Nova Scotia

N.S. restores 2 newly protected areas to Mi'kmaw names

The protected sites announced Wednesday include two that are historically significant to the Mi’kmaw community.

Protected areas announced Wednesday do not include site of proposed gold mine

The province is still considering whether to extend legal protection to Archibald Lake in Guysborough County where a gold mine has been proposed. (Nova Scotia Environment)

The Nova Scotia government is making good on a promise to protect 10 more pieces of land, but the status of a proposed wilderness area that would affect a potential gold mine remains in question.

The protected sites announced Wednesday include two that are historically significant to the Mi'kmaq. The McGowan Lake Wilderness Area is being renamed Katewe'katik, while the Pleasant River Wilderness Area will now be known as Pu'tlaqne'katik.

The other sites now being designated are:

  • Shingle Lake Wilderness Area.

  • Ship Harbour Long Lake Wilderness Area (expansion).

  • Silver River Wilderness Area (expansion).

  • Terence Bay Wilderness Area (expansion).

  • Peppered Moon Nature Reserve.

  • St. Margarets Bay Islands Nature Reserve.

  • Barra Forest Provincial Park.

  • St. Mary's River Provincial Park.

Melissa Labrador, a Mi'kmaw woman whose family has generational ties to Katewe'katik, said protection of it is particularly meaningful, as is the restoration of traditional Mi'kmaw names.

"When you're there, you know you're in a special place," she said.

"We come from these areas and to know that my ancestors, my family, lived in these areas, occupied these areas for a long time, it's very special."

Melissa and Todd Labrador show Environment Minister Gordon Wilson and former lands and forestry minister Iain Rankin a birchbark canoe in this file photo. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

The protection means there is no risk of activities such as mining or clear cutting in the areas. Labrador said she hopes the new designations will also help make traditional stories and history of the sites more prominent.

One site that wasn't designated for protection, however, is the proposed Archibald Lake Wilderness Area.

The government announced in January that it was also considering that site, but Environment Minister Gordon Wilson said Thursday there are "a few more considerations" around the property before he can make a decision.

Archibald Lake received more public feedback than any other property up for consideration. It's of particular interest because a proposed gold mine in the area near the St. Marys River in Guysborough County aims to use part of the land for its operation. It would not be able to use the land if it were to become a wilderness area.

Opponents of the mine have said the government should focus instead on ecotourism, while supporters of the mine — and people who voiced opposition to protecting the area — say that part of Guysborough County desperately needs the jobs and economic development that could come from a mine.

Holding out hope

Scott Beaver, president of the St. Marys River Association, said he would have liked to see Archibald Lake included in the announcement Wednesday, but he remains hopeful it will eventually be protected.

Beaver noted it was a dedicated letter-writing campaign that helped get the land considered in the first place.

"It didn't make the list this time but we're pretty confident we'll get it on there yet."

Even without Archibald Lake being included, Beaver said he viewed Wednesday's news as a win because of the formal protection granted to more than 11,300 hectares in St. Marys River Provincial Park.

It's "a massive amount of land to protect along the St. Marys River corridor," said Beaver.

"It only strengthens our resolve to stick to protecting more land along the river and to keep the mine out."

Representatives for the Mining Association of Nova Scotia could not be reached for comment.

Environment Minister Gordon Wilson said he still has factors to consider before making a decision about the proposed Archibald Lake Wilderness Area. (CBC)

Wilson said the factors he's still reviewing before making a decision include potential economic development considerations.

"It's always trying to find that balance and in that, consultation plays a very important part," he said.

"I've been very open to listening and ensuring that when a decision is made, it takes into considerations [what] I hear from the whole spectrum."

Wednesday's announcement means the province has protected 12.83 per cent of its total land. Wilson has a stated goal of reaching 13 per cent.

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With files from Information Morning

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