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Ingram River clearcut upsets St. Margaret's Bay residents

by Robert Devet

DNR intends to permit clearcutting of three lots bordering the Ingram River at St. Margaret's Bay, jeopardizing the river itself and a wildlife corridor, activists charge.  Photo St. Margaret's Bay Stewardship Association,
DNR intends to permit clearcutting of three lots bordering the Ingram River at St. Margaret's Bay, jeopardizing the river itself and a wildlife corridor, activists charge. Photo St. Margaret's Bay Stewardship Association,
The parcels are located along the river in an area already under stress because of a proposed Highway Connector between the 103 and the No, 3 Highway. Map Ecology Action Centre
The parcels are located along the river in an area already under stress because of a proposed Highway Connector between the 103 and the No, 3 Highway. Map Ecology Action Centre

KJIPUKTUK, HALIFAX - Residents of St. Margaret Bay are upset that the Department of Natural Resources has flagged three parcels along the Ingram River for clearcutting in the not too distant future.

The combined parcels are roughly the size of Point Pleasant Park.

The clearcut will jeopardize the health of the Ingram River, and remove an important wildlife corridor, local activists say.

Residents were not aware of plans by the Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) to allow the harvesting to occur and scrambled to submit comments before the deadline.

“We only found out about this on Monday, and the deadline for comments to DNR was this Thursday at noon,” Geoff LeBoutlier, spokesperson for the St. Margaret's Bay Stewardship Association, tells the Halifax Media Co-op.

LeBoutillier believes that the appeal system makes it difficult for communities to intervene when DNR issues a permit for forest land to be clearcut.

Not knowing that land is earmarked for harvesting is the first hurdle local residents face.

“The only way to find out is to go to the DNR website every day, to see if the parcel that you are interested in is slated for harvest,” LeBoutillier says.

And finding out is only a start.

“Then you have ten days or maybe twenty days, that is unclear, for a community with limited proficiency in forestry to first of all find the land in the middle of the woods, and than undertake a very technical assessment,” says LeBoutillier.

“How does a community do that? We're doomed to fail, the system is weighted against community intervention,” he argues.

A communication by DNR to the St. Margaret's Bay Stewardship Association would have been nice, says Matt Miller, Forestry Coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre. It's not like they don't have their phone number.

“At the very least they could avoid plopping a clear cut into what amounts to these people's backyard,” says Miller. “I am very shocked that they would march right in.”

For years now the Stewardship Association has called for community input into how the St. Margaret's Bay coastal watershed is managed.

The lands in question extend to the headwaters of six major rivers that flow into the Bay. The tracts are part of the former Bowater Mersey forest lands acquired by the province in 2012.

The group has also called for a moratorium on harvesting in the area until proper community involvement occurs and consequences of harvesting are better understood.

But all the lobbying by the association has not yet paid off. On the contrary. Last year DNR started conversations on a scheme that would allow 16 saw mills to collectively manage the lands.

The three parcels in question are of particular concern to LeBoutillier.

The area remains an important wildlife corridor between the Bay and the back-lands, LeBoutillier believes, even though its existence has become more precarious because of clear cuts to accommodate a future Highway connector.

And the lots border the Ingram River, which is an important source of nutrients flowing into St Margaret's Bay. There is a reason people are always fishing at the mouth of that river, LeBoutillier says.

The Department of Natural Resources says it notified the public it was considering harvesting last fall, when it posted individual parcels on its website, the CBC reports.

"The decision on the type of harvest method will include the public input received. Input received will be considered in reaching a final decision," DNR spokesperson Bruce Nunn told the CBC.

Meanwhile the St. Margaret's Bay Stewardship Association did manage to submit its objections before the deadline. The group also mobilized the Mayor of Halifax, local MLAs and councillors, the HRM Alliance, the Ecology Action Centre, and many more to do the same, LeBoutillier says.

Matt Miller points to the residents of Round Hill, in the Annapolis Valley, who found themselves in a similar situation, and won.

That's good, he says, but why does it have to be so difficult?

“DNR has to know that there is going to be a negative response. They should try to get ahead of that, engage with people so that they can do manage our forests in a way that meets the public's expectation,” Miller says.

LeBoutillier is just plain frustrated.

“Knowing all that it knows DNR comes up with their brilliant scheme to clear cut,” he says. “Let's just buzz her off, boys! It is crazy. Why stir up all that acrimony?”

 

The Ecology Action Centre recommends that anybody concerned about the proposed clearcuts contact Natural Resources Minister Zach Churchill and/or Premier Stephen McNeil.

See also:

Clearcutting the neighborhood. A community fights back

DNR and the disappearing science

Draft plan shows sensitive forests in western Nova Scotia open for harvesting

 Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert

 

 


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Topics: Environment
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