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."