One year ago, during a crowded public meeting to discuss the community’s nomination of Shepody Mountain as a Protected Natural Area (PNA) under the province’s new initiative to increase conservation areas to 10%, Minister Mike Holland surprised the audience when he announced the full 700 ha (1730 acres) of Crown land nominated would be protected.
At the time, he also advised that before the land could be designated as a PNA, JD Irving would be allowed to continue a previously approved select timber harvest of approximately 20 hectares (50 acres), which was a reduction from their original plan to cut 37 hectares (92 acres).
Shepody Mountain was the first site nominated in the new initiative—and the only one publicly announced in 2020. As the spring and summer progressed, citizens and groups continued to nominate other special and unique sites throughout the province for conservation status.
In November, the province launched its new Legacy website, which formalized the process and invited public comment on the first batch of previously nominated locations, which were now called Candidate Conservation Areas.
“Areas selected for conservation will have a specific biodiversity focus, such as: old forests, areas of high biodiversity, and unique ecosystem types. We are also interested in areas which may better adapt to or protect from climate change, sites with cultural significance, and areas that connect people with nature.”
Province of New Brunswick, Legacy Website
However, only 512 ha (1265 acres) of the 700 ha nominated appeared on the website as a Candidate Conservation Area. When questioned on the discrepancy, the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development advised the first batch of sites were chosen for “their intactness and density of old forest stands. As we have only identified 82,000 ha of Candidates on our website, we still have over 300,000 ha of Candidate Conserved Areas to identify and post for comment.”
During the second visit, the group took a more in-depth look at the area, walking the perimeter and noting existing trails, roads, special sites, and discussing the visual impacts and changes the cut would make to the forest.
Through these visits, we learned the harvest areas are situated along a two-kilometre stretch on both sides of the main access hiking trail leading to the summit. One area contains mature red spruce; the second has a mature hardwood mix of yellow birch and sugar maple. For those familiar with the trail, the cut areas will end at the second brook crossing.
The conversations and site visits resulted in JD Irving making further alterations to the plan; most notably, preserving the look and feel of the main trail by keeping a buffer of trees between the trail and the cut rows, avoiding biking trails, and ensuring existing roads/trails remain clear and usable. A number of areas were eliminated due to steep slopes and 50-m buffers will be left untouched along waterways. As well, the disturbed areas should not be visible from the highway.
As a result, the timber harvest for Shepody Mountain was further reduced to 17 hectares (42 acres).
While maintaining the current ecological integrity of Shepody Mountain was certainly the outcome desired by the community—and clearly the purpose of establishing PNAs is to do so—the compromise reached minimizes visual impact, is considerate of the recreational users, and reduces disturbance to sensitive features of the site.
The work will take place as soon as weather permits. An excavator will install a temporary bridge as soon as possible, then harvest work will begin once the ground is sufficiently frozen.
Once the work is complete, this initial 512 ha of Shepody Mountain Crown land can proceed with formal designation, which we hope will take place before summer. A second batch of candidate sites will be announced this spring, which hopefully will contain the remainder of the area originally nominated.
Visit the Legacy Website to leave your comments on current Candidate Conservation Areas, or to learn how to nominate a new site.