Spe­cial des­ig­na­tion

Al­most 2,000 hectares of land has be­come the Went­worth Val­ley Wilder­ness Area.

The Amherst News - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAR­RELL COLE dar­[email protected]­st­news.ca Twit­ter: @ADN­dar­rell

Les­lie Wilson has long dreamed of the Went­worth Val­ley be­ing a year-round des­ti­na­tion.

The pres­i­dent of Ski Went­worth is thrilled with the an­nounce­ment Nov. 26 that des­ig­nates 1,954 hectares as the Went­worth Val­ley Wilder­ness Area in­clud­ing land in both Cum­ber­land and Colch­ester coun­ties.

“This is great news for the val­ley and it pro­vides another op­por­tu­nity for tourists and vis­i­tors in­ter­ested in four sea­sons of ac­tiv­ity,” Wilson said fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment. “Our core is win­ter, but this will al­low for more ac­tiv­i­ties like hik­ing and more ac­tiv­ity in the off-sea­son as well.”

She said the an­nounce­ment is another big piece in the puzzle that will help bring focus and at­ten­tion to what is avail­able in Went­worth.

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Mar­garet Miller also an­nounced the des­ig­na­tion of two other pro­tected ar­eas near Ox­ford, in­clud­ing the Chase Lake Wild­ner­ness Area – that cov­ers 874 hectares – and the Steep­bank Brook Na­ture Re­serve – cov­er­ing 202 hectares.

“Wilder­ness ar­eas pro­tect na­ture, of course. But they also of­fer op­por­tu­ni­ties for recre­ation, ed­u­ca­tion, re­search, and eco­nomic devel­op­ment,” Miller said in a news re­lease. “They can sup­port lo­cal economies through na­ture tourism which pro­vides jobs and at­tracts vis­i­tors to nearby com­mu­ni­ties and lo­cal busi­nesses.

“We … ex­pect to an­nounce other new and ex­panded pro­tected ar­eas over the com­ing months.”

A re­port pre­pared by Gard­ner Pin­fold shows many com­mer­cial ben­e­fits of Nova Sco­tia’s pro­tected ar­eas. It notes some busi­nesses in the prov­ince are built pri­mar­ily on rev­enue from peo­ple seek­ing wilder­ness area ex­pe­ri­ences. It also says the long-term pro­tec­tion of these ar­eas gives busi­nesses cer­tainty to in­vest and grow.

The des­ig­na­tion is wel­come to the Nova Sco­tia chap­ter of the Cana­dian Parks and Wilder­ness So­ci­ety.

“This wilder­ness area con­tains all sorts of old for­est and im­por­tant ecosys­tems,” ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Chris Miller said.

The area was first iden­ti­fied as a can­di­date pro­tected area by the Nova Sco­tia gov­ern­ment in 2011. Af­ter two years of pub­lic and stake­holder con­sul­ta­tions, the Went­worth Val­ley was de­clared a pend­ing pro­tected area by the prov­ince in 2013, when Our Parks and Pro­tected Ar­eas Plan was pub­licly re­leased.

The ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor said the an­nounce­ment means the des­ig­na­tion process is now com­plete.

“It’s been a long road to get to this point,” he said.

Went­worth Val­ley Wilder­ness Area con­tains large in­tact forests, habitat for the en­dan­gered main­land moose, sev­eral sig­nif­i­cant stands of old hard­wood for­est, and is a site im­por­tant for land­scape con­nec­tiv­ity in the Cobe­quid Hills.

A large por­tion of the new pro­tected wilder­ness area was pre­vi­ously owned by Neenah Pa­per Ltd. and was ac­quired by the Nova Sco­tia gov­ern­ment for con­ser­va­tion in 2010.

“If those lands were not pur­chased at that time, it’s likely that the for­est would have been clearcut by now,” he said.

These are the first new pro­tected ar­eas cre­ated by the prov­ince since March 2017. At the mo­ment, about half of the sites from the Nova Sco­tia Our Parks and Pro­tected Ar­eas Plan have been of­fi­cially es­tab­lished, cov­er­ing about two thirds of the to­tal area.

That still leaves about 100 pend­ing pro­tected ar­eas still await­ing le­gal pro­tec­tion.

“It’s been five years since the pro­tected ar­eas plan was fi­nal­ized,” he said. “That’s more than enough time to have com­pleted the des­ig­na­tion process for all of the pend­ing pro­tected ar­eas in the plan. We hope that the pro­tec­tion of the Went­worth Val­ley is a sig­nal of things to come, but with a re­newed sense of ur­gency.”

With these des­ig­na­tions, Nova Sco­tia’s pro­tected land now to­tals about 689,000 hectares. More in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing the re­port on com­mer­cial ben­e­fits, is avail­able at no­vas­co­tia.ca/nse/pro­tectedar­eas .

COM­MU­NI­CA­TIONS NOVA SCO­TIA PHOTO

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Mar­garet Miller an­nounces the cre­ation of the 1,954-hectare Went­worth Val­ley Wilder­ness Area that in­cludes land in both Cum­ber­land and Colch­ester coun­ties and bor­ders on Ski Went­worth. Also des­ig­nated were two new pro­tected spa­ces near Ox­ford.

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