A community meeting is scheduled for Sunday, August 26 at 11 a.m. at the Milford Community Hall to gauge support for an appeal to the province to buy woodland in Bowater's Medway District. The forests there, along with Bowater's Rossignol and St. Margaret's Bay districts were put up for sale when Resolute Forest Products closed its paper mill in Brooklyn, Queens County.
Citizens in the St. Margaret's Bay area have been rallying to get the province to buy woodlands in Halifax and Lunenburg counties for forest management, recreation, hunting, fishing, and for protected areas.
"We had over 200 people attend our Buy Back the Mersey meeting in July,” said Geoff LeBoutilier, one of the organizers from St. Margaret's Bay. “It was standing room only. We'd like to see people from each local community speak about how they would like to see the land used. We don't want a big company coming in and liquidating all the assets in these woods. We want local control and local benefits. To this end we’ve also set up Facebook groups and a website at www.buybackmersey.ca and already have over 1000 people signed-up."
The community meeting will be a chance for people who live in Annapolis and love the Milford backcountry to speak up. Stephen MacDonald, general manager at Milford House, has been encouraging people to write letters to the premier. So far they have had more than 180 people sign their petition.
“The Milford House backcountry, much of which rests in the Bowater Mersey lands for sale, has been an outdoor enthusiasts' destination for well over a century,” said MacDonald. “Over the span of several generations, thousands of tourists and paddlers, many from afar, have enjoyed these waterways and woodlands. It is our hope that the government will consider purchasing these lands so we can continue to develop the Milford House backcountry, and southwest Nova Scotia as a world class tourist destination.”
People who live in and around the lands for sale in Annapolis County are also keen to see the province buy it for the community’s benefit.
“It would be nice if the land was kept in use, much like it has been, especially after Bowater Mersey took such good care of it,” said Curtis Orde, a resident of South Milford.
Jim Todd, who is a woodlot and sawmill owner in Perotte puts it this way:
"Our family has been involved in forestry for four generations, and I witnessed the move away from a sawlog economy to the ‘pulp and paper’ economy since the 1950s, the creeping mechanization, and resulting decline in employment and wood value, to the point where my woodland now offers me little in the way of economic support,” said Todd. “It is time to put this significant block of Resolute woodlands back under the direct control of the citizens of Nova Scotia, and ensure better management of forest resources for the future. We need a more sustainable approach to forestry that is compatible with the biology of the Acadian Forest - one that would encourage smaller, more viable forest product businesses and create new economic opportunities where very few exist now."
Amanda Lavers, executive director at the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute (MTRI) will also be on-hand Sunday to provide information about community-based forestry.
“If the province buys some or all of the Bowater woodlands, community-based forestry can provide a model for how to bring benefits to rural communities, how to manage the land for multiple values, and how to plan for long-term sustainability. But to create community forestry, the community has to speak up and be clear about what it wants. The meeting at the Milford Community Hall will be a good chance for decision-makers to hear from the people of Annapolis County,” said Lavers.
The meeting at 11 a.m. at the community hall will include guest speakers from Milford House, MTRI, Trout Nova Scotia, and local forestry experts. Coffee, tea, and cold drinks will be available. The indoor meeting will be followed by a barbecue lunch at the Milford House Beach and for those who are interested, a field trip by canoe will leave Milford House at 1 p.m. to explore some of the woodlands and waterways that make-up the Milford Backcountry. Participants are asked to bring their own canoe, snacks, and water. A limited number of canoes will be available for those who don’t have their own.