Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Two wilderness areas in Queens County were among 10 of the province's land and waterways recently designated as protected areas by Nova Scotia Environment.
Two of the local areas have deep roots in Mi'kmaq history –McGowan Lake Wilderness Area, renamed Katowe'katik Wilderness Area, and Pleasant River Wilderness Area, now named the Pu'tlaqne'katik Wilderness Area.
The change in names and suggested protection designation comes after consultations between Environment and members of the Mi'kmaq community.
"These areas are important, especially to our family. We have a strong connection to the area. The land defines who we are," said Melissa Labrador, Indigenous guardian at Wildcat Community, Acadia First Nation. "These areas have been used by our family and the local Mi'kmaq people for generations. We have a lot of history here. Having these two sites protected adds to that story, and we are able to keep the land for future generations to see."
The new designation restricts anything being done in the areas that might harm the land, such as mining, and clear cutting. Both areas are home to Blandings Turtles, ribbons snakes and rare plants, and are used for fishing, hunting and recreation.
Protected status for the Katowe'katik Wilderness Area located about eight kilometres east of Kijimkujik National Park will preserve about 1,225 hectares (ha) of woodland and lake shore habitat at McGowan Lake in Queens and Annapolis counties.
Establishing this wilderness area complements efforts of Nova Scotia Nature Trust, which has acquired and protected about 26 hectares of private land at McGowan Lake.
"This area is similar to Kejimkujik and has some real interesting, culturally significant sites there. It is basically a continuation of the national park," said Labrador.
The Pleasant River Wilderness Area's new title , - Pu'tlaqne'katik Wilderness Area – means wood chips or shavings. This area will protect up to 2,900 ha of woodland, river, stream, wetlands and lake shore habitat.
"We wanted to name this area in honour of my grandfather, Charlie Labrador, who was the hereditary first chief of the Acadia First Nation," explained Labrador. "In some of his visions, he talked about this place. We wanted to give it a name that reflected his memory, his visions and his teachings. It seemed the best fit for the area."
The area will consist of three separate sections within the Pleasant River watershed, near the community of Pleasant River, which straddles Queens and Lunenburg counties. It includes about 1,723 ha at Shingle Lake, 519 ha at Pleasant River and 663 ha along the lower Pleasant River, south of the community of Pleasant River.
The 10 new and expanded sites include five wilderness areas, three nature reserves and two new provincial parks. Together, they bring the province's total protected land to about 12.83 per cent.
Other sites designated at this time include: Archibald Lake Wilderness Area; additions to Ship Harbour Long Lake Wilderness Area, Terence Bay Wilderness Area and Silver River Wilderness Area.
Prior to the new wilderness areas coming on board, Nova's Scotia's protected areas included 74 wilderness areas, 92 nature reserves and the 11 provincial parks.