Williams Lake Backlands – Big decision by Regional Council on Sep. 20, 2016

Wms lakeHalifax council will be presenting a recommendation Sept 20 on whether to approve a proposal by the Nature Conservancy of Canada to acquire almost 400 acres of land in the Williams Lake backlands and set it aside indefinitely as a wilderness preserve.

Please visit the Urban Wilderness Park Website for more about the proposal and how to support it by writing to Mayor and Councillors.

We had VERY GOOD NEWS about Blue Mt/Birch Cove Lake. Let’s repeat it… make the Chebucto Peninsula a truly significant conservation area!

Tuesday, September 6th at 10AM at City Hall: BMBCL

Your help is needed to protect what could be the largest urban park in all of Canada. The long-promised but yet-to-be-delivered Blue Mountain Birch Cove Regional Park is under threat. It could be a mini-Keji for Halifax, but a terrible report from an independent facilitator, released in June, is recommending that a massive urban sprawl development be allowed inside the core of the future park. Immediately following the release of the flawed Independent Facilitator’s Report, Councillor Reg Rankin quickly put forward a very bad three-part motion for council to debate and a vote on. After several delays his motion comes up for the big vote at Council this Tuesday, Sept. 6th. Read more

NSE Approved Leave No Trace (LNT) Educational Camping Sites

On 21 August 2016, with the approval of Nova Scotia Environment (NSE), the Woodens River Watershed Environmental Organization (WRWEO) designated three sites on the Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail as “NSE Approved Leave No Trace (LNT) Educational Camping Sites” and posted the follow signs at each site:

NSE Approved LNT sign 20160821

One reason why these three sites are called “educational” is because they cannot be considered examples of “ideal” LNT camping sites. For example, by placing the signs to notify hikers of the designation we have already “left a trace” and undermined the very principles we are seeking to promote. Similarly, ideal LNT camp sites would not be located directly on an established hiking trail. However, all three of the NSE Approved LNT Educational Camping Sites are located along the Bluff trail. Two are found on the north leg of the Mi’kmaq Hill Loop (formerly the Indian Hill Loop) not far from Frederick Lake and the intersection with the Bluff Loop. The third is located on the cross section of the Bluff Loop. Moreover, even as these sites were selected as LNT Educational Sites, each was already marked with evidence of harmful human impacts which should not be apparent at any LNT camp site.

All three sites are located on flat rock surfaces. In that sense each offers an excellent example of a “durable surface” suitable to pitch a tent. However, lichen and mosses have already been crushed, killed, or scrapped off the rocks in these locations. Similarly, a number of spots on these rocks bear the signs of camp fires and some of the nearby trees have been limbed or cut to supply bows to sleep on or as fuel for fires. These are all signs of how NOT to practice LNT camping and serve as a very poor example of the ideal LNT camp site.

These sites are not areas which have suffered the worst examples of harmful human impacts from people camping on the Bluff Trail. There are at least two sites on the Mi’kmaq Hill Loop which bear considerably more damage from campers and campfires. Both of these sites have more than twenty trees cut down, they have trees that have been limbed and hacked, they have damage to the soil layers from poorly placed, poorly managed, and far too large campfires. These sites also bear the signs of fire damage to the tree canopy from these same campfires.

It is because of the damage being done in this protected wilderness area that WRWEO has undertaken to improve LNT practices among trail users. If there is not a noticeable reduction in the harmful human impacts on the trail it may be necessary to prohibit camping all together. WRWEO hopes that the users of the Bluff Trail will be inspired to take better care of the space that heals them and help ensure that people can continue to enjoy hiking and camping in this protected wilderness area.

The coordinates of the NSE Approved Leave No Trace (LNT) Educational Camping Sites are:

Latitude 44.64224 longitude -63.78316

Latitude 44.64116 longitude -63.78411

Latitude 44.63094 longitude -63.7953

Link to Map showing NSE Approved Educational LNT Campsites.

WRWEO continues to discourage camping on the Bluff; however, if you wish to camp anyway, PLEASE ensure that your are familiar with proper LNT principles and practices. If you have not recently trained in LNT practices visit the Leave No Trace Canada website.

Renaming Indian Hill Loop to Mi’kmaq Hill Loop

At a board of directors meeting on 9 February 2016 it was agreed that WRWEO would approach the Mi’kmaw Community to seek direction on the renaming of the second loop of The Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail. The loop was formerly called “Indian Hill” and directors at WRWEO believe that the term “Indian” is considered by many to be a derogatory, archaic, and offensive word. On 23 July 2016, the chair of WRWEO sent an email to Mike Lancaster, Wilderness Steward St. Margaret’s Bay Stewardship Association (SMBSA). The email read, in part:

“While the dedication of the Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail, written in 2005, acknowledged that the land had been preserved by the “First People”, none of the names used for the trail are Mi’kmaw names. In fact, the trail consists of four stacked loops which were all named more than a decade ago based on settler names used to describe the geography of the area. The names include: Pot Lake Loop, Indian Hill Loop, The Bluff Loop, and Hay Marsh Loop. The board of directors find the name of the second loop (Indian Hill) to be inappropriate given that the term “Indian” has long been considered a derogatory and offensive term. Because of this, WRWEO wishes to rename the second loop; however, we think it would be more appropriate to defer to members of the Mi’kmaw community for the selection of another name rather than continuing the pattern of settlers imposing names upon Mi’kmaw territory.

We hope that you may be able to introduce WRWEO to one or more members of the Mi’kmaw community who might be willing to advise WRWEO on how we might ask for the community’s guidance on the question of renaming the loop.”

Following receipt of this request, Mike Lancaster contacted two individuals of Mi’kmaq descent, Ellen Hunt, former chair of the Mi’kmaq Burial Ground Research and Restoration Association and regular collaborator with the Micou’s Island Stewardship program, and Roger Lewis, Curator of Ethnology at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History. Roger Lewis in turn communicated with Mi’kmaq of Sipekne’katik (Shubenacadie) District, noting that the territory of K’jipuktuk (Halifax) is within the traditional territory of the Sipekne’katik District. He also communicated with Dr. Bernie Francis, Mi’kmaq Linguist and co-author of The Language of This Land, Mi’kma’ki.  The consensus was that the name should simply be changed from “Indian Hill” to “Mi’kmaq Hill”.

WRWEO has now renamed the second loop of The Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail the Mi’kmaq Hill Loop and will work to make the appropriate changes to all future maps and printed materials; however, this process will take some time. More immediately, WRWEO will undertake to update all electronic maps and will refer to the second loop as Mi’kmaq Hill in all social media posts and communications.

WRWEO would like to thank everyone who took time to consider this question and assist us in this matter. Particular thanks to Mike Lancaster, Ellen Hunt, Roger Lewis, Dr. Bernie Francis, and Mi’kmaq of Sipekne’katik District who gave their time and thought to this process.

TRAIL CLOSED – Wild Fire threat – August 9, 2016 to August 23, 2016

The Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail is closed from 9 August to 23 August due to a TRAVEL BAN

Due to extreme dry conditions and unusually high risk of forest fire,

Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines has announced a

Travel Ban in woods in Nova Scotia

For more information see: http://novascotia.ca/nsfire/

Reg Rankin’s controversial motion sidetracked, consideration of BMBCL on Sept. 6

In the scrum
In the scrum
Reg Rankin’s controversial Item 15 was moved up the agenda at the Regional Council meeting this afternoon. After a confusing set of discussions and motions about “Map 3A” (cited in item 15) and whether it should be released in camera, a motion was passed requesting that a full Continue reading “Reg Rankin’s controversial motion sidetracked, consideration of BMBCL on Sept. 6”