The first you see of the Treaty Truckhouse is its flag, in my case thrashing proudly red in the crisp wind of late April, dancing among the dead tan long grass with a Shubenacadie River backdrop. Proceed a little farther on and the simple wooden structure supporting it comes into view, held out of the mud and pools of standing water by a network of pallets. Unless dressed in the firmest of winter attire, you are cold, and unless blind, you see the buildings, fences and mixing channel of Alton Gas just beyond, intent on one day dumping brine into the Shubenacadie.
The Migratory Bird Convention Act (MBCA) is a fine piece of legislation, stipulating in no uncertain terms than an exhaustive list of our native birds – chiefly those who come and go with the seasons – cannot be legally killed, nor their nests lawfully destroyed. It’s an emblem of protection for those species who face enough danger on their epic annual migration, more or less ensuring their safety within our borders. Yes, permits do exist for the killing of some listed birds, but these are typically for hunting waterfowl, and are never granted to industrial undertakings such as forestry.
The health of the Shubenacadie River is time and again the focus of resistance to Alton Gas, the Stewiacke company intent on hollowing out local salt caverns and dumping the resulting brine into this fragile watershed. A local geologist, however, is equally concerned with the caverns themselves.
Our Fisheries Act is quite old – in fact one of the oldest acts in Canada – protecting native fish and their habitat since 1868 and evolving over decades to suit the government of the day.
The more diverse an ecosystem, the more resilient it is in the face of adversity. This is among the firmest precepts of biodiversity, and is without doubt one of my favourite. The more intact our wilderness, the more of its native species remain alive and well and active in the workings of ecology, the more prepared we will be for the incursion of invasive species plaguing North America, for the apocalyptic consequences of unfettered climate change, for the policies of regressive administrations which seem only too common these days. It’s as strong an argument for conservation as any I’ve ever heard, allowing us not only to maintain the functionality of the world which sustains us, but the beauty inherent within.
In 2008, Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources (now the Department of Lands and Forestry) set out to create The Path We Share, a natural resources strategy setting long term goals for our province’s forestry sector and its biodiversity, among other things. This document, released in 2011, attempted to strike a long sought balance between economic demand and ecological realities, and its formation had several steps.
I’ve worked several newsrooms in my time, always at small rural papers and always as the only man on staff. As a consequence I became the de facto sports reporter, expected to assemble an entire section of the paper with photos, scores, interviews with players and coaches, and my insights on the worlds of hockey, rugby, soccer, basketball and softball, every week, entirely without supervision.
Several years back, while serving as sole reporter for a small community paper on Prince Edward Island, I was handed a very troubling calendar, distributed by a provincial home heating company whose mainstay was natural gas (methane). I flipped through month after month and discovered enough half-truths or outright falsehoods in its margins to seriously mislead anyone on the role natural gas plays in global warming. This calendar claimed, in no uncertain terms, that the burning of methane was good for the planet.
The Shubenacadie River stands out, for the routine tidal bores which reverse its flow, for the sheer volume of fresh water it drains from central Nova Scotia, and, most importantly, for playing host to the last spawning population of Striped bass known in the Bay of Fundy.
Legislation dedicated to the protection of species-at-risk is relatively new to Canada. Our federal Species-At-Risk Act (SARA), only came into force in 2002. Recognizing the need for complimentary legislation several provinces established their own, some after, like Ontario’s 2007 Endangered Species Act, and others before, like Nova Scotia’s 1999 Endangered Species Act, among the first in Canada. But, as the decades rolled by, these various acts have proven flimsy, while federal and provincial governments alike leave them unenforced.