Albert County…you did it!
Our previous post, ‘Save Shepody Mountain‘ — on our bid to nominate the mountain for protection under a new federal/provincial plan, Canada Pathway to Target 1– was viewed over 7000 times, shared hundreds of times on Facebook and garnered dozens of heartfelt comments about personal memories and experiences on Shepody.
Soon after publishing, we received word from JDI that the information was incorrect and they had no planned activities for the Shepody Mountain area. This conflicted with information and map we’d previously received from their office, so we requested clarification. The subsequent email explained their plan had been through several iterations, but the final one was for a light-touch harvest (no clear cut), and they’d done stakeholder engagement with no objections, but since hearing that Shepody had been put forward as a candidate for protection, they’d placed these plans on hold “for the time being”, awaiting the outcome of the Target 1 process.
Then last night, about 150 people packed into the Riverside-Albert Recreation Centre to learn more. The goal of the meeting was to rally support and share information about the background of the nomination, the merits of Shepody as a conservation area, and how people might stand behind the nomination and show their support.
There’s no doubt that they’d already responded in spades…people from Albert County and beyond had shown tremendous enthusiasm by signing dozens of petitions, writing stories and memories, and sending hundreds of emails to Minister Mike Holland in support of the nomination.
We made our presentation, then turned the meeting over to the Minister who promptly announced that the nomination met all the criteria of the initiative and he was setting aside the entire 700 hectares of Crown Land on Shepody to be conserved.
He said, “Never before in NB has a parcel included in a Crown License forest management plan been set aside for conservation.”
The caveat was that before this happened, about 50 acres would be subjected to a select cut by industry and this operation would be monitored by government forest technicians.
While the audience was clearly relieved to hear that Shepody Crown lands would be conserved in its entirety, many were puzzled by the caveat and questioned the logic of cutting before conserving.
A select cut (ostensibly to open up the over story and make for a healthier forest) on a few dozen acres hardly appeared worth the economic investment and effort to get the wood out. Normally select cuts are done to improve the health and growth of the forest. Protected Natural Areas are, by definition, allowed to grow and die naturally with minimal human interference.
Additional concerns were raised about the impacts of the road-upgrade required to get the machines in and the trees out. The existing old road is solid and doesn’t wash out despite water runoff from several creeks and steep slopes. Upgrading would allow for greater access and potential for erosion.
But beyond this, the phenomenal news is that Shepody Mountain will be protected under legislation and will remain largely as it is now for many generations to come. Shepody Mountain has the attributes that a PNA should have, and met established criteria for the Target 1 program. This was a solid nomination that stands on its own merit. As several conservation folk said, ‘It’s a no brainer’.
We believed what tipped the scales was the level of support that the local community delivered. They clearly said that the conservation of public lands is important to them and that the movement toward protecting such areas is both long overdue and heartily supported. They stepped up and made their voices heard.
As well, the thoughtful stewardship and commitment of adjacent landowners who carefully maintain their own woodlots for health, thus increases the effectiveness and reach of the conserved land.
The paperwork still must be done, but soon the people’s land will be returned to the people for their continued use and enjoyment with no threat of industrial activity.
It was a good day for conservation and our forests, and we hold out hope that this move by Minister Holland is evidence that the province has truly entered a new era for conservation and is serious about protecting important forests, wetlands and other ecosystems.
We’re so grateful to all who helped make this happen: from the folks in the conservation agencies who shared the wealth of their own experience–hard-gained through the decades–to the landowners who let their hearts choose the words they spoke, to all the people from near and far who wrote to express their support and share their own love of the land and special memories….and everyone who showed up to let their voice be counted.
Shepody Mountain – truly a place of unity and harmony – thanks each and every one of you.