Rich­mond County coun­cil is­sues sup­port for bio­sphere re­serve

Cape Breton Post - - NEWS/WEATHER - BY NANCY KING nk­ing@cb­post.com

ARICHAT — Rich­mond County coun­cil has gone on record as sup­port­ing an ini­tia­tive to des­ig­nate the Bras d’Or Lake and the sur­round­ing wa­ter­shed a bio­sphere re­serve.

At their reg­u­lar monthly meet­ing Mon­day, coun­cil­lors voted unan­i­mously in sup­port of the pro­posal, earn­ing a round of ap­plause from mem­bers of the as­so­ci­a­tion be­hind it who were in at­ten­dance.

“It’s been in our lap for two years,” War­den John Boudreau said. “ There were a lot of ques­tions, coun­cil­lors wanted to have the op­por­tu­nity to have some ma­jor ques­tions an­swered.”

The as­so­ci­a­tion is try­ing to achieve United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­ga­ni­za­tion des­ig­na­tion for the area.

Last year, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity asked the Bras d’Or Lake Bio­sphere Re­serve As­so­ci­a­tion to with­hold the ap­pli­ca­tion for at least six months. Coun­cil had ear­lier ap­proved the pro­posal in prin­ci­ple, but later had con­cerns about how the des­ig­na­tion may af­fect fu­ture de­vel­op­ment. In par­tic­u­lar, they won­dered about the im­pact on po­ten­tial min­eral ex­plo­ration.

In the months since, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity made nu­mer­ous calls to sort out those con­cerns, Boudreau said. They re­searched other ar­eas des­ig­nated as bio­sphere re­serve and whether the des­ig­na­tion would bring with it any leg­isla­tive au­thor­ity in de­ter­min­ing what ac­tiv­ity could take place in the area. They also con­tacted po­ten­tial de­vel­op­ers, who didn’t raise any ob­jec­tions.

“The an­swer to that was quite sim­ple — any­thing that can be done ei­ther un­der mu­nic­i­pal reg­u­la­tion or un­der the pro­vin­cial Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment, will be per­mit­ted to be done,” he said.

“ They were pretty con­sci­en­tious about the whole thing,” as­so­ci­a­tion chair Teresa MacNeil said of Rich­mond County’s ap­proach to study­ing the is­sue.

The next step comes Feb. 23 when the as­so­ci­a­tion’s board meets with the pro­vin­cial cab­i­net min­is­ters — for nat­u­ral re­sources and en­vi­ron­ment and labour — who have some ju­ris­dic­tion over the lands in­volved. It’s their en­dorse­ment that is re­quired to move the pro­posal for­ward to UNESCO.

In­ver­ness County has voted against sup­port­ing the idea, cit­ing con­cerns with the size of the area in­volved and pos­si­ble ef­fects on lo­cal in­dus­try. MacNeil said with the ex­cep­tion of In­ver­ness, they’ve won the sup­port of all lo­cal gov­ern­ments in Cape Bre­ton in­clud­ing First Na­tions.

The as­so­ci­a­tion has no plans to go back to In­ver­ness County, al­though it would if in­vited, MacNeil said, as was the case with Rich­mond. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity also has a rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the as­so­ci­a­tion’s board who will at­tend the meet­ing with the min­is­ters. They’ve asked for the sup­port of In­ver­ness, but it’s not re­quired to move the ef­fort for­ward.

“The good ques­tion is, what will the prov­ince do if we don’t have all of the lo­cal gov­ern­ments (on­board),” MacNeil said.

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