Todd and Melissa Labrador know as well as anyone the gifts that can come from the land.
The father and daughter team, who build traditional birchbark canoes, just like their Mi’kmaw ancestors, also know the threat climate change and man-made activity pose to those gifts.
It’s why the Labradors, who were part of a crowd of several dozen people who gathered at Dollar Lake Provincial Park on Monday, were so pleased to hear the Nova Scotia government has designated 17 new and expanded protected areas, as well as another 10 that should be designated by the end of the year.
When complete, the sites will total 14,400 hectares and include 10 wilderness areas, 12 nature reserves and five provincial parks. It will bring Nova Scotia’s total protected land area to 12.7 per cent, just shy of the goal of 13 per cent.
“This is a significant step forward for us,” said Environment Minister Gordon Wilson.
“These sites will help us protect rare plants, habitat for species at risk, old forests and important wetlands. They also include some of the most cherished places in the province for enjoying the outdoors.”
The 17 sites now designated as protected areas are:
- Cape Mabou Wilderness Area.
- Holden Lake Wilderness Area.
- Middle River Wilderness Area (expansion).
- Tusket River Wilderness Area (expansion).
- Ashfield Nature Reserve.
- Catalone Lake Nature Reserve.
- Crows Neck Nature Reserve.
- Grassy Island Nature Reserve.
- Hectanooga Cedar Swamp Nature Reserve.
- Lake Annis Nature Reserve.
- Ragged Harbour Nature Reserve.
- River Denys Nature Reserve (expansion).
- River Inhabitants Nature Reserve (expansion).
- Shut-in Island Nature Reserve.
- Cape Split Provincial Park.
- Crystal Crescent Beach Provincial Park.
- Dollar Lake Provincial Park.
The 10 sites that will be designated following further consultation and survey work are:
- Pleasant River Wilderness Area.
- McGowan Lake Wilderness Area.
- Shingle Lake Wilderness Area.
- Ship Harbour Long Lake Wilderness Area (expansion).
- Silver River Wilderness Area (expansion).
- Terence Bay Wilderness Area (expansion).
- Peppered Moon Nature Reserve.
- St. Margarets Bay Islands Nature Reserve.
- Barra Forest Provincial Park.
- St. Mary’s River Provincial Park.
Bonnie Sutherland, executive director of the Nova Scotia Nature Trust, said she was encouraged by the announcement.
Sutherland, whose organization has worked with the province on protection efforts, said they’ve also been able to protect 17 pieces of private land so far this year and they recognize they’ll need to continue to partner with the province if Nova Scotia is to meet the national goal of protecting 17 per cent of land and inland waters.
“We’re really excited [and] delighted with today’s announcement,” she said.
Like Sutherland, Ray Plourde of the Ecology Action Centre said what’s particularly noteworthy about the announcement is the quality of the land the province is protecting.
“Many of the areas that were announced today are areas that have been on our top 10 priority list for years,” he said.
He said protecting areas such as St. Marys River and Cape Mabou is critically important to bringing a stop to species decline. Plourde said it seems like the issue is becoming more of a priority for the government.
“It’s about the climate emergency, but it’s also about the biodiversity crisis that’s happening,” he said.
The Labradors said it was especially meaningful to see McGown Lake on the list. The area near Kejimkujik National Park was a home to their ancestors and includes hundreds of petroglyphs under the lake, said Melissa Labrador. They also believe the area contains historical gravesites.
“The land is simply amazing,” she said.
Protection is important because environmental changes have made traditional practices that were always a challenge, such as building canoes, even more so, said Todd Labrador.
“In order for us to keep our traditions going, we need places like this, because if the land dies, our traditions die, too,” he said.