26 rare species inside proposed N.S. wilderness area, say researchers

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An aerial view of Archibald Lake. (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society - image credit)
An aerial view of Archibald Lake. (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society - image credit)

Chris Miller says the proposed Archibald Lake wilderness area is an "ecological hotspot" and he and others have produced a report to make the point that the provincial government must grant legal protection to the land.

Miller and others did fieldwork over a period of months during different seasons across the 684 hectares of land in Guysborough County near the St. Marys River. The purpose of the fieldwork was to fill gaps in information about species in the proposed wilderness area, he said.

"I've done a lot of fieldwork in Nova Scotia and, I have to say, Archibald Lake really stands out," said Miller, executive director of the Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

"The old growth forest and the rare species there are truly spectacular," he said.

Mainland moose, rare birds, lichen among findings

The report, recently delivered to the provincial government, shows evidence of 26 rare species, including five listed in the province's Endangered Species Act.

Species identified include the common nighthawk, blue felt lichen, Canada warbler and mainland moose. Miller said the findings shouldn't come as a surprise.

"Wherever you have old growth forest you're going to find rare species because there's certain species that can't survive anywhere else. They need … trees that are very old and ecosystems that haven't been disturbed in a very long time in order to survive there."

Because some findings bordered the boundaries of the proposed wilderness area, Miller and his team are recommending that the government extend those boundaries to afford a greater area of protection. He and his team are planning more fieldwork later this year.

Still no decision

The former Liberal government identified the land for potential protection in 2020. Although public consultation work happened, a decision still has not been made.

Environment Minister Tim Halman said he welcomed the fieldwork, but he's focused right now on protecting the remaining land identified in the 2013 Parks and Protected Areas Plan.

Halman said his department would turn its attention to other pieces of land to protect when that work is complete.

"My department is very much driven by science and data and that's how we make our decisions as a regulatory department. So certainly, look, as information comes in we take that into consideration always in the broader context as well," he said at Province House.

"There's lots of discussions taking place, but on this particular file no decision has been made as of yet."

Concerns about industry

Miller and others have called for Archibald Lake to be protected in part because of a proposed gold mine development nearby and forestry activity that could take place in the area.

Natural Resources Minister Tory Rushton said no industrial activity has been approved near the proposed wilderness area at this time, and all required protections would be afforded around identified species at risk.

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