Across the road from Keji: Medway Wilderness Area largest of new protected spaces

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier jriley@digbycourier.ca
Published on January 6, 2016

SOUTH MILFORD - Annapolis County is the lucky recipient of the largest new wilderness area in Nova Scotia.

The Nova Scotia government announced 65 new protected areas on Dec. 29 and the biggest was the Medway Wilderness Area, 20,000 hectares on the east side of Highway 8 in Annapolis County.

“I’m quite pleased about it,” said Reg Ritchie, Warden of Annapolis County. “I think that would fit right in there with Keji nearby.”

The new wilderness area is situated on lands acquired from Bowater Mersey. Other sections of the former Bowater lands have been set aside for a community forest and others are crown lands available for a wide range of industries and uses.

Municipal leaders in other parts of the province have spoken out recently against the amount of protected space in their communities, saying it limits opportunities for economic development.

[RELATED: What’s in a name? Province includes Tobeatic Lake in wilderness area]

The amount of protected areas in Annapolis County almost doubled with the new additions from 34,800 hectares in 2013 to 64,000 hectares now. That brings the share of protected land in Annapolis County to 19 per cent.

“I don’t see it as a drag on the economy at all,” says Ritchie. “I don’t see how this will hurt logging or mining.

“Probably it attracts lot of folks who like to canoe, hunt, fish, all that good stuff – and they all spend lots of money.”

Ritchie says the official designation may aid access to the river system.

“Our challenge going in there fishing was always limited public access and this could allow them to address that,” he said.

The Medway Wilderness Area includes, at its northern end, the eastern shore of Boot Lake in South Milford and the eastern shore of Fischer Lake.

However 120 hectares on the west side of those lakes will allow public access from Highway 8.

A finger also extends north around Gull Lake and another section sticks out east around Lake Alma.

More of the wilderness area borders on Hwy 8 near Lake Munro and Nine Mile Woods and it wraps around the Mersey River Chalets at its southern end.

Andrea Wegerer, a co-manager at the chalets welcomes the new wilderness area in her backyard.

“I’m all for it,” she said. “From my perspective in tourism, I think it rather helps the economy - people come to Canada and to this part of the province because we still do have natural landscapes and they come wanting to explore a pristine wilderness.”

Deb Ryan, recreation director with Annapolis County says the new designation is good news.

“It gives more exposure of what we have in term of pristine wilderness from a recreation side of things,” says Ryan. “These protected areas are representative of Nova Scotia landscapes and in this sense, they offer long-term protection of what’s important to Nova Scotians.”

The county is currently working on the third edition of Canoe Annapolis County, a guidebook to paddling opportunities in the area – the book has always contained information on canoe routes in the new wilderness area – and in fact, the county submitted that book during provincial public consultation.

When the province announced the new wilderness area in December, Nova Scotia Environment promised still more consultation in 2016 “to help identify additional actions to enhance the management and protection of Medway Lakes Wilderness Area”.

Chris Miller of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society sees that as a good sign and a chance to address some outstanding concerns, for example dealing with roads through the wilderness area that have been left open.

Overall though he is pleased by the designation.

“That whole area was up for sale,” he said. “If the province hadn’t stepped in and bought it could have all been snapped up and turned into private cottage lots or clear cut for pulp – this is a perfect example of preserving an imminently threatened wilderness area.”

DIGBY COUNTY

The Warden of the Municipality of the District of Digby also welcomes the additions.

Digby County (including the District of Clare) now has 60,000 hectares of protected space, 10,600 more than in 2013.

That brings the proportion of protected areas to 23 per cent.

“We need protected spaces,” says Warden Linda Gregory. “Industry is great and industry is needed but we also need places for people to go and experience nature.

“We live in a beautiful part of the country and we need to keep it that way. It’s wonderful and I applaud the government for protecting spaces.”

jriley@digbycourier.ca

New Protected Spaces in Digby County

 - Porcupine Lake WA*: 974 ha

 - Silver River WA: 5,294 ha

It consists primarily of a wide corridor stretching along 30 km of Silver River, through the interior of Digby and Yarmouth counties. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has acquired lands on the upper Silver River and transferred ownership of a portion to the province for legal protection. These lands occur in the vicinity of the planned provincial park at New France (Electric City). The province and NCC have engaged in a public consultation and planning process to guide designation and management of these lands. None of these lands are currently part of Silver River Wilderness Area.

 - Additions to the Tobeatic WA

 - Wentworth Lake Nature Reserve: 54 ha

 - Sissiboo River WA: 1,203 ha

Tiddville Nature Preserve: 29 ha

New Protected Spaces in Annapolis County

 - Medway WA: 19,655 ha

 - Scrag Lake WA:  1,960 ha (some in Lunenburg County)

 - Lambs Lake WA: 159 ha (adjacent to Mickey Hill Provincial Park)

 - Snowshoe Lake Nature Preserve: 4,189 ha

 - Skull Bog Nature Preserve 524 ha

 - Additions to Cloud Lake WA:4,893 ha (some in Kings County)

*WA = wilderness area

PROTECTED SPACES BY THE NUMBERS

Nova Scotia

Total area = 5,528,300 ha

Total area newly protected on Dec. 29 in Nova Scotia = 120,664 ha (equal to three Kejimkujik National Parks)

Percentage protected = 12.26

Percentage when all of Parks and Protected Places plan is implemented: 14

Digby County

Total area = 266,143 ha

Area of protected areas (2013) = 50,323 ha

Area of protected areas (2015) = 60,927 ha

Increase of 10,604 ha

Percentage of county protected increased from 18.9 to 22.9

Annapolis County

Total area = 335,135 ha

Area of protected areas (2013) = 34,800 ha

Area of protected areas (2015) = 64,081 ha

Increase of 29,281 ha

Percentage of county protected increased from 10.4 to 19.1