Nova Scotia wilderness protection has public support, director says

A director with the Nova Scotia Department of Environment says there is public support for wilderness protection areas, even as one municipal councillor in Cape Breton's Victoria County argues too much land is being sheltered.

Protection faces criticism from Victoria County councillor who says too much land designated wilderness

The French River Wilderness Protected Area in Victoria County. (novascotia.ca)

A director with the Nova Scotia Department of Environment says there is public support for wilderness protection areas, even as one municipal councillor in Cape Breton's Victoria County argues too much land is being sheltered from development and other uses.

Peter Labor, director of protected areas and wetlands for the province, said the protection designation preserves land for people's use and enjoyment. 

"Recreational activities, hiking and camping, hunting and fishing are all permitted in wilderness areas," he said.

The Nova Scotia government has reached its goal of protecting more than 12 per cent of the province's lands. Last month, the province announced five new designations, including Kluscap Wilderness Area in Victoria County.

But not everyone is so pleased. There has been criticism from Municipality of Victoria County Coun. Athol Grant, who says too much of the county is protected. 

One area in dispute includes an old trail from Ingonish to the Cape Breton Highland Road system. Grant said people want to continue using all-terrain vehicles on the route.

"Our residents have concerns about these historic trails and public roads being included (as protected wilderness)," he said.

Labor said the trail crosses several lakes and bogs, "so it's not something that would be viable for use by ATVs."

However, he said the department is trying to identify another route for off-highway vehicles and has indicated to the municipality and other partners that it will "hold off on bringing that site forward until we try and find a solution for that access."

When Cape Breton Highlands National Park is included, close to 40 per cent of Victoria County has a protected wilderness status.

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