Lessons from Sackville River Wilderness Area
My first ever campaign with CPAWS Nova Scotia was advocating for the protection of Sackville River Wilderness Area (SRWA). This soon-to-be-protected wilderness park has been my classroom in Upper Sackville for the past year and a half as I learn the basics of conservation.
I have always had a love for nature. I grew up in Chelsea, QC, with the Gatineau Park as my backyard. Much of my childhood was spent in the park biking or hiking on the trails, camping by a lake, or cross-country skiing to a cabin. When I left for university, it was an easy choice to study Sustainability & Biology and deepen my understanding of the value of nature.
After my degree, I was eager to apply my knowledge and help protect natural places like the ones I had explored growing up. SRWA has been a crash course in the practical skills it takes to actually create a park. While there are no traditional lectures or tests, the forests, waterways, and nearby community have taught me important lessons that I can bring forward in my conservation work. Here are a few of my main takeaways:
Local knowledge is key
One of the best parts of the SRWA campaign has been fieldwork. I spent many days with the CPAWS-NS team assessing ecological features in the wilderness area and every trip expanded my knowledge of the significance of this site. I gradually began to see the hollowed tree in the park as a home for an owl, and the rocks that form pools in the stream as a quiet place for fish to rest and spawn. SRWA is where I learned to fly a drone and first experienced the thrill of rising above the treetops to capture a bird’s-eye view of the park. Not only have I developed a deeper appreciation for Nova Scotia’s unique wilderness during fieldwork in SRWA, but I have learned the importance of becoming familiar with the lands and waters I’m trying to protect. This local knowledge strengthens conservation campaigns and helps achieve positive outcomes for nature.
Parks are for people too
Working on SRWA has shown me that conservation is not only about protecting ecosystems, it’s also about listening to local concerns and ensuring that local communities have access to nature. I was lucky enough to collaborate with the Sackville Rivers Association (SRA) throughout this campaign. SRA is a charity run by inspiring volunteers, like President Walter Regan, who dedicate their time to protecting the Sackville River watershed. I learned a lot from SRA about the history of the Sackville River, and the significance of this new park for the watershed. Through their network, I met many other members of the Greater Sackville community and witnessed the strong support for improved nature access and recreation. Community support is vital for the success of any park, and the people of Greater Sackville are ready to celebrate the protection of theirs.
Boundaries can change
Over the past year and a half, the CPAWS-NS team has extensively explored SRWA and surrounding public lands through our fieldwork. What seemed strange to me was that many ecosystems we surveyed were split by the proposed park boundary. We found waterways, wetlands, and forests that were only half included within the wilderness park despite being 100% on public lands. This means that the part of the ecosystem within the park boundary will receive legal protection, while the part outside the boundary remains at risk of being clearcut or developed. That doesn’t make any sense. Nature did not create these hard boundaries, people did. The current boundary of SRWA should be expanded to include adjacent public lands and ensure that whole ecosystems can be protected, not just parts of them.
Please help us protect SRWA! There is currently a public consultation underway until April 13th. This is the last opportunity to show your support for SRWA and tell the Nova Scotia government you want to see the park boundary made bigger. CPAWS-NS has set up an action page to help with letter submissions, you can visit it at: https://action.cpaws.org/page/78954/action/1.
SRWA has been the perfect place for my introduction to conservation campaigning. I learned so much from trekking through the wilderness and connecting with SRA and the Greater Sackville community. I can’t wait to see this wilderness park finally protected, and take the lessons I have learned in SRWA on to future campaigns to protect more of Nova Scotia’s natural areas.