The province is taking the steps to designate a new wilderness area on about 14,000 hectares of Crown land in the Ship Harbour Long Lake area of Halifax Regional Municipality, Premier Rodney MacDonald announced today, Dec. 7.
"Protecting the environment is one of the five priorities outlined in the throne speech," the premier said. "Today, I'm proud we are turning our words into action. This announcement lays the foundation for consultations that will help the province determine a large and exciting new wilderness area."
As part of the process, Minister of Natural Resources David Morse has established a moratorium on new forestry and development activities in an area identified in a ground-breaking agreement between Neenah Paper Co. and a coalition of major environmental groups.
Neenah Paper Co., Ecology Action Centre, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Eastern Shore Forest Watch and the departments of Natural Resources and Environment and Labour signed the agreement that supports establishing a candidate wilderness area in November.
The candidate wilderness area is centered on Ship Harbour Long Lake and runs east to Scraggy Lake and west to Admiral Lake. A map showing the proposed boundaries is available online at www.gov.ns.ca/enla/protectedareas .
Mr. Morse said the next step will be a full and effective public consultation.
"Key stakeholders, including the minerals, forestry and tourism industries, environmental groups, outdoor recreation groups and local community interests, will be asked for input into the design of the consultation process," he said. "The results of the consultation will be vital to the process that helps us finalize the boundaries of what will become the new designated area."
Discussions will also be held with the aboriginal community through the Made in Nova Scotia Process and a socioeconomic analysis will be conducted. The province expects to complete the designation process within a year.
"I am pleased this will be another new protected area for Halifax Regional Municipality and a boost to the province's goal of protecting 12 per cent of our land mass," said Environment and Labour Minister Mark Parent. "I want to thank our non-governmental and industry partners for their co-operation in reaching this agreement."
As part of the November agreement, Neenah Paper, which held licensed forest rights in the identified area, has been given permission to harvest one final time on specific sites. The province has also agreed to provide the company with wood supply elsewhere in return for the company foregoing its lease in the area.
"This area is one of the last truly wild places left in mainland Nova Scotia," says Raymond Plourde, wilderness co-ordinator for the Ecology Action Centre. "It's a place of remarkable beauty, healthy wildlife habitat and intact Acadian Forest. It's also a critically important area for biodiversity conservation. We applaud the government's leadership and Neenah Paper's assistance in protecting this extraordinary treasure."
Studies have identified the Ship Harbour Long Lake candidate wilderness area as having high conservation value because of its roadless natural areas, representative landscapes not currently protected, old forest stands, major wetlands and river corridors, more than 50 lakes, areas of high scenic value, and wilderness recreation and tourism potential.
The area has been the focus of a grassroots campaign to protect it since 1999.
Neenah has voluntarily postponed harvesting there since 2001. However, use of the agreed harvest sites has recently become critical as the company tries to maintain the wood supply needed to operate its plant at Abercrombie, Pictou Co.
"Our company recognizes that this is an important area for conservation and we are pleased to be part of an agreement to allow its consideration for protection," said Neenah spokesperson Jack Kyte. "We see this as a unique example of how stakeholders can find innovative solutions toward sustainability, if the needs of all parties are considered, such as our need for a stable wood supply."
The harvested blocks make up a relatively small amount of the candidate wilderness area and are along existing roads. The company has agreed to leave the vast majority of the land as is.
The Environmental and Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act commits the province to protecting 12 per cent of its land mass by the year 2015.
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The province is taking the steps to designate a new wilderness area on about 14-thousand hectares of Crown land in the Ship Harbour Long Lake area of Halifax Regional Municipality, Premier Rodney MacDonald announced today (December 7th).
A groundbreaking agreement between Neenah Paper, which holds licence rights to some of the land, the government and several key environmental groups set the stage for today's announcement.
That agreement allows Neenah to conduct one last harvest of some trees in specific areas included in the proposed wilderness area. But it also establishes a moratorium on new forestry and development activities in the proposed zone.
The process of public consultations on the designation and final boundaries will now begin.