Governments of all levels are often criticized for taking too long to study an issue before making a decision, and the issue of the Chignecto Game Sanctuary has been no exception. In this case, however, the provincial government has been wise to take its time and consult with those affected.
When those seeking Wilderness Area protection for the sanctuary, such as Cumberland Wilderness, may have feared that the government was going to bend to pressure from those in favour of the status quo, it went a step further and added a 4,753-hectare section of coastline between Apple Head and the Shulie River to its proposed areas of protection. This creates an opportunity to protect a coastline area previously unthought of by many, and should leave more room for compromise in the contentious Chignecto area.
Meanwhile, the recreational users of the sanctuary who feared losing access to an area of the county they have treasured for generations, can take some comfort in the fact that the government proposal includes leaving 20 km more open to them than what Cumberland Wilderness was proposing. If anything, it shows that they are being listened to.
Is the 20,567-hectare Kelly River Wilderness Area now being proposed going to be something all parties can agree on? Not likely. The truth is, Cumberland Wilderness did not expect to get all of the land protected that it was asking for, and has said all along that they were prepared for compromise. But recreational users did not ask for any of this, and simply want to continue responsibly using the trails they always have. They are the real ones being asked to give here, and a compromise will depend on their willingness to co-operate.
What is important here is that everyone still has a chance to make their voice heard. Beginning in May, public consultations will run until Aug. 12 with open houses in Southampton, Joggins, Advocate, Parrsboro, Amherst and Halifax. Hopefully these sessions will allow for reasonable discussion with common goals in mind.