Proposed clearcut near Kejimkujik National Park gets green light
Province defers decision on just six of 100 hectares near park's border
Almost all of a proposed clearcut next to Nova Scotia's Kejimkujik National Park will go ahead.
Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines has approved the harvesting of 94 of the 100 hectares next to the park, deferring his decision on six hectares that directly touch the park's edge.
After the proposal got public attention this summer, Hines said his department had "tremendous uptake" on the chance to comment. He said that shows the consultation process his department uses is working, although he conceded many people probably won't be very happy with the final decision.
Islands in a sea of disturbance
Chris Miller's opinion would suggest as much.
"Six hectares is a joke," the national conservation biologist for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society said.
"It's too small. It's laughable if it wasn't so serious. We're very concerned about this."
Miller said the area is a national park for a reason and anything that happens around the edges must be done with extreme care. There is lots of good science to show you don't want protected areas to become "islands in a sea of disturbance," he said.
"This cuts them off from the larger landscape and you have all sorts of impacts that occur inside the protected areas based on what happens outside the protected areas."
No impact on species at risk
Despite ecological, aesthetic and other concerns about cutting so close to a protected area, Hines said his department's "best information" suggests there will be no impacts, including on the endangered Blanding's turtle population.
The province has not said who will be clear cutting. But proceeding with the majority of the cut makes sense, Hines said, because of the importance of the forestry industry.
"The folks who make their living from this industry in the province, all 11,500 of them, have an interest in seeing the best use for our resources," he said.
"It's a traditional industry that has been sustained for over 400 years in Nova Scotia and this is just another part of that process."
A need for buffers
But Miller is concerned industry is now knocking on the door of protected areas. He worries what it could mean for other areas awaiting a legal protected designation. The only way to address the situation is for a provincial policy on buffers around all protected areas, he said.
"There are some very concerning signals that are contained in this decision."
Hines hasn't heard from Parks Canada
The approval comes before the department finishes talks with Parks Canada on the matter. The minister said he is unaware of any concerns from the federal agency or the details of any discussions that might have happened between them and his department.
Hines said he's comfortable making the decision without that information because they've already decided to pull back from the border of the park. Should Parks Canada officials express concerns, Hines said there is still a chance to make other changes.
A statement from Parks Canada said officials are still reviewing "the specifics of the harvest plans in order to determine whether there are any potential impacts to the ecological integrity of the park and to identify possible mitigation measures."