Halifax needs Birch Cove Lakes near-urban wilderness park

HALIFAX – Halifax is lucky to have wilderness at its doorstep.  Just a short distance from downtown lies the amazing Birch Cove Lakes wilderness, where vast forests and lakes still occur.

The Birch Cove Lakes wilderness, however, is only half-protected.  The Nova Scotia government placed a protected wilderness area designation on the public lands in this area back in 2009 but, so far, the City has failed to acquire adjacent private lands for the creation of a wilderness regional park.

“The Birch Cove Lakes are an incredible wilderness for the citizens of Halifax and region to enjoy,” says Chris Miller, National Conservation Biologist for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, based in Halifax. “These lands contain clean lakes and rivers, lots of forest, and an abundance of wildlife.  It’s a real asset for the City and something which needs to be protected”.

Some positive signs, however, are starting to emerge from City Hall.  For the first time in a long time, it looks like the City might be willing to advance the regional park for the Birch Cove Lakes.  A public meeting is being held to discuss steps to create the regional park.  For the park to be established, the City must start acquiring the necessary lands.

“We welcome the progress that is being made,” says Miller. “A lot of hard work is needed to make the park a reality and we are hopeful that the City is finally getting serious about making this happen”.

The Birch Cove Lakes wilderness is roughly 2000 hectares in size.  It is located just west of Rockingham and stretches all the way to Tantallon.  The area is popular for outdoor recreation and boasts a natural canoe loop, where a system of nine lakes can be paddled in an afternoon without backtracking.

A bioblitz undertaken in the area several years ago identified over 800 species in a 24 hour period.  Over 250 species of birds are known to use the Birch Cove Lakes wilderness, including ospreys, loons, and the pileated woodpecker.

“This is a wilderness gem located close to so many people,” says Miller. “You can even take a public bus to reach this wilderness.  Let’s work to make the regional park a reality and not just another subdivision”.

A coalition of groups is working to protect the Birch Cove Lakes, including Halifax North West Trails Association, Canoe Kayak Nova Scotia, Halifax Field Naturalists, and Ecology Action Centre.  CPAWS is pleased to work with so many dedicated and committed groups and individuals working to protect Halifax’s near-urban wilderness.

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