The discovery of three rare species of lichen in an Annapolis Valley forest has led the province to scale back a planned cut on Crown land in the area.
Protesters are hopeful it won't go ahead at all.
Lichen found in 17 spots at the Beals Brook site, between Roxbury and Albany, have been reviewed by lichenologists with the Department of Natural Resources and "appropriate buffers of 100 metres have been applied to areas with confirmed sightings," a spokesperson for the department said in an email.
That has shrunk the approved harvest, which would have seen about one-third of the trees cut, from an initial 24 hectares to 10 hectares.
Nina Newington, one of several people who opposed logging in the area and camped out at the site, doesn't expect that the company doing the work will want to continue.
"I'm secure that those 17 [sites] covered by their buffer zones will not be touched, and that effectively takes out 60 per cent of the proposed forest," Newington told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Wednesday.
"The remaining 10, this has made access to it much harder and much less economically attractive."
Listen to Nina Newington's full interview with Information Morning:
People worried about the fate of the forest began camping out in the area in December, and on Wednesday — 203 days after they arrived — they packed up.
"From the very beginning, we heard from local residents, who had walked these woods for 50 years, that this was an important wildlife corridor connecting three big wetlands," Newington said.
"And [it's] also one of the few forests, 80 years old or so, that is still standing when there's been so much clear cutting around."
Citizens searched for lichen themselves
The province previously said it would proceed with logging in the area, but not in several locations buffering rare lichen. Protesters weren't happy with that, saying there was a likelihood of more lichen still to be found.
They launched a citizen-led search of the forest, held workshops and learned from experts about how to spot the species.
Newington said they found frosted glass-whiskers lichen, wrinkled shingle lichen and black-foam lichen, all of which are listed as species-at-risk in Nova Scotia.
She takes issue with how the Department of Natural Resources handled the situation.
"We were told at the beginning that the Department of Natural Resources' biologist had reviewed the site, not once but twice in light of the citizen concerns, and there were no species at risk to worry about so they weren't doing their job," she said.
'We know our way here'
Natural Resources said the remaining 10-hectare cut has been approved "to proceed at the licensee's scheduling discretion."
WestFor Management Inc., the company that plans to carry out the logging, said it will follow the department's ecological forest management guidelines at the site, "including accommodations for any species at risk that are required."
While the protesters are packing up, Newington said they're not leaving Beals Brook for good.
"We know our way here and we'll be back," she said. "We have a network now of sympathetic people in this area who come by the camp and talk to us and if need be, we'll be back to protect this forest."
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