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Blue Mountain - Birch Cove Lakes Threatened with Suburban Sprawl

by Sarah Slaunwhite

Canoe loop at Susies Lake (Photo: Jennifer Smith)
Canoe loop at Susies Lake (Photo: Jennifer Smith)
Susies Lake (Photo: Jennifer Smith)
Susies Lake (Photo: Jennifer Smith)
Group Photo at Susies Lake on the June 4th Hike (Photo: Jennifer Smith)
Group Photo at Susies Lake on the June 4th Hike (Photo: Jennifer Smith)
 Sunset at Susies Lake (Photo: Jennifer Smith)
Sunset at Susies Lake (Photo: Jennifer Smith)

K'jipuktuk (Halifax) - On June 4, 2013, Susan Murray of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) Nova Scotia led an open hike to Susies Lake in order to share with the community the magnificent wilderness Haligonians have at their fingertips - wilderness that could be taken away at any moment due to the growing pressure of developers in the area. 

The Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes wilderness contains over a dozen headwater lakes and is perfect for hiking, swimming, canoeing, and bird watching, despite the fact that it lies just behind the industrial realm of Bayers Lake business park.

“Most Haligonians aren’t aware of how beautiful it is out here and how much of an asset it is to have such an amazing escape so close to the city. We want to bring people out here so they can appreciate it too,” says Murray.
 
This wilderness gem of Halifax is home to more than 150 different species of birds, and is a safe habitat for the endangered mainland moose.
 
Unless it all falls victim to suburban sprawl.
 
On April 21st, 2009, the provincial government announced the protection of two thirds of the Blue Mountain–Birch Cove Lakes to the public, as a part of its plan to adhere to their commitment of protecting 12% of Nova Scotia's land mass. 
 
In the official news release, David Morse, Minister of Environment said: “This new wilderness area demonstrates the government's priority to protect the environment.”
 
However, the Halifax Regional Municipality has yet to fulfill its 2006 promise of acquiring the other third of the area, the portion that includes Susies Lake, and create the Birch Cove Lakes regional park.
 
Although the Municipality has made a commitment to protect the remaining land, it has failed to follow through in protecting a single hectare of the area, which is still owned by developers. “The longer we wait, the more expensive the land will become, and we may end up missing out on an opportunity to make Halifax one of the only Canadian cities with such close access to a true wilderness,” said Murray. 
 
According to a 2012 press release from the Halifax North West Trails Association, Halifax Regional Council and Staff had been negotiating agreements with Banc Developments regarding the sale of 180 acres of the public lands. This will mean suburban development right through the trails leading to Susies Lake. Without protection, this rugged land will be vulnerable to development and becoming yet another slice of suburbia.
 
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society is leading a campaign to protect the Blue Mountain–Birch Cove Lakes wilderness, which includes educating the public on the issue and how they can help, writing letters to government and leading public hikes to show what people what they could miss.
 
Murray encourages those interested in finding out ways to get involved and learn more about how to help protect our wilderness to visit cpawsns.org.
 

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