by Rosalie Francis Lands Officer, KMKNO

The Province of Nova Scotia, through the Department of Environment and the Department of Natural Resource, is leading an initiative to designate 12% of Nova Scotia’s Land mass as Protected Lands by 2015. Currently, 8.6% (474,399 hectares) of Nova Scotia lands are designated as Protected Lands. The Province is now seeking to identify another 188,961 hectares to meet its 12% protected lands goal. This will be done by identifying further Crown Lands as protected lands, identifying private lands as protected lands, and purchasing private lands deemed significant to be protected.

In Nova Scotia there are four distinct types of protected areas – National Parks, Provincial Parks, Wilderness Areas and Nature Reserves.

National Parks make up 2.5% of Nova Scotia’s land base and consist of the Cape Breton Highlands Park and Kejimikujik National Park. Outdoor recreation is allowed in National Parks but resource extraction and most development are prohibited in National Parks.

Provincial Parks make up 0.28% of Nova Scotia’s land base and are relatively small. Forestry extraction is not allowed in provincial parks, as well as hunting or fishing.

Wilderness Areas make up 5.4% of Nova Scotia’s land base and there are 37 Wilderness Areas in NS, such as the Tobeatic Wilderness Area. They are relatively large and hunting and fishing, as well as sports and recreation activities, are allowed in Wilderness areas. However, no development or forestry activities are allowed.

Nature Reserves make up 0.027% of Nova Scotia’s land base and there are 21 Nature Reserves that have been established in N.S. under the Special Places Protection Act. These areas protect natural ecological features or archaeological resources and as such, hunting, fishing, camping and other recreational activities are not permitted.

Mi’kmaq Involvement – Our Role

For the Mi’kmaq, the Protected Lands initiative involves ourselves in a number of important ways.

  • Some Protected lands that will be designated could restrict Mi’kmaq hunting and fishing activities, as well as forest extraction and/or plant gathering. This has the potential to restrict Mi’kmaq aboriginal and treaty rights. It is important that we are involved with the designation process to ensure Mi’kmaq aboriginal and treaty rights are protected.
  • Some areas that are being identified as possible Protected Areas are places that are culturally or spiritually significant to the Mi’kmaq, such as Glooscaps Cave. Because of the importance of such lands to the Mi’kmaq, we want to play a significant role in the future management or co-management of those areas of significance to our people.
  • The Special Places Protection Act is the legislation which oversees Nature Reserves. Through the Protected Lands initiative, the Mi’kmaq have an opportunity to review the Special Places Protection Act with the Province and to build in further Mi’kmaq authority.

In order to ensure that Mi’kmaq rights and issues are being addressed within the Protected Lands Initiative, we within KMKNO need the Mi’kmaq communities Help. KMKNO needs to gain a clear understanding of where our people are currently hunting, fishing or undertaking traditional activities. We need to understand if there are any lands that are being considered for protection by the Province of NS that are significant to the Mi’kmaq for traditional activities, such as plant gathering, medicine gathering, hunting, fishing, etc. or cultural significance. Once this information is gathered by KMKNO, we will then have the ability to ensure that lands protection designation does not infringe on Mi’kmaq traditional activities.

KMKNO will be scheduling Community Open House Forums in each Mi’kmaq community so as to gather traditional use land information and to provide the communities with specific details on the land parcels being considered for protection. The Open Houses will occur in September and October and will be structured so that people can drop by any time during the day, depending on their schedule. KMKNO will have staff on hand to who will answer questions and show community members the lands being considered for protection. The Open House will also provide community members with the opportunity to identify the lands where they are undertaking their traditional activities.

The Open House Community Sessions will be in September and October and notices will be circulated in each community identifying a date, place and time for each session.

Should you have any questions regarding the 12% Protected Lands Initiative please feel free to contact Rosalie Francis, Lands Officer, KMKNO at rosaliefrancis@mikmaqrights.com or Eric Zscheile, Co-Negotiator at ericzscheile@mikmaqrights.com .

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