Nova Scotia

Group protecting Bras d'Or Lake could disappear

Members of the not-for-profit Bras d'Or Stewardship Society are trying to decide whether to shut the organization down now that its long-time chair is retiring.

Members of Bras d'Or Stewardship Society can't decide if group should continue

Pat Bates is stepping down as chair of the Bras d'Or Stewardship Society. (David Burke/CBC)

Members of the not-for-profit Bras d'Or Stewardship Society are trying to decide whether to shut the organization down now that its long-time chair is retiring.

The stewardship group, which was formed 16 years ago, advocates for the conservation, protection and restoration of the Bras d'Or Lake and its watershed.

At that time, there were concerns about pollution from sewage pipes, boats and quarries and the long-term health of the lake. The society's main role since then has been to advocate for regulations to protect the Bras d'Or.

Pat Bates, who has been chair of the Bras d'Or Stewardship Society since its inception, announced in September he was stepping down.

"I think it's time perhaps for some new ideas," said Bates.

He told CBC News his exit will allow younger members to take on more responsibility within the Bras d'Or Stewardship Society.

Since Bates's announcement, the board has been debating what to do next.

Some long standing directors believe that with the loss of Bates and the difficulty in recruiting new volunteers, it's best to call it quits and disperse the society's funds to other organizations.

Merger an option, says Bates

Bates said a second option is to merge with another group, such as the Bras d'Or Lake Biosphere Reserve Association or the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources.

Leah Noble, a board member, wants the society to continue.

"We're unique in that we don't have any government funding, so we can say pretty much whatever we want. There needs to be someone like that, a watchdog," said Noble.

Noble believes the next issue of concern will be climate change and how it affects shorelines.

Whatever the board decides to do, Bates said he'd like to see the society's work continued.

"There's still some monitoring and some matter of keeping an eye on things that's required, by somebody. I don't think that we can lay down the oars, to use a fishery expression, and think that things are all tidied up and everything's great. Sixteen years to me is a fair amount of time, but in the life of the Bras d'Or Lake it's really not that long," said Bates.

"We're going into an area of climate change, sea level rise, there are other circumstances starting to surface. The watchdog role, if I could coin our role in that way, I think still needs to be played by somebody."

Bates will step down as chair of the Bras d'Or Stewardship Society in April.

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