Dozens of protestors, led by Extinction Rebellion Mi’kma’ki/Nova Scotia, rallied outside the office of the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (DNRR) in Halifax Wednesday afternoon, hoping to speak with Minister Tory Rushton.
Dressed in moose antlers and blowing horns that mimicked moose calls, they asked for an immediate halt to logging operations around Rocky Point Lake in Digby County. That plea was echoed by the Healthy Forest Coalition and the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs.
Logging in the area resumed last month, despite concerns that the operation could be destroying the habitat of the endangered mainland moose.
Last year, members of Extinction Rebellion temporarily stopped operations near Rocky Point Lake by setting up a blockade on the logging road leading into the site. Nine protestors were arrested in December after ignoring a temporary court injunction against the blockade. WestFor, the consortium of mills overseeing logging at the site, then requested a permanent injunction, which Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court granted.
One of the people arrested was Nina Newington, who helped lead Wednesday’s protest.
“That habitat was identified in 2012 by the Wildlife Division as part of the moose concentration areas,” she told the Examiner. “And those areas should all be put under consideration for protection right now. And that would mean a halt to harvesting. You know, anything less than that is really ecological vandalism, and we can’t afford that anymore.”
Jacob Fillmore was also protesting on Wednesday.
Back in March, Fillmore undertook a near-month-long hunger strike to pressure the province to halt clearcutting until more sustainable forestry practices were put in place. The strike proved fruitless. Fillmore said he’s used to being stonewalled by the province. About two weeks into his hunger strike, he was promised a meeting with Chuck Porter, former Minister of the former Department of Lands and Forestry. In the end, Porter didn’t show up.
Following Fillmore’s hunger strike, the blockade injunction, a provincial Supreme Court order that the province adhere to the Endangered Species Act, and numerous appeals from public citizens and interest groups, many protestors said they felt Wednesday’s rally was a last resort to get the government to take action.
The logging operations near Rocky Point Lake are on Crown land between the Silver River and Tobeatic Wilderness areas. Moose there rely on biodiverse forest for food and shelter.
A 2019 CBC investigation found there could be fewer than 100 moose left in mainland Nova Scotia, down from an estimated thousand in the early 2000s.
Protestors Wednesday were asking the province to stop logging operations until an assessment of the area was undertaken, and a recovery plan for the mainland moose was implemented. The Endangered Species Act requires a recovery plan to be created within one year of a species being declared endangered, after which it must be reviewed every five years to determine progress. The province declared the mainland moose endangered in 2003.
In an email to the Examiner, DNRR spokesperson Brian Taylor said “a new Recovery Plan which includes core habitat for mainland moose will be released soon.”
The Endangered Species Act defines core habitat as “specific areas of habitat essential for the long-term survival and recovery of endangered or threatened species.” Once core habitat is identified, the “[DNRR] Minister may make regulations respecting all or any specific core habitat for the purpose of controlling, restricting, or prohibiting any use of, access to, [or] activity” on that identified land.
WestFor also responded to the Examiner by email, sending a media release that stated:
“WestFor is currently conducting a fully approved and supervised partial harvest in the Rocky Point Lake area of Digby County. The harvest has been planned for over three years and all environmental and wildlife considerations have been fully factored into the harvest, following extensive consultations.”
During Wednesday’s rally, protestors were unable to meet with Minister Rushton or anyone else in the department. At one point, a handful of protestors broke away from the group outside and went up to the offices, but a security guard denied them entry.
Instead, Nina Newington called the office from outside its doors, and read from a message the group had written:
“The moose, in desperation, have come to town. Their home is being cut down. Their shelter from the storm is gone. So too their shade from summer’s heat. New logging roads bring poachers and disease. Special Management Plans leave as much cover as a thong.
The moose will deliver a pie and a plea to the new Minister.”
At this point, the group left a pie outside the office doors. It was made with moose excrement they say was found near the Rocky Point Lake logging road.
“Stop treating us like the contents of this pie, Mister Minister,” Newington continued. “For now, in the spirit of reciprocity, this is what we have to offer.”
After the protest, Newington told the Examiner she was unsurprised by the province’s reaction.
“It was completely typical, which is to say, there was no response.”
She was also undeterred.
“I mean, it was heartening to have so many people come out. And once again, call on the government to follow its own laws, they should not be cutting down with endangered moose habitat.”
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Right on, moose defenders. I think that the recent withdrawal of Lighthouse Links from their request to purchase Owls Head Provincial Parks shows that at least companies and individuals sometimes read the writing on the wall and give up. Governments and political leaders can take even longer to get with the times, so I appreciate the rally as another moment in the long fight to save the Mainland Moose.