Added protection for Isthmus of Chignecto

Darrell Cole
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New nature reserve planned for Joggins

The province plans to protect an additional 2,000 hectares of the Isthmus of Chignecto around the existing wilderness area that includes the North Tyndal Wellfield.

AMHERST – Ron Patterson couldn’t be happier that Amherst’s water supply is getting greater protection.

Natural Resources Minister Charlie Parker and Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau released the province’s Parks and Protected Areas Plan on Thursday. The plan will protect 13 per cent of the province’s landmass by 2015 and ensure provincial parks continue to offer the high quality experience visitors expect.

The plan includes expanding the existing Chignecto Isthmus Wilderness Area by up to 2,000 hectares to protect a vital land corridor connecting Nova Scotia and New Brunswick while also providing more of a buffer for the North Tyndal Wellfield.

There’s also the potential for further expansion across the Tyndal Road.

“I have a copy of the province’s plan and what it looks like is what we asked for,” said Patterson, who in the early 1990s played a prominent role in developing the wellfield. “This more than doubles the original area.”

Patterson said the prime reason for protection is to ensure the continued connectivity between the two provinces. While the Nature Conservancy of Canada talks a lot about the isthmus being a corridor for mainland moose traveling from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia, Patterson said, it’s also a vital link for all sorts of flora and fauna.

He said the expanded wilderness area will help give added protection to the wellfield that he says is irreplaceable.

“One of the prime news stories today is fracking and fracking within 20 or 30 kilometres of that wellfield could be disastrous,” he said. “By protecting the area on the south side of the Tyndal Road that adds more protection for the wellfield from any natural gas or petroleum product extraction.”

Patterson said today’s rules don’t prevent fracking from taking place there, but he said the added protection will make it much more difficult for someone to attempt fracking in that area.

“The traditional thinking on groundwater sources is that it’s there for me and my grandchildren, but that wellfield is there for hundreds of years and many generations. The time is going to come when people realize that’s a resource that can’t be duplicated,” he said. “If North Tyndal were ever polluted it would be a monstrous job to clean it up. It would be almost impossible.”

Naturalist and author Harry Thurston said it’s important to protect land in the isthmus.

Thurston said county residents have a special responsibility when it comes to stewardship because the isthmus is such an important piece of land in that it’s the only connection to the rest of the continent.

“Without this link Nova Scotia would be an island,” he said. “It’s really important to keep it protected and I think the province understand that.”

Thurston said the effort to protect lands in the isthmus north and east of Amherst builds on what was done over the past few years to bring added protection to lands in and around the Chignecto Game Sanctuary. That resulted in the new Kelley River and Ravenhead wilderness areas.

“In order for the moose population there to be viable we need moose to be moving in and out of the province and they have to come through here. It’s a stepping stone for Cumberland County and the whole province,” Thurston said.

Thurston said all the animals and plants that have come into the province and are part of its bio-diversity have had to come through the Isthmus of Chignecto.

“It was true 10,000 years ago and it’s still true today,” Thurston added.

Peter Labor, the director of protected areas and wetlands with the Department of Environment, said the plan also brings added protection to other areas of Cumberland County, including an additional 400 hectares along the coast in the Ravenhead Wilderness Area and 132 hectares in the Kelley River Wilderness Area.

It also proposes the Fossil Coast Nature Reserve near Joggins.

“That helps to protect some additional coastline that has features similar to Joggins,” Labor said.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is applauding the news.

‘This is an historic day, a very good day for conservation, habitat and species protection,” NCC stewardship co-ordinator Doug van Hemessen said. “We commend the province for taking land conservation seriously. This was an inclusive process, where public open houses were held and stakeholders provided submissions.”

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

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