Mi’kmaw Grassroots Grandmother Dorene Bernard asked me to write something about the blockade we had set up on a remote logging road in Southwest Nova Scotia. Here is what I wrote:
In the middle of October I learned from a Digby man that a lot of clearcutting was about to begin on Crown land near New France in Digby County. He knew there were often moose in the area. Three years ago he photographed a cow moose and her calf in the area.
When we studied the area in the Province’s Harvest Plan Map Viewer we saw that in the past four years the Department of Lands and Forestry had approved plans to cut 3300 acres. 92% of those cuts were clearcuts (under fancy new names like Overstory Removal and Variable Retention 10%, 20%, 30% but still clearcuts).
Checking out the area we learned that some of those cuts already happened in the past 3 y
ears but 1650 acres had not yet been cut. We decided we should stop the cutting to protect what was left of the forests for the moose. The Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruled on May 29th, 2020 that “the Minister (of Lands and Forestry) has exhibited a chronic and systemic failure to implement action under the ESA (Endangered Species Act)”. The Department of Lands and Forestry kept making promises to protect the moose, just as they have kept promising forestry reform, and all the while the forests were being mowed down.
Enough is enough, we decided, and set up a blockade on the logging road that gave access to the least disturbed part of the area of crown land west of the Tobeatic Wilderness. This was near Rocky Point Lake, just south of Fourth Lake. The logging road had already been massively enlarged and extended, flagging was up marking the areas to be cut, 500 acres in all. On the morning of October 21st I got a phone call saying crews were done cutting the Northern Pulp allocation on crown land in Cumberland and Colchester county. Now they were heading down to this area. That afternoon we set up our first blockade and we have maintained it ever since.
Many, many hunters have stopped by in the last 6 weeks to say they 100% support us and to talk about the moose tracks they have seen in the area. We let hunters through the blockades. It is the logging crews we are keeping out.
On November 22nd we set up a second blockade on crown land to the south of us, near Caribou River. Roads were being widened and built in preparation for more cutting. Before they even start cutting, these big roads damage the habitat for moose and put them under more pressure. So we decided to stop the road building. This we have succeeded in. Unfortunately a local company, CutRite, had already started clearcutting one of the areas approved for cutting. Our blockade prevents them from taking vehicles or equipment (including log transporters) in and out but we have not stopped the crews passing through the blockades on foot. So they carry fuel through the camp during shift changes. It is no fun for anyone.
Our dispute is not with the local guys who are trying to make a living, it is with the Department of Lands and Forestry. We expect that WestFor, the consortium of mills that holds the license for cutting on crown lands in South West Nova Scotia, will at some point get an injunction to make us move. Several of us are prepared to get arrested and will mount a ‘Necessity defense’ based on the government’s failure to live up to its responsibility to protect endangered species and their habitat.
On November 11th I sent a letter to the new minister of Lands and Forestry, Derek Mombourquette asking that he meet with me and two people knowledgeable about moose and their habitat needs. Wildlife Biologist Bob Bancroft has agreed to be one of those people. So far the Minister has not replied.
Last week several allies sat in the office of the Department of Lands and Forestry in Halifax requesting that the Minister agree to a meeting with us. After two hours sitting there, two of them were arrested, carried off and fined. They were also told that this was no way to get a meeting, they should follow the usual channels. That would be writing to ask for a meeting which we have done with no result.
The specific demand we are making is outlined in the letter I sent: ‘We are asking for an immediate halt to all logging activities on the Crown lands bounded by Fourth Lake Flowage to the north, the Tobeatic Wilderness Area to the east, the Napier river to the south and a combination of the Silver River Wilderness Area and private lands to the west. This suspension of logging approvals should be accompanied by an independent review by biologists to establish best management practices for the area with the primary goal of protecting mainland moose and establishing the core habitat necessary for their recovery.’
We intend to maintain our blockades through the winter or as long as necessary. Who are we? A loose group of Forest Protectors who live in South West Nova Scotia, ranging in age from 25 to 76. Most of us are over sixty, many are members of Extinction Rebellion, a movement of people who use non-violent direct action to stir governments into action to address the climate and biodiversity crises. Protecting and restoring forests is one of the best ways of addressing both of these emergencies at the same time.
We all acknowledge that we are in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaw people. We are bound by treaties of peace and friendship and would value any opportunities to work with the original guardians of this land.
In Peace and Friendship,