficiency rates and cannot be considered green energy by anyone but the most ill-informed and naive.

The government is misinforming its citizens with the message that biomass is environmentally friendly.

The government also is making poor, short-sighted decisions in a desperate attempt to maintain jobs in a diminishing pulp market.

Instead, it could be making brave, innovative decisions that would set us on a new path towards a better future in forest management, forest products, and healthy forests.

Many of those ideas were assembled in a report during the Natural Resources Strategy, but none were considered.

The problem is large clearcuts leave moonscapes where most wildlife species cannot survive.

This removes employment possibilities for decades, and slows new forest growth in nutrient-depleted soils.

Global Forest Watch satellite images showing recent forest cover loss in Nova Scotia in the past 10-15 years are appalling, but true.

And unprecedented.

With the Acadian forest now gone in many areas, we are gathered here to mourn its tremendous loss.
———————————————————————-

Now industry-led spin doctors have launched an “Act for Healthy Forests” campaign seeking support in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for another budworm spray program.

“Spray for Healthy Forest!”.

The insecticide will rob food from our wood warblers and wreak untold ecological damage to a natural disturbance process that has been visiting our forests periodically over centuries…

The forest industry and DNR refuse to work with the forces of nature.

Instead they steadfastly ignore and seek to overpower those forces.

They’ve created a worse problem with their few-species, unstable, simplified forests, more vulnerable to forces of nature like wind and spruce budworm.

Climate change is bringing hurricanes more frequently and invasive pests.

Nova Scotia is adding to the climate change problem, rather than dealing with it.

This brand of forestry creates growing numbers of Species at Risk.

From lichens to moose!

————————————————————————–

Nova Scotia needs ecologically-healthy working forests that connect isolated patches of protected areas to one another.

If such corridors existed, wildlife would once again be able to move freely throughout the province under continuous forest canopies…rather than finding themselves in remnant forests without sufficient food, stuck between barren lands of clearcuts and future plantations.

This would create more genetic diversity, and increase chances of survival of wildlife populations.

Large clearcuts are too drastic a change for Nova Scotia’s nutrient poor forest soils, the waterways, wildlife, woodland plants including mosses and lichens, and complex communication networks of fungi that actually allow trees to communicate.

Streams and rivers run brown with silt, killing fish.

Nutrients flush away to the sea, leaving depleted soils and meagre prospects for regenerating plants.

This ongoing tragedy has been sanctioned by successive governments of all political stripes.

We, the public, the taxpayers, elect them; but politicians listen to the forest industry and their promises of jobs.

And politicians continue to feed forest industries hundreds of millions of our tax dollars.

As Tom Miller recently stated, “Industry and DNR management have no room for anyone trying to upset their apple cart.”

Put simply, Nova Scotia is overcut.

Why would DNR sanction the harvests of 35 year old stands on Crown land unless we are running out of wood?

The public had their say in a round of consultations that ended in 2009.

The message was clear: “current practices …..are not sustainable.”

The status quo in forestry was not an option, they said!

But DNR hasn’t budged an inch.

Instead, they added large biomass plants and became more secretive.

They are now allowing the mining of the last of our forests for foreign interests.

Are we going to just sit back and take this?

Is this the change that you said you wanted to see?

————————————————————————–

DNR senior management talks about sound ecological principles: “science-based forestry”

In reality they cater to corporations and investor greed.

Donna Crossland and I volunteered for a year and a half on a government science panel where the industry rep would not accept science!

Now he’s one of those at the helm of Natural Resources, along with other former mill employees.

Instead of setting a good forest management example on public lands for private woodlot owners to learn from and to follow, contractors are being allowed to skin Crown woodlands alive.

What a role model!

They’re clearcutting everything from mature sugar maples and yellow birch, down to two inch diameter red oaks, as well as whole forest stands long before they mature; chipping or pressing pellets, and sending these raw materials overseas.

Stands of twenty and thirty year old trees are now fodder for their harvests.

It’s a government and industry-organized race to the bottom.

Meanwhile, local, value-added hardwood flooring industries have been forced to close for a lack of hardwood supply.

There is room for an expanded maple syrup industry here, and we have the trees. Or we did.

But they allow sugar maple stands on Crown (public) lands to be cut, instead of leaving them for syrup operations.

And they are already beginning to tax the wood out of private lands.
————————————————————————–

One senior DNR staff member informed me last winter that a fifteen year old clearcut has everything that our wildlife populations need.

Wish I was joking!

DNR should be hiring better-educated staff.

We must demand the ‘ousting’ of industry people, hired by the Liberals, from DNR.

This government department is supposed to act as stewards over the forests and on behalf of the best interests of its citizens.

I wonder how the senior DNR person would shoehorn a barred owl into a nest hole in a 15 year old tree?

DNR calls large scale clearcutting “ecological forest management”

As a scientist, I call it “ecological dismemberment”.

Think about it.

Scotland used to be a forested country.

Now trees make up 3% of its landscape.

This may be a mock funeral, but if you are one of many forest wildlife species displaced by a large clearcut, you lose your home, become a refugee on what was your territory, and most often die a slow, miserable, quiet death from starvation or territorial disputes.

Forests are the lungs of the earth, filterers of water, and they provide spiritual wellness.

If tended in an ecologically sustainable manner, they also provide us with many things we need, including lumber for our homes, and wood for our fires.

Give thanks to forests?

Do you want to take back our forests from foreign-owned mills and DNR?

Then let’s do it together!

Let’s demand change!

We need to work together to become better stewards and make the Acadian forest truly healthy again.

Forests can be resilient over time.

There is room for hope.

Thank you for gathering today to mourn the demise of Nova Scotia’s ecologically-healthy forests, and their wildlife.

Our forests need your concern, and your action

Before the last of our unprotected public forests are reduced to mud and bushes.

Letter to the Premier: Carbon Credits for Forests

long_lake_forest_800

The Honourable Stephen McNeil

Office of the Premier
7th Floor, One Government Place
1700 Granville Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3J 1X5

March 1, 2017

Dear Mr. Premier:

I am writing to you on behalf of the Friends of Nature to express our appreciation for one of the steps your government has taken to combat the serious threat of climate change. Late last year you announced that Nova Scotia would be implementing a Cap-and-Trade system for our province. We welcome that decision.

A well designed climate change policy would position our provincial private woodland owners and our crown forests to have a powerful effect in reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by using our forests to store carbon.

It is our hope that Nova Scotia will adopt a Cap-and-Trade regime that will allow woodlot owners to manage their lands specifically to store more carbon and receive payments from a regulated market. To be most effective woodlot owners must have access to the larger Cap-and-Trade markets of California, Ontario and Quebec. These three jurisdictions are known collectively as the Western Climate Initiative.

Beginning in 2018, exporting carbon offsets could sustainably bring $50 million per year to the rural areas of this province. That amount would increase to an estimated $100 million by 2030, a powerful rural economic development initiative. All of that revenue would come from private woodlots in Nova Scotia only. Should Crown Lands be added to the equation the revenue to the province would be substantial.

Although carbon storage would be the major initiative, we would still continue to cut wood, just not all at once. Current carbon agreements call for a retained tree stocking of 20 cords per acre over an entire woodlot. Our provincial Department of Natural Resources is increasingly concerned about disengaged woodlot owners who are not managing their woodlots or allowing their timber to contribute to the provincial wood industry. A Cap-and-Trade program would not only support rural wellbeing but would also help the forest products sector.

To summarize, the Friends of Nature supports a climate change strategy for Nova Scotia that creates a market for carbon credits using a Cap-and-Trade system linked to the Western Climate Initiative. We would welcome further dialogue with your office on this very important topic.

Yours truly,
Syd Dumaresq
Chair, Friends of Nature Conservation Society.

Satellites Reveal The Clearcut Truth

Dear Friends,

In case you missed it, here is a link to an excellent article from Saturday’s Herald speaking against current forestry practices in Nova Scotia by Donna Crossland:

>Satellites reveal forest loss is more serious in N.S. than the government would have you believe<

Donna is a member of the Healthy Forest Coalition. Friends of Nature is proud to be a founding member of this coalition.

>I’ve also attached a PDF version of the article here.<

Yours,
Syd Dumaresq
Chair, Friends of Nature

Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Urban Park Update

Dear Friends,

Last night I attended the public meeting on the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Urban Park.

I have never seen so many angry, but well behaved people in one room. The room, designed for 50 had at least 200 people, all mad as heck because the city gave the developers vision for developing 1300 acres adjacent to the park and would not allow any comments from the floor. Slightly one sided.

When the official meeting adjourned, one fellow suggested the rest of us re-convene for a discussion, the city turned off the mic!

We have two weeks only to make our feelings known to the city and it must be in writing.

Below is my letter. I encourage you to send your own, or cut and paste mine, if you are in agreement.

Many thanks
Syd Dumaresq, Chair Friends of Nature

Sample Letter

Mail To: “clerks@halifax.ca”; “linda.mosher@halifax.ca”

Subject: Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Urban Park

Hi,

It was very disappointing to attend last night’s meeting and not be able to voice an opinion. The whole process seems to be a way to express the developers’ opinions, not the citizens.

When Point Pleasant park was leased in 1866 I am sure the 190 acres appeared huge compared to the size of the city. Look at it now, being loved to death.

In 1908 when Sir Sanford Fleming donated his Dingle estate on the Arm to the Lieutenant Governor in trust for the City of Halifax, it seemed like a huge piece of land in the middle of nowhere, but it was gratefully accepted. Look at it now! A treasured place of refuge surrounded by urban development.

Halifax has a similar opportunity now in an area where 10 story apartments are springing up overnight like mushrooms. Although 4500 acres seems like a lot of land now, it is entirely appropriate for the current size of the city and the density of development proposed for the immediate area. To lose the opportunity of acquiring the final 1300 acres while they remain undeveloped is a once in a life time opportunity.

Undeveloped forest consumes and sequesters carbon, protects water courses, provides a refuge for wildlife and a refuge for humans.

Now is the time to open the municipal wallet, negotiate a fair price and purchase these two parcels.

Our great grandchildren will thank us.


Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Urban Park Set Back

Dear Friends,

The long awaited Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Urban Park behind Bayer’s lake has just received a huge setback. It was proposed 10 years ago that HRM would buy out two large landowners to round out the park boundaries and include Susie’s and Charlie’s Lakes in the park.

A recent facilitator’s report has recommended that rather than have HRM buy the land we allow large portions of the land to be developed, all the way down down the shores of these lakes, severely diminishing the value and extent of the park.

This is the developers’ view and this is our opportunity to present the peoples’ view.

The attached info from EAC explains the situation well (Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Park handout).

Please come to the public meeting to show support for the park tonight, Monday, June 20 @ 7:00 pm at the Future Inn, 30 Fairfax Drive. It is the hotel near the intersection of Lacewood and the Bicentennial Highway.

I apologize for the short notice. I feel HRM is trying to fast track this report with a minimum of publicity. No one seems to know much about it.

If you can’t make tonight it please write HRM to show council that an urban park is more important than developers profits.

Many thanks
Syd Dumaresq
Chair, Friends of Nature

ATV Use in Protected Areas

Ship Harbour Long Lake Wilderness Area
Ship Harbour Long Lake Wilderness Area, one of Nova Scotia’s newest protected Wilderness Area.
image source: https://www.ecologyaction.ca/content/ship-harbour-long-lake-wilderness-area-declared-protected-last

Friends of Nature are thrilled that our Province has committed12% of our land as Protected Areas; however, there is a strong lobby from some ATV riders to allow vehicular access in these protected areas. Such access is not currently permitted by law, for good reason. Following is a letter to the editor (Chronicle Herald) which expresses my view. Keep the faith!

– Syd Dumaresq
Chair, Friends of Nature Conservation Society

January 16, 2016

Letter to the editor re: ATV Use in Protected Areas

We are called as a people to sustain all forms of life.

Protected Areas are called Protected Areas for a reason. They are protected from resource extraction and vehicular access so that they can remain pristine. Both nature and people need motorized free areas. Wildlife need areas to live, roam, and reproduce peacefully. Our success as a people relies on biodiversity, clean water, and clean air. We are so fortunate to have 12% of our land set aside as Protected Areas.

ATV use compromises nature by impacting brooks, streams, wetlands, wildlife etc.

There still are still large areas of crown land with trails open to ATV riders and plenty of potential for more such trails on the remaining Crown land.

Surely we can leave our Protected Areas free from vehicular access for the good of Nature and the continued survival of our so called civilization.

For more information, please see:

Have Your Say on Medway River Protected Areas

It looks like another one of our new-but-not-yet-officially-designated protected Wilderness Areas is under attack and needs your help right now.

The DOE would like to protect about 20% of the former Bowater lands down in the Medway River watershed.I have been told that this is a fantastic area for wildlife and all NS flora and fauna.

The issue is that the ATV groups in that area want 100% access to the area, and at a recent meeting with the DOE and the public, no one voted to protect it. This is a sad situation as the provincial government may change their mind on protection.

I was asked by Raymond Plourde to send out some info and ask our members to respond to the government’s website to show them that we do still want the 12% protected.The comments can be sent to medwaycomments@novascotia.ca.

The time to do this is now, time is of the essence.

Below is a condensed

version of a memo from our friends at the Ecology Action Centre for more information:

On Sunday, September 20th, Matt Miller and Ray Plourde from Ecology Action Centre’s Wilderness Committee, attended a public meeting in Caledonia held by the “Society of Nova Scotians for a Sustainable Rural Economy”. Despite the rather broadly based economic theme presented as the stated intent of their Society, the meeting was entirely dedicated to the issue of motorized vehicle access (truck, car, ATV, snowmobile) to the pending Medway Lakes Wilderness Area (MLWA). The majority in the room (about 100) were there to support expanded or total vehicle access into MLWA.

The meeting was structured to allow presentations from a variety of perspectives. Amanda Lavers from Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute spoke about the role of protected areas in biodiversity conservation and impacts of roads and vehicle use on wildlife, notably trout populations. EAC’s presentation gave some background on protected areas, both globally and provincially, the need for large roadless areas, etc. and an offer was made to work collaboratively to address trail connectivity issues for the area. The meeting ended with a “vote” on three options that ranged from killing the MLWA, to allowing full use of all the roads within MLWA and finally to go ahead with the government’s proposed access plan (see below). We were disappointed that the meeting was structured to include a vote on just these three options, as it precluded an opportunity to work together to find some common ground. We did not participate in the voting. The new society’s organizers have also been making the rounds to all the municipal councils in southwest Nova Scotia, doing rather one-sided presentations and asking for support for total motorized access to the former Bowater lands.

Someone has also launched a petition for motorized access on Change.org (see: https://www.change.org/p/government-of-nova-scotia-keep-the-former-bowater-lands-open-for-public-access).

The wording of this petition is deliberately misleading, stating that wilderness areas will “completely shut down access”, with people “not being allowed the freedom to explore these forests and lakes”. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s important to note that public access to all wilderness areas in NS is guaranteed under the law. It is the use of motorized vehicles that is very limited. People are still allowed to hike, camp, canoe, fish and hunt in these areas and the MLWA actually has many access points by road and canoe launches. Both the meeting and the petition are squarely aimed at allowing seemingly unfettered motorized access within all the former Bowater lands, including those designated for protection.

It is important to note that the Medway Lakes Wilderness Area is only about 20% of the former Bowater Medway District lands and that roughly 90% of the roads in the District would still be open to vehicle use. 80% of the District and 90% of the roads for motorized use seems more than fair. This amounts to over 1,000 kms of the roughly 1,200 kms of woods roads in the Medway District, in addition to hundreds of additional kilometres of “informal” ATV trails. Wildlife needs spaces to survive and people who enjoy non-motorized wilderness recreation need places to go. This seems fair.

It is also important to note that any claims of “traditional” or ‘long-standing” access by Off Highway Vehicles are wrong. The Bowater lands were privately owned, gated and strictly controlled. ATV’s in particular were expressly banned although there was plenty of illegal use, the point being that access to ANY of these lands is a new privilege not a long-standing right.

Meanwhile on Friday, September 18th, Nova Scotia Environment (NSE) announced some minor boundary changes and major new road exclusion changes for the MLWA (see http://www.novascotia.ca/parksandprotectedareas/plan/progress/mlwa/).

As you can see from the map provided, the significant new road exclusions dissect the wilderness area through it’s core, with several additional spur roads going out in different directions. MLWA is one of the largest and most significant additions to the protected areas network announced when the final plan was approved by government. At first glance this move appears to be a capitulation to the ATV lobby for more access but as the Newsletter indicates it appears that the primary reason is to convenience timber harvesting and trucking operations at various points on the north side of the MLWA.

We have several concerns regarding Friday’s announcement by government, including:

1) Process: The Parks and Protected Areas Plan was the result of numerous rounds of public consultation culminating in the release of the final plan in 2013 to much fanfare and endorsement from all three political parties. While the plan already included too many and trail exclusions from EAC’s perspective, we supported the final product because it was the result of such a broad-based consultation. No one group got everything they wanted but the outcome seemed fair and balanced. This is a major after-the-fact change that will significantly impact the ecological integrity of the Medway Lakes Wilderness Area.

2) Impacts on ecological values and wilderness recreation:  Obviously these proposed road exclusions, which are much more generous (and egregious) than those in the final plan, will impact the MLWA. According to NSE’s profile of MLWA, the area was identified for protection for the purpose of protecting a large, road less core wilderness area and for promoting wilderness recreation. Both values will be heavily impacted by the proposed changes to the road network. The government’s own joint NSE/DNR Biodiversity Science Advisory Committee identified the area as a “key remaining stronghold for the much diminished Brook Trout, which can be maintained if the lakes and rivers of this area are extensively buffered from industrial activity and off-limits to motorized recreational access.”

It is unclear what Friday’s announcement really means. The newsletter from NSE refers to the road exclusions for MLWA as government’s “proposed approach” and they invite “comments” from the public that will be “considered”. It isn’t clear if this is a public consultation ahead of a decision or if a decision on the new road exclusion has already been made and the public is being made aware and only given an opportunity to comment after the fact.

Regardless, they are “looking for comment” so everyone who cares about nature should weigh in and help bolster the conservation message: Roads don’t belong in Wilderness Areas – send to: medwaycomments@novascotia.ca

There is reference in the government’s new newsletter to a trade-off analysis that “balances the environmental and economic costs of new road construction against the potential impacts of allowing vehicle access on the West Branch Road”, but there is no information on what the other road access alternatives were and what the associated ecological and economic impacts of other options were.

From the newsletter:

The West Branch Road is important for management of forestry activities on the Crown lands that lie to the north of the pending wilderness area. If the road is closed other roads will need to be built and trucks will have to haul timber over longer distances. Excluding this road from the wilderness area takes into consideration the impact on biodiversity associated with road construction and use. It also balances the environmental and economic costs.”

Meanwhile the ATV lobby for access to the whole area is growing.

So, again, please take a moment and speak up for real nature conservation and submit your comments to: medwaycomments@novascotia.ca and also please make plans to attend the NS Environment dept. meeting at Milford House on October 6 at 6pm. Both of these things are very important.

 Some things to ask for include:

  • No roads should be kept open at all in Medway Lakes Wilderness Area. Failing that, the absolute least amount of roads possible only. The new proposal is way more than necessary.
  • Maintain the existing gates and keep them locked except for emergencies
  • If the West Branch Road is kept open, close off the other road in the centre of MLWA.
  • If the West Branch Road is kept open, expand the MLWA to compensate for the ecological impact. Recommend adding the lands around Long Lake and upper branch of the Medway River.
  • If the West Branch Road is kept open, the government should be prepared to commit that no new logging roads will be built nearby the MLWA (since not having to build such roads is the reason given for its continued use through the Wilderness Area).
  • Release to the public the road trade-off analysis that was done to support the decision to keep the West Branch Road open.