Wilderness area fight could be divisive

Darrell Cole
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Off-highway vehicle users opposed to more restrictions

JOGGINS - The proposal to create a wilderness area in and around the Chignecto Game Sanctuary is going to be a tough fight.

Moments after hearing Cumberland Wilderness propose a 35,000-hectare wilderness area in Cumberland County, area municipal councillor John Reid said it's not going to be accepted in the community.

"I think it's way too restrictive. People are not going to be happy with the limited amount of trails and they're not going to be happy with having to drive in one way and drive out the same way," Reid said Monday.

Reid is also concerned with the way Cumberland Wilderness released its proposal by having a briefing with invited guests. He feels the communities around the sanctuary should have been consulted and hopes the society does that in the coming weeks and months before going any further.

"I'm not against a wilderness protected area, but what they're trying to do is not going to work. It's too restrictive and it's going to make outlaws out of the people who want to use the sanctuary for travel and have been doing so for years," he said, adding that no one from River Hebert and Joggins was invited nor were officials from Natural Resources or Environment.

George Pugsley, who owns land within the sanctuary, said the plan is not acceptable to him because it restricts how he can access his property and suggests it could be used for hiking trails.

"This plan is not acceptable at all to recreational community or the landowners in the area," he said. "Too many roads have been cut off and some of the better locations to have a trail have been cut off in comparison to some areas that are a little bit wetter."

Pugsley favours a plan brought forward by Natural Resources that would see 4,620 hectares protected within the sanctuary and 3,661 hectares protected outside while leaving the other areas alone.

"I'm sure there is a middle ground. In fact, the snowmobile users and landowners met with Murray Scott and DNR officials last year and approved a plan that keeps all of those better roads kept open and protects the major areas needing protection," Pugsley added. "What they're proposing here is going to shut out too many people."

For the province to get to its plan of protecting 12 per cent of its land mass, he suggested looking elsewhere instead of making one big grab in Cumberland County.

To show their displeasure, a number of off-highway vehicle users posted signs along to roadside between Amherst and Joggins, where Cumberland Wilderness unveiled its propsal. The signs called for all trails in the sanctuary to be left alone and favour a plan brought forward earlier this year by the Natural Resources Department.

Raymond Plourde of the Ecology Action Centre said he favours Cumberland Wilderness' proposal and suggests the DNP plan Pugsley is talking about is obsolete.

"The government's plan on off-highway use says there will be fewer but better trails on Crown lands and many of these spiderwebs of old logging roads and cartpaths that people have used willy nilly across the landscape will be reduced over time," Plourde said. "Regardless of wilderness designation that's going to happen. There's going to be a reduction of these unofficial trails and officially sanctioned trails will come into place that will be better financed and better graded for safety."

Plourde said the DNR plan was never sanctioned by the department or its minister, but instead was brought forward by the area MLA as a solution.

"It's not a plan for a wilderness area, it's a bunch of little blotches to try to avoid having a wilderness area," he said. "It's an end run, not a serious proposal."


Organizations: Natural Resources Department, Ecology Action Centre, Cumberland

Geographic location: Joggins, Cumberland County, River Hebert Amherst

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Recent comments

  • Morris
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Unlike some people I have a fair amount of tolerance for and understanding of the recreational opportunities that are afforded by the use of off road vehicles, year round. In terms of the Game Sanctuary and the creation of the creation of a Wilderness Area in Cumberland County, I find it obnoxious that some people consider it their playground, at the expense of all other considerations. No person has that right simply by being a tax payer. The people of Cumberland County have the right to set aside a portion of the land for a Wilderness Area, just as has been done and is being done in other parts of our Province. At the very least, a balanced approach should be adopted by all concerned, leading to a workable compromise.

  • Joan
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    I am in support of a Wilderness designation for the CGS. I am in support of extending the boundaries. All stakeholders would benefit from designation, but even more important the plants and animals that inhabit the area would benefit by being protected from mining and development. And future generations will thank us for saving some of our natural areas which clean the air, hold back erosion and support biodiversity.

  • Vicki
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Almost five years ago government attempted to delist sanctuaries in the province. At that time many individuals discovered that sanctuary didn't mean habitat protection - clear cutting and mining are allowed in sanctuaries. Under the Wilderness protection act the Chignecto Game Sanctuary habitat would be protected. The government recently announced that it is seriously looking at this area in Cumberland county to help it reach it's goal of 12% protection. They have indicated they will be reaching out to all stakeholders. I believe it is possible to find a balanced approach to protection through Wilderness designation and encourage the NDP government to start it's process of public consultation.

  • C
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    You always hear of people trying to create green areas, but why is it always in an area that is being used by OHV's, there are thousands of acres of land all over the province that OHV have never touched, make some of them green. For those that have a OHV it is a way of life, a family activity enjoyed by all. Anyone that owns a OHV pays taxes just like everyone else and they should also have right to use land that we the taxpayers pay for, we also pay to have them licensed and insured which if added up would surprise us how much more we pay than someone that does not own an OHV. It would be nice to see rules favor us for a change!

  • confused
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Could someone please tell me what the DNR plan is?

  • Sue
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    The approaches taken to land management in this province seem infinitely problematic. There is no one body that brings together the diverse voices of all the interested parties to ensure that each and every group is represented fairly.

    There is no reason the wilderness in this province can't be managed in a way that benefits all users. The relationship between recreational users and the wilderness should be symbiotic, not exclusive. Most people who recreate on trails are traveling on a very narrow portion of any tract of wilderness. Educated presence in the woods can serve to prevent disasters such as illegal dumping, poaching, human-related forest fires, etc. Adding recreational value to a swath of land also helps protect it from future development and destruction.

    If the various interest groups that hold stakes in wilderness access and protection could work together instead of in opposition, I'm sure that a workable solution could be reached for every piece of wilderness in question. The government needs to facilitate a forum to collect information and process the needs of various interest groups as a collective - it's the only way that land management in Nova Scotia can meet the needs of the people and the wilderness in this province.

  • Joan
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I am in support of a Wilderness designation for the CGS. I am in support of extending the boundaries. All stakeholders would benefit from designation, but even more important the plants and animals that inhabit the area would benefit by being protected from mining and development. And future generations will thank us for saving some of our natural areas which clean the air, hold back erosion and support biodiversity.

  • Lisa
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Just because the various groups are not in agreement of how many trails should remain in use you want to stop the added protection to this land?? Think a little harder about that. If the exploration company comes in and decides to do drilling in the sanctuary or on the crown lands surround the sanctuary how many trails do you think they will allow to remain open?? Out west (where this company's home office is located) they have been having incidents of people trying to destroy pipelines. If they take over and drill the trails anywhere near them will be closed - the roads too.

    Wilderness Protection will be very important to this sanctuary. Cumberland Wilderness has unveiled their proposal only to open the dialogue not to have their decisions rubber stamped!! All stakeholders need to have a say on this issue and somewhere a blended approach between the stakeholders should move forward.

  • Dale
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I would like to add that Mr Pugsley's comment suggesting the proposal brought forward is not acceptable at all to recreational community or the landowners in the area is without merit. In fact, as a landowner in the area, and sharing a common border with the Sanctuary, I am in complete endorsement of a Wilderness Area designation for Chignecto and surrounding lands.

    In the future, might I request that if spokespersons are not speaking on behalf of a collective, then they should identify their opinions as just that - individual opinions.

    I am of the fervent belief that ecological integrity and suitable wildlife habitat should trump recreational and/or industrial activity.

    I would hope that all parties would recognize that stabilization and promotion of a moose population will only increase their enjoyment of the Sanctuary in the future. I also hold similar sentiments for an IBF salmon population a species that has probably been extirpated from the River Hebert in less than half of my lifetime. How many other species are at risk? Is their well being not more important than our collective ability to walk, paddle, drive or harvest natural resources?

  • Realistic
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Old logging roads, cartpaths, trails - all terms used above. Lets call them what they are - roads. Well constructed and maintained, and used all 4 seasons by people of the surrounding communities in their cars and trucks along with OHVs - it is not about just OHVs and trails. They have history, as can be seen by their names - How Brown, Aub Brown, Maloney, Goodwin, Hatfield, Creighton, on it goes. History that comes from over 70 years of dedicated management by DNR that has created this area in the first place, and turned it from a burned out waste land into what it is today, and that has also made the area special to those of the neighbouring communties and those that have visited and enjoyed it over those 70 years. Local people have connections to those names. I agree with Sue above. Taking management out of the picture completely, which is what WP status would do, to an area that vast, and putting it all on a shelf forever is not something I can support. It will only cause deterioration and would be a slap in the face to those who have made it what it is over those 70 years and continue to improve it. Yes, there are likely areas within the Sanctuary that would benefit from added protection, but I think the widespread blanket proposed here will have our future generations questioning us.