Queens MLA questions locked up lands

Nick
Nick Moase
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Queens-Shelburne MLA Sterling Belliveau is wondering why Bowater lands that were meant for public use now have locked gates preventing anyone from getting in.

MLA Sterling Belliveau is trying to find out why several stretches of former Bowater lands, including a stretch around Lake Rossignol, are gated off. The lands in yellow are former Bowater Lands purchased by the province of Nova Scotia, light green is Crown Land, medium green is Wilderness areas and dark green is federal lands. 

When the NDP was in power they purchased 550,000 acres of land from Resolute Forest Products, after they shut down the Bowater Mersey mill in 2012.

Belliveau says he's been fielding complaints from constituents, frustrated that the land is off limits.

"The main purpose of... the purchase of that land was for recreational purposes and access for commercial use," he says.

Now that the Liberals are in power, he says answers are scarce on why it is blocked off.

There are three areas in Nova Scotia that Belliveau knows of that are blocked off; one in Annapolis County as part of the Medway watershed, one in St. Margaret's, and the third goes around Lake Rossignol.

The Lake Rossignol section that is blocked off runs around almost half of Lake Rossignol, from what was once known as the West Brook gate to the Kejimkujik River Gate. It is known as the Bowater Road, and stretches about 40 km.

"Those gates need to come down," he says.

Belliveau says he has heard that there are some ecologically sensitive areas that need to be protected, and understands that they need to be kept separate. However he says they should be identified and marked accordingly, not close off entire areas.

"Let's identify the lands that are sensitive, and let's also use the expertise of the first nations, ATV groups and fishing groups to help identify them."

There are also some private lands behind the gates, but they are a small part of the overall area and shouldn't be an issue he says.

The gates had been opened previously, he says. They were closed in the Spring due to the winter thaw, when many roads are closed to heavier traffic. Those restrictions however were lifted months ago.

"The season is over, so the gates should be open," he says.

The province is also facing a firewood shortage, he says, caused in part by not having access to the lands. Even those former Bowater lands that are open are proving difficult, he says.

"We have commercial people, especially in Queens/Shelburne, because of the cumbersome permitting process through Natural Resources, that have not had access to this resource."

Belliveau asked for an emergency meeting in May to discuss the issue, but was rebuffed.

He has also heard people say that are leaving the forestry industry because they can't get access to forestlands.

The Department of Natural Resources was contacted but was unable to provide an answer by press time. 

Organizations: NDP, Resolute Forest Products, Bowater Department of Natural Resources

Geographic location: Lake Rossignol, Nova Scotia, Annapolis County West Brook Kejimkujik River Gate Bowater Road Shelburne

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