I think it is not a stretch to describe some of what WestFor writes about our Protected Areas in its August 2021 newsletter under “A message from Breck” as outright disinformation.
UPDATE Sep 23, 2021: Response to concerns raised by Westfor over proposed 4,000 hectare wilderness area (audio)
CBC Information Morning “Mike Lancaster, from the St. Margaret’s Bay Stewardship Association, responds to concerns raised by Westfor’s general manager over the Ingram River Conservation Lands. Plus, hear some of your emails.”
UPDATE Sep 22, 2021: Forest company’s concerns about a proposed wilderness area near St. Margaret’s Bay (audio)
“In a company newsletter, the general manager for Westfor recently expressed concerns about not being able to harvest wood in a proposed wilderness area, the Ingram River Conservation Lands. Here is our interview with Breck Stewart.”
UPDATE (Sep 10, 2021 at 8:30 pm) I didn’t realize when I wrote this post earlier today that the new General Manager at WestFor is Breck Stuart and thus that the “message from Breck” is, presumably, from Breck Stuart, General Manager of WestFor. (The new GM is not currently listed on the WestFor website under ‘Company‘ where other positions with the people occupying them are shown; his appointment at WestFor was, however announced on April 16,2021 on WestFor’s Facebook page.) So I apologize for writing initially that that the comments cited below were made “under the guise of a ‘Message from Brett’. The message is apparently attributable to Breck Stuart, General Manager of WestFor. Unfortunately, that the message comes from the top raises for me additional concerns about how much trust can be put in statements from WestFor, and their public accountability more generally as an entity which has essentially been given &/or expects to be given the keys to our Western Crown lands. I would welcome a ‘Guest Post’ on NSFN from Breck Stuart if he wishes to comment. – David P
ORIGINAL POST (Sep 10, 2021 at 1:41 pm)
‘Have to say, I was a bit shocked to read this item – “A message from Breck” – at the end of the August 2021 WestFor Newsletter, just received today.
Some excerpts (bolding and italics mine):
Nova Scotia’s Department of Environment and Climate Change is proposing the blanket protection of another 5000 hectares (12,350 acres) of crown land in the St. Margaret’s Bay area. There is currently an online consultation open with the Government of Nova Scotia for the public to voice their opinions of the “Ingram River Conservation Proposal.” The consultation is open until Sept 27th which can be reached here!
With the Ingram River areas immediate proximity to Halifax and surrounding populations, at less than a 30 minute drive from downtown, it allows the opportunity to reach the great outdoors for recreation (ATV, hunting, fishing, camping hiking etc). It even allows accessible educational opportunities for teachers, children, critics, government and any one else interested in learning more about forest management. Not to mention, ATV or safe boating training, overnight survival courses, planting opportunities for Scouts & Girl Guides, the opportunities are endless, unless it is designated as a protected conservation area.
The proposed Ingram River protected area exists as the unique healthy forest it does today because it has been held under the private ownership of Bowater Mersey and managed as a forest resource for the past 100 years. Proper forest management of this area has resulted in thriving red spruce forest that already contain protected areas of natural significance, as well as infrastructure to allow continued access and enjoyment. Current government policy already protects; Old Growth Forest, Species at Risk, Watercourses, Wetlands and the Old Annapolis Hiking Trail areas within this area and it is still currently available to Nova Scotians to use and enjoy.This would not be the case if it were to be given protection status. This area has been managed for an exceptionally long time to provide vast recreational opportunities to Nova Scotians from hiking, fishing, hunting, boating, ATV’s, while also providing a wood supply to local Nova Scotian mills. Despite the ideology of a few outspoken individuals who want to limit the potential of this working public forest, this area has allowed industry, ecology and recreation to coexist for hundreds of years and should remain that way.
…If you want to continue to enjoy our public crown land forest and believe we should manage public land to benefit all Nova Scotians ecologically and economically then please send in your comments before Sept 27. If you have questions such as; what will happen to my ATV trails, why can I no longer hunt, fish, camp or bicycle here, what is being protected that is not already protected then you should ask! Send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on the online consultation page here.
This newsletter is not currently available on the WestFor website, and I couldn’t find a link on the website to subscribe to it, however this address may be appropriate for requesting the newsletter: email@example.com
To learn more about the Ingram River Wilderness Area, and the history of the community based efforts to protect the area, go to www.protecttheingram.com.
There are clearly some outright misrepresentations in the “message from Breck”, for example “why can I no longer hunt, fish, camp or bicycle here”…
True, there are some restrictions, but nothing like what’s implied above. From NS Protected Areas Q&A:
Q: Can I camp in a wilderness area?
A: Yes. There are no drive-in campgrounds or facilities in wilderness areas, but overnight camping is generally permitted as long as you follow low-impact standards and guidelines outlined in the Keep It Wild – A Guide For Low Impact Recreation In Nova Scotia’s Wilderness Areas (PDF:4mb) and Keep It Wild – Wilderness Area Standards (PDF:749k). Camping along the Kenomee Canyon Trail, at Economy River Wilderness Area, is restricted to designated sites to minimize environmental impacts. On other managed trails, you should camp well off the trail, following the above standards and guidelines.
Historic warden cabins in several wilderness areas may be used for overnighting. These cabins are remote and quite rustic. Use is on a first-come first-served basis.
Q: Can I have a campfire?
A: Campfires are permitted in existing campfire rings, or by using a fire box or pan. For details on the standards for camping and campfires, please refer to the Keep It Wild brochure, or the Order on Camping and Lighting of Fires issued by the Minister of Environment.
Q: Is sport fishing, hunting and trapping permitted?
A: Yes. Hunting, trapping, and sport fishing are generally permitted under the same rules that apply outside wilderness areas. The only current exceptions are that baiting for bear hunting is not permitted in wilderness areas, and the use of bait for deer hunting is not permitted in Tobeatic Wilderness Area.
Q: Can I use a bicycle in a wilderness area?
Use of non-motorized bicycles is permitted in wilderness areas on trails designated for this purpose. Close to 100 km of trails in more than a dozen wilderness areas are now designated for non-motorized bicycle use. You can find the trails on this interactive map: https://novascotia.ca/parksandprotectedareas/plan/interactive-map. Additional trails may be authorized for bicycle use.
Different rules apply to motorized bicycles, which are considered vehicles under the Act.
Q: Can I use a vehicle, snowmobile, or motorboat in a wilderness area?
To help protect nature and the wilderness experience, motorized vehicle use, including motorboats and aircraft, is prohibited in wilderness areas, with some exceptions.
In certain circumstances, vehicle use may be authorized on designated trails or routes through a management agreement with a group or organization.
Vehicle use can also be licensed for a variety of specific purposes.
For details, please see our publication on vehicle use in wilderness areas.
Q: Are there any guided trips in wilderness areas?
A: Yes. Occasionally, Department of Environment and Climate Change’s protected areas staff or other organizations lead public outings in wilderness areas. A variety of guides and outfitters also lead trips in wilderness areas.
I think it is not a stretch to describe some of what WestFor writes about our Protected Areas in its August 2021 newsletter under “A message from Breck” as outright disinformation. It all sounds a lot like the scaremongering that led to our just-departed Premier gutting the Biodiversity Act.
UPDATE (Sep 10, 2021 at 5:45 pm)
Protect the Ingram River Wilderness Area group responds
The Protect the Ingram River Wilderness Area (Public Facebook Group) posted a response to the WestFor comments cited in the post above within a couple of hours. It reads as follows:
The amount of misleading or entirely false statements are sad to see. Having a difference of opinion is healthy and helps to reach consensus. Spreading false and misleading statements foments confusion, conflict, and division. Collaboration based on trust and facts must be pursued and statements like these make those goals harder to achieve.
Here are some of those statements broken-down:
#1. “Nova Scotia’s Department of Environment and Climate Change is proposing blanket protection of 5000 hectares of crown land in the St. Margaret’s Bay Area.”
This is false. Environment is proposing the protection of 4199 hectares and the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and Mines is proposing to expand the riparian zone of the Ingram River but it will remain unprotected.
#2. “Current government policy already protects; Old Growth Forest, Species at Risk, Watercourses, Wetlands and the Old Annapolis Hiking Trail and it is currently available for Nova Scotians to enjoy. This would not be the case if it were given protection status.”
False. Wilderness Areas still allow a wide array of uses that include hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, and snowmobiling and ATVing on designated routes.
#3. “Despite the ideology of a few outspoken individuals who want to limit the potential of this working public forest, this area has allowed industry, ecology and recreation to coexist for hundreds of years and should remain that way.”
Very misleading. Perhaps this depends on your definition of “a few”: there is formal support for the designation of Ingram River Wilderness Area from over 50 organizations and businesses, representing thousands of members. These supporters include the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaw, the Tourism Industry Association of NS, the Diocese of Nova Scotia and PEI, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and the Bike and Bean.
The moment to seek greater levels of protection for this area is not about ideology or taking anything away, it is about getting closer to balance and allowing for some room to diversify economic opportunities, community values, and ecological integrity.
The St. Margaret’s District currently sits at 8% protection while the provincial average is 33% once the Parks and Protected Areas plan is fully implemented. The protection of these 4,199 hectares will bring the St. Margaret’s District to just over 17% protection, leaving the area still far below average and the VAST majority dominated by industrial forestry values.
#4. “…If you want to continue to enjoy our public crown land forest and belive we should manage public land to benefit all Nova Scotians…” and “If you have questions such as; what will happen to ATV trails, why can I no longer hunt, fish, camp, or bicycle here, what is being protected that is not already protected then you should ask!”
Egregiously false. All of these activities are permitted in Wilderness Areas around the province.