Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chignecto Game Sanctuary renamed to Kelley River Wilderness Area

In a 1934 Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forests annual report, the government of the day suggested that "Game sanctuaries are places where game of all kinds live their lives as nature intended, undisturbed except by their natural enemies. They serve the purpose of preserving at all times a nucleus of breeding stock, thus preventing the extermination of any species."

Whether that included all wildlife is somewhat suspect, yet the record shows that Chignecto Game Sanctuary was established in 1937, primarily for the benefit of the province's largest indigenous ungulate - the mainland moose.

When the legislators of the day drafted the Sanctuaries Act to protect the wildlife within sanctuary boundaries, it would be quite safe to assume that 'chain saw' had yet to enter the forest industry vocabulary. It would certainly stand to common wisdom that a harvester cable of flattening acre after acre per day would be something. well, of Star Wars proportion. This was, after all, still the day of double-bitted axe and pulp saws, no consideration was given to protecting wildlife habitat.

Since that time the mainland moose population has declined, and especially so since 1980 to the point where its very survival is now threatened. Is it just coincidental that this is the same time period that chain saw silva-culture work in Chignecto gave way to million dollar harvesters and clear cut operations?

Somehow, between then and now, we have permitted Chignecto Game Sanctuary to become less of a wildlife refuge and more of a forest management area. It would appear the bureaucratic psychology of the Department of Natural Resources has drifted from allowing "game of all kinds (to) live their lives as nature intended" to a measuring a sanctuaries worth in board feet and metric tonnes.

 In 2005, the government of the day proposed to de-list all game sanctuaries in Nova Scotia and as a consequence open them to any and all industrial activity. A public engagement process was initiated, and the governments plan seemed to backfire. Following that review, and according to a February 2006 Department of Natural Resources press release "Nova Scotians want more wildlife management areas and improved habitat protection in the currently designated areas."

In 2007 I wrote the following entry in my field journal while waiting for my canoeing partner who was off exploring an incredible pine stand bordering the River Hebert River:

This was my classroom, a wide-open classroom without walls and standards, where I could learn the difference between a white and red pine, how to identify a hemlock, a sugar maple, a merganser and bobcat. 

Chignecto truly is more than a sanctuary for flora and fauna; it is also a sanctuary for people. It is a special place, a place where no legislation or words can do justice. 

This is a place where the chorus of cool summer breezes whistling through the mature pine and hemlock sing a song of life. It has to be felt, experienced and breathed in.

It is a place where man can learn that he is no greater than any other creature or tree that surrounds him.

What a travesty should the life known as Chignecto be snubbed out by not protecting her lifeblood: the air, the land and the water that courses through her veins.

Today, 06 June, 2012, I was delighted to share a room with many kindred spirits to listen to government representatives announce the protection of not only “the Sanctuary” –now called Kelley River Wilderness Area—but also a large neighbouring parcel on the Bay of Fundy coastline to be called Raven Head Wilderness area.

This Wilderness Area designation and protection of 64,793 acres will ensure the words of those visionaries of 1937 finally comes true: Perhaps now the natural elements of this incredible place will remain undisturbed, just as nature intended.

Here I am joined by my friend and long time naturalist and advocate, Harry Thurston, 
at the announcement in Amherst, Nova Scotia. 

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