Blue Mountain-Birch Coves Lake: not saved!

Not so fast - even though the Herald reported Blue Mountain wilderness is protected, several key steps must take place to truly protect this land.

Thanks to a Chronicle-Herald article, already today, two of my coworkers have excitedly related the news that the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness has been saved. (One even twitted it).

Not so fast!

It's true that the province has designated all the crown land in the area as official wilderness, giving it all the protections that go along with that---no mining, no road building, etc. And this is good news, if long expected.

But as I explained in my feature on BMBCL back in December, now that the province has moved forward with its wilderness protection, the real threat to the area lies with the potential development of private land far inside the wilderness area---there's a big parcel, for example, just to the west of Quarry Lake.

If such lands are developed, the entire watershed will be as good as destroyed---we'd have moronic teenage suburbanites destroying the woods with ATVs, antifreeze and oil run off from SUVs flowing into the lakes and other abominations too disgusting to mention.

Whether such development happens depends entirely on the HRM. The regional plan designates the entire area, from ridgetop to ridgetop, as a city wilderness park, and if such designation becomes reality, I'll celebrate the completed protection of the wilderness.

But we're not there yet. First, the city has to purchase the private land in the area, and to do that, it must first put a value on that land. That, in turn, means somewhat perversely finding out how much it would cost to build roads all through the wilderness, and so we get this map of just that (very large PDF, see end of chapter 3), produced by the city planning department:

Most people would look at that map and say, "Hey! They want to build roads all through the wilderness!" But I'm assured this is just part of the normal valuation process. Still, there has been much behind-the-scenes lobbying by the landowners to get the land valued at the highest possible amount.

In the end, protection of BMBCL will only come when---and if---city council agrees to buy the private land. And we're a long way from that.

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