Nova Scotia

Province may protect more land, including area of proposed gold mine

The Nova Scotia government wants to hear from the public about six areas proposed for legal protection, including one that’s smack in the middle of a proposed gold mine development.

Archibald Lake Wilderness Area could be protected from Cochrane Hill project

Archibald Lake in Guysborough County is one of the areas the provincial government may protect. The government is asking for public feedback on the matter. (Nova Scotia Environment)

The Nova Scotia government wants to hear from the public about six areas up for legal protection, including one that's smack in the middle of a proposed gold mine development.

The properties announced Friday were highlighted back in September by Environment Minister Gordon Wilson, except for the Archibald Lake Wilderness Area.

A government assessment says the 684 hectares in Guysborough County near the St. Marys River includes woodlands, lakes and several small wetlands in the watershed of Archibald Brook.

There are old hardwood forests and the watershed "provides quality habitat for brook trout and other aquatic species," according to the assessment.

"Nearly the entire site consists of ecosystem elements that are poorly represented in Nova Scotia's protected areas network, including the well drained hardwood drumlins. It also overlaps with a mainland moose concentration zone delineated by the Department of Lands and Forestry."

Part of the area also happens to have been identified by Atlantic Gold as part of its proposed Cochrane Hill gold mine project. The company's proposed use of Archibald Lake, according to the government, "cannot be permitted within a wilderness area."

Environment Minister Gordon Wilson announced a new slate of properties up for legal protection on Friday. (CBC)

In an interview, Wilson noted that the Archibald Lake Wilderness Area has long been slated for protection and the gold mine proposal had nothing to do with his decision.

Wilson said the cluster of areas around the St. Marys River was a high priority for him. As he worked toward its protection, people in the area brought his attention to Archibald Lake.

"It was all part of the original bringing together of what I thought was a good group of the next level of protected areas," he said.

Scott Beaver, president of the St. Marys River Association, called it fantastic news for the region.

"We can't applaud the provincial government enough for protecting this area around Archibald Lake," he said.

"This new designation cuts off the water supply to the proposed gold mine. That's big for us. We don't necessarily think that's an outright stop for the mine, but it certainly put smiles on our face down here."

Ray Plourde of the Ecology Action Centre said he was delighted to see the new areas up for protection, especially Archibald Lake.

"It's been studied for years," he said.

"It's a significant piece of the overall St. Marys River Watershed, which is at the top of our priority list."

Chris Miller, executive director of the Nova Scotia branch of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said the site features old-growth forest as well as significant riparian habitat, which refers to the area between land and a river or stream.

"Much better for that water to be available for the ecosystem, and the animals who depend upon it, rather than for an open-pit gold mine," Miller said.

Mi'kmaw elders recommend new name

The government is also accepting public feedback until March 9 on:

  • An addition to Silver River Wilderness Area.

  • Katiwe'katik (McGowan Lake) Wilderness Area.

  • An addition to Terence Bay Wilderness Area.

  • An addition to Ship Harbour Long Lake Wilderness Area.

  • Pleasant River Wilderness Area.

Wilson said the decision to rename the McGowan Lake area follows a recommendation from Mi'kmaw elders. The area near Kejimkujik National Park includes hundreds of petroglyphs under the lake and was an ancestral home for the Mi'kmaq.

"We have some areas that the names that were picked for the wilderness areas maybe aren't quite as reflective as what the traditional local community would call them," said Wilson, adding that the new name translates to eel lake, "and eels are very significant to the Mi'kmaq in their traditions."

4 other areas granted protection

Other areas announced Friday that will be protected are:

  • St. Marys River Provincial Park

  • Barra Forest Provincial Park

  • St. Margarets Bay Islands Nature Reserve

  • Peppered Moon Nature Reserve

The first three have already gone through the consultation process, while Peppered Moon's designation did not require consultation.

Should all 10 sites be protected it would mean a total of 12.75 per cent of the province's land would be legally protected.

Plourde lauded the progress and said he hopes the department now turns its attention to the remaining parcels of land pending protection, particularly the Nine Mile Woods Wilderness Area, which is to the north of the proposed Cochrane Hill project.