CPAWS News: CPAWS welcomes provincial decision to protect Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes near Halifax

Halifax, Nova Scotia – The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) welcomes today’s announcement by the provincial government that public lands in the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Crown area will be designated as a protected wilderness area.

Today’s announcement will apply to all public lands south of the proposed Highway 113 corridor, including frontage on Susies Lake and Frasers Lake. This includes all public lands within the area that the city has indicated it needs protected as a regional park through its 25-year regional plan.

“This is the single most important thing that the province could have done to protect the ecology of the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes area”, says Chris Miller, Wilderness Conservation Coordinator for the Nova Scotia Chapter of CPAWS. “Today’s announcement will help safeguard this important and cherished spot for generations of Nova Scotians to come, making Halifax an even more desirable place to live and work”.

The Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area will become one of Canada’s largest urban wilderness parks. It is located just west of Halifax near the Bayers Lake Industrial Park, adjacent to some of the fastest growing areas of the city, including Rockingham, Clayton Park West, and Timberlea, as well as the future Bedford West development.

“Protecting this important area will help ensure that wilderness will always be located at the doorstep of Atlantic Canada’s largest city”, says Miller. “This will help make Halifax one of the greenest and most environmentally progressive cities in North America, something which will also help attract and retain young people to the city and encourage active and healthy living”.

It also means that Haligonians will be able to enjoy wilderness recreation opportunities close to home and won’t have to drive long distances to reach wild places, something which will ultimately help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the future. In fact, the edge of the wilderness can be reached today using public transit.

Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes is ecologically-significant, containing over a dozen undeveloped lakes, numerous wetlands, old forest, rare plants, the highest point of land on the Chebucto Peninsula, and habitat for a small population of endangered mainland moose. It also boasts numerous recreational opportunities, including wilderness hiking and the only canoe loop near the city where nine lakes can be paddled without backtracking.

Today’s announcement that over 1,300 hectares of public lands within the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes area will be protected by the Provincial government using the Wilderness Areas Protection Act is consistent with recommendations contained in several environmental reports prepared for the Highway 113 environmental assessment. No portion of the proposed Highway 113 corridor will sever the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area.

That’s welcome news, according to Miller, who also heads up a coalition of environmental and community groups who have been advocating for the protection of this important area.

“Balancing the need for development with the need for responsible environmental protection has been a priority for the residents of greater Halifax on this issue”, says Miller.

Last month, the environmental consulting firm “Environmental Design Management” won a national planning award for its work identifying the most significant features for a wilderness park in the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes area.

CPAWS is Canada’s pre-eminent, community-based non-profit wilderness protection organization. With 13 chapters across Canada, 20,000 members, over 50 staff, and hundreds of committed volunteers, CPAWS is a leader in wilderness conservation at the national, provincial and territorial levels.
Contact information:
Chris Miller
Wilderness Conservation Coordinator
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Nova Scotia Chapter

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