Big Forestry and Big Development versus Precious Natural Places in rural and urban Nova Scotia 15Apr2022

The Good News: Nova Scotians care about these places, regardless of the governing party

A deluge of pleas to write letters/join campaigns recently makes it clear that  the pressure to obtain direct economic benefit at the expense of some our most precious natural places has not waned under Nova Scotia’s new government, despite its commitment to 20% protection by 2030  and  all of the other good intentions embodied in the Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act.  Three examples:

#1. “The endangered Atlantic whitefish of Minamkeak Lake need your help!!”
So said an e-mail I received this a.m. from  CPAWS-NS (Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society NS Chapter).  I was familiar with the issue which arose after NRR/WestFor  posted a proposed harvest close to Minamkeak Lake in the Bridgewater watershed and home to the endangered whitefish. Fortunately, enough people are monitoring these notices to pick up at least some of the more aggregeous proposals.

Hebbs Cross resident George Buranyi raised the alarm on this one – posted by NRR Mar 14, 2022 – in a Facebook post on March 23, 2022. From GB’s post

Need your help. WestFor is proposing to harvest in the Town of Bridgewater watershed on Minamkeak Lake…
1. This could affect the water supply…
2. The harvest could affect the planet’s last remaining Atlantic whitefish…
3. This area needs to be off limits to any harvesting, ie placed under protection…
4. The harvest proposal conflicts with the goals of protecting the designated watershed that both MODL and the Town of Bridgewater, and the Public Services Commission of Bridgewater have been working on and that many residents support as the area is part of their water supply.
5. This forest needs to be part of the 330,000 hectares that would need to be protected to meet the Premier’s 2030 commitment to protect 20% of lands and seas.

That plea was followed by
– A letter to the Ed in on March 31, 2022
– Formation of the Bridgewater Watershed Protection Alliance (public Facebook Community) on Apr 5, 2022
– A Petition on NatureNS April 6, 2022:
– Discovery of Pectenia plumbea (Blue Felt Lichen), a Species-at-Risk on the land on April 12, 2022
View for more details
To be continued…

Some Updates

The Atlantic Whitefish Whitewash
Linda Pannozzo in The Quaking Swamp Journal, Apr 20, 2022:
The Atlantic Whitefish Whitewash Part 2: The case of the missing water quality science gets even murkier
Linda Pannozzo in The Quaking Swamp Journal, Apr 26, 2022.

Here are the comments I submitted Apr 23, 2022): PatriquinBwaterHarvests23Apr2022
I pointed out some reasons to be concerned about impacts of forestry on water quality

#2. “Stop proposed forest harvest HX210251 at Sackville River Wilderness Area”
This item concerns a harvest planned in public lands recommended by the Sackville Rivers Association and others for addition to the Sackville River Wilderness Area – see HX210251  under Halifax Co.  in the Feb 10, 2022 Harvest Plan Announcement.

Writes Walter N. Regan, President of the Sackville Rivers Association in a letter to Miniter Rushton:

Sackville Rivers Association (SRA) is confused and upset by your department’s decision to redirect public lands recommended for addition to Sackville River Wilderness Area towards forest harvesting…

As the champion of the Sackville River, SRA has been working to protect Sackville River Wilderness Area for years. This site contains important forests and wetlands, and habitat for rare species, including Wild Atlantic Salmon. Members of our community use this park regularly to walk their dogs, go for a bike ride, paddle on the river, swim in the lakes or spend time hunting and trapping. These lands provide opportunities for nature education at the nearby Girl Guides Lewis Lake Camp and for nature tourism at local businesses and campgrounds.

We have been waiting much too long for our wilderness park to be designated…Our partners at the Nova Scotia Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS-NS) have completed extensive fieldwork in the wilderness area and on adjacent public lands. From their surveys, we recommended to your department and Nova Scotia Environment that 226 hectares of public lands on the eastern side of the park be added to the protected area boundary. This will help our community easily access the north end of the park near Beaver Bank and protect more important ecosystems, including vernal pools and natural red pine stands…

With the massive community support and important conservation values at Sackville River Wilderness Area and surrounding public lands, SRA is very disappointed that your department would ever consider allowing forestry activities here.

Read more in SRA Letter_Proposed Harvest HX210251 (posted here with permission from WR)

#3: Old Acadian forest/salmon watercourse and forested wetland in Halifax-Dartmouth at risk

The Sandy Lake area (top) stretches between the Sackville River and Hammonds Plains Road of Bedford. The small forested in Dartmouth stands out in Google images.
Click on image for a larger version

I wrote a post on this topic several years ago (NSFN March 10, 2018). It began

While loss of old forest habitat associated with extensive clearcutting on short rotations in more rural areas is considered by ecologists to be the #1 threat to forest biodiversity in Nova Scotia, bulldozers in and around the more urban areas continue to do their part. The areas may be relatively small on a provincial basis and compared to clearcuts, but they can be important ecologically, and socially – and the losses are permanent.

Read that post for some background on these two areas.

Our new provincial  government  upped the ante on these and other Precious Natural Places in urban and semi-urban areas of NS:    on Nov 26, 2021 Premier Houston announced the formation a provincial level taskforce to oversee housing in NS at large (not just HRM). He described it as a “model of how the new government would work”, but was vague on details.

Those have become painfully clear in regard to HRM (Halifax regional Municipality. From a News Release on March 25, 2022:

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Lohr has designated nine special planning areas in Halifax Regional Municipality for as many as 22,600 new residential units.

The designation allows the Minister to assume authority for development approvals in those areas as outlined in the Housing in the Halifax Regional Municipality Act.

The justification is the ‘housing crisis’, the belief being, apparently, that the free market will solve the housing problem.  (View Halifax Examiner Mar 25, 2022).

At least three of the nine are in Precious Natural Places. Commented Raymond Plourde, senior wilderness co-ordinator with the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, in the Chronicle Herald, Apr 2, 2022

… building more expensive McMansions and McCondos in far-flung, car-dependent suburbs is not going to provide affordable housing for those who need it. Some of the so-called “special planning areas” (special, apparently, because they happened to be owned by the developers) were already in the queue for development, had no problems and faced no public opposition.

They were going to happen anyway. But a few of them – the biggest suburban chunks targeted for sprawl developments, which would consume huge tracts of nature (called “greenfield” development), are more problematic and require more study and consideration within the municipal planning framework.

Areas like Sandy Lake, Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes and the Eisner’s Cove Wetland are squarely in the crosshairs. Although they will probably go through the pretense of environmental review and maybe some public input window dressing, the outcome has already been determined. The fix is in…

I am pretty familiar with those three areas, and was asked to speak at a rally in  support of the Eisner Cove Wetland last Saturday.  I arrived early and walked down by the wetland for a few quiet moments. I ran into Local Food and Climate Activist Lil MacPherson – one of scheduled speakers – on the way. I asked if I could video a short discussion with her about the wetland, about her first impressions – it was her first time there.

A bit of context: the proposal is to place 1200 units on approx. 26 hectares of currently forested, strongly sloping upland, but keep the wetland (approx 10 ha) as a community asset. These are mature forests with features of old growth. The wetland is an acidic treed fen. Lil was dumbfounded by it all as I think anyone who visits it would be.  Have a listen, have a look.

To top it all off, a year or so back, a large chunk of the land involved was sold off by Innovacorp, a Provincial Crown Corporation, purportedly for a pittance, shades of Owl’s Head.

But this is 2022, not pre-election 2021 and there has been no promise by this now majority government to look into that deal.

These examples have been highlighted in the press because of citizen actions. That’s the good news. Regardless of the governing party, Nova Scotians care about these places.

Lil MacPherson at Port Wallace.
Click on image for video

Update (Apr 16, 2022): to add to the mix of questionable fast-tracked developments environmental-wise, one of the nine sites  is Port Wallace, an area highly contaminated by toxic wastes from old gold mines. View Lil MacPherson on that topic and see Port Wallace Gamble: the real estate boom meets Nova Scotia’s toxic mine legacy by Joan Baxter in the Halifax Examiner (subscription required for full access) “The provincial government has taken over control of the Port Wallace ‘special planning area’ to fast-track development, but what about toxic tailings in Barry’s Run and other risks to the area?”.

Some Links

Bridgewater Watershed Protection Alliance
Public Facebook Group “We are an interdisciplinary group of citizens concerned with the proposed logging in the Bridgewater Watershed, an area which is also the habitat of the critically endangered Atlantic Whitefish. It is a beautiful, mature forest that provides abundant ecological and recreational value, and is home to other at-risk species, too.”

NOVA SCOTIA’s Petite Rivière Watershed
Coastal Action document 2005-2006

Bridgewater opposes logging in home of critically endangered fish
Paul Withers · CBC News · Posted: Apr 21, 2022

Sackville Rivers Association
“The Sackville Rivers Association restores, enhances, and protects the environmental health of the Sackville River Watershed for present and future generations; by providing river restoration, promoting recreational use, delivering educational programs, and encouraging stewardship.” There is also a Facebook Page
Sackville River wilderness area finally in line for protected park status
Chronicle Herald article, posted on website of Atlantic salmon Federation.

Protect Eisner Cove Wetland
“We are a non-profit society dedicated to the preservation and protection of the Eisner Cove Wetland. We believe that:
– Precious natural resources belong to all residents of Nova Scotia.
– Our province and cities can and must make better decisions to allow growth in a more sustainable manner, prioritizing the protection of our environment.
– The Eisner Cove Wetland and its protective forest belt should be returned to public ownership, and preserved as a wild area for recreational and educational use only.”
There is also a Facebook Page

Artwork by Matt Dempsey in support of Last Hope Camp, now the 135th day of citizen action.
Click on image for source

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