JOGGINS - Cumberland Wilderness has come up with a proposal for the Chignecto Game Sanctuary it feels will offer added protection over a larger area while maintaining access to the trail system for off-highway vehicle users.
"The draft proposal calls for the protection of what we call the 4Cs: core, corridor, coastal and community," society spokesperson, naturalist and author Harry Thurston said Monday during a presentation at the Joggins Fossil Centre. "The game sanctuary provides the core for the proposed new wilderness area. We are also calling for an important wildlife corridor to the north, toward the Chignecto Isthmus and a coastal area to the west, which includes the Bay of Fundy salt marsh at Sand River."
As well, he added, the society is committed to maintaining community connections through the sanctuary by supporting and protecting the major trail systems that already run through the 21,000-hectare property.
Cumberland Wilderness has been advocating for better protection for the Chignecto Game Sanctuary and surrounding Crown lands since the former Conservative government tried to de-list sanctuaries throughout the province in 2004. It contends the sanctuary includes unique landscape types and harbours several endangered and vulnerable species including the mainland moose, wood turtle and inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon.
"The only true way to protect these special lands is under the Wilderness Areas Protection Act which will eliminate industrial uses such as forestry and mining," Thurston said. "It will fulfill the purpose for which the sanctuary was first provided, to safeguard wildlife by protecting their habitat. It will make these lands a true sanctuary, a safe haven for wildlife."
Society member Blake Daley said Cumberland Wilderness supports maintaining access to the sanctuary for off-highway vehicle users through the Joggins-Advocate highway and the Boar's Back Road as well as through the Goodwin Road and Thunder Hill Road.
The society's proposal, he said, supports maintaining 70 per cent of the current groomed trails in the sanctuary, something Daley feels is much higher than most people think.
He suggested the society's proposal is not an end point, but instead should open dialog with trail users, environmentalists, naturalists and government.
"We wanted to come forward with a balanced approach. To do this, there needs to be a wide consultation and we are but one voice," Daley said. "We do not presume to speak for all those groups, but are prepared to propose a specific area that's based on solid and recent science. We believe it is possible to blend the interests of people to do things like hunting, fishing and off-highway vehicle use. All of these interests can be blended into a working wilderness area."
The society's proposal, he said, would bring about added protection for wildlife while maintaining trail links between Maccan, River Hebert, Springhill, Joggins, Parrsboro and Advocate.
In October, the new NDP government announced its intention to establish a large wilderness area within Crown lands in and near the Chignecto Game Sanctuary. First, it plans to hold consultations with business, community and environmental stakeholders.