Saturday, January 28, 2023

Province to move on Archibald Lake wilderness designation

Consultations, analysis required before cabinet decision

  • January 4 2023
  • By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

ST. MARY’S – The provincial government is now “taking the next steps” on the proposed designation of Archibald Lake Wilderness Area, according to a statement last week from Department of Environment and Climate Change Minister Timothy Halman.

“With respect to the proposed Archibald Lake Wilderness Area, I can convey that while no decisions have been made on the legal designation of that site, we are now taking the next steps that are required to bring this forward to provincial Cabinet for a decision,” Halman wrote in a letter to Scott Beaver, president of the St. Mary’s River Association (SMRA), dated Dec. 29.

“This includes completing consultation with Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq, and completing and releasing a socioeconomic analysis of the impact of the designation as required under the Wilderness Areas Protection Act. These steps are expected to take a few months.”

The letter was in response to Beaver’s memo to Halman on Dec. 14, one offering SMRA’s support for the province’s recent designation of six new nature reserves and expansion of seven wilderness areas, but asking, “on behalf of my board of directors and membership … that you and the Department of Environment [also] take the necessary steps to officially finalize the protection of the Archibald Lake Wilderness Area.”

Beaver noted that the proposed 684-hectare Archibald Lake site, adjacent to the St. Mary’s River, had been identified as a candidate for protection in 2020, but, since then, has been “overlooked five times … [This] should be concerning for Nova Scotians. I can tell you it certainly is for our membership and the residents of St. Mary’s.”

He noted, “We were delighted to hear you feel land conservation is essential for Nova Scotia’s environmental health, economic growth and prosperity as well as how important protecting areas plays an essential role in fighting climate change and helping conserve the province’s biodiversity, [but] Archibald Lake has great significance to the river system and the ecology in the area is astonishing.”

On Dec. 12, the provincial government announced an investment of $20 million to “help protect more of Nova Scotia’s land and water designating another 9,300 hectares of Crown land for the benefit of Nova Scotians and the environment.”

Halman’s letter — which is cc’d to Premier Tim Houston and Guysborough-Tracadie MLA Greg Morrow – also states: “I was very pleased to announce the designation of new nature reserve and wilderness area sites and appreciate your supportive words in that regard. I can also confirm that we are continuing our work with Nova Scotia Natural Resources and Renewables to finish designating sites.”

In an email to The Journal last week, Beaver said, “As I understood the letter … this is good news but it does not mean Archibald Lake will be officially protected, so it is not quite time for celebrations.”