Proposed Additions To The Tobeatic Wilderness Area
"Then away to the heart of the deep unknown, where the trout and the wild moose are. Where the fire burns bright, and the tents gleam white, under the northern star."
Size & Location
At over 1,000 km2, the Tobeatic Wilderness Area in southwestern Nova Scotia is the undisputed wild soul of the Maritimes. "The Toby" and the adjacent Kejimkujik National Park together protect 142,000 hectares of mixed woods, barrens and wetlands.
Due to its size and limited accessibility, the Tobeatic remains a stronghold for Nova Scotia's endangered native moose population. Other mammals include black bear, bobcat, river otter, and the uncommon pine martin. Until the early 1900s caribou roamed here too. The Tobeatic also provides a refuge for the threatened Blandings Turtle, and at least four species of endangered or threatened plants.
The inclusion of the 7 blocks of Public land into the Tobeatic Wilderness Area would significantly increase the ability of this landscape to support a functioning and diverse ecosystem.
The best way to discover the Tobeatic by canoe. When people paddle into this wilderness they often disappear for days. Exploring the dozens of remote lakes and the rivers, streams and old portages linking them could take a lifetime. Many of the traditional canoe routes were made famous by Albert Bigelow Paine's renown 1908 book, The Tent Dwellers. Today's visitors, as in Paine's time, follow routes that had been known to the Mi'kmaq for centuries.
Without the addition of the 7 blocks of Public land described here, many of the "front doors" to the Tobeatic are likely to become degraded. Having to paddle or drive through ruined landscapes to begin a wilderness vacation, would be a great shame.
The Tobeatic Additions
The details of the 7 proposed additions to the Tobeatic Wilderness Area are described below, the block numbers are referenced on the map.
Eighth Lake (Block 1) Gateway to the Tobeatic
After a short paddle across Lake Joli and a fifteen minute portage through the woods, Eighth Lake gives the traveler time to reflect on their first glimpse of the Tobeatic. Most people accessing the Tobeatic Wilderness Area from the Bear River side (i.e., the north) passes through the Eighth Lake block. These lands encompass a chain of four small undeveloped lakes that a paddler traverses as they work their way down the Sissaboo River system to Whitesand Stream. The other lakes in the chain are called, appropriately enough, Ninth, Seventh, and Sixth Lake. The surrounding woods are dominated by big red spruce trees.
Although this site is just 400 hectares, it needs to be protected to retain the wild character of the Tobeatic's main access point. You know what they say about first impressions.
Whitesand Stream (Block 2)
This 800 hectare block is nestled between Whitesand Stream and Sporting Lake Stream, adjacent to the Tobeatic Wilderness Area's northwest border. Both streams lead into the deep wilderness. To prevent deforestation and fragmentation adjacent to the Wilderness Area, and to preserve the historic appeal of the Tobeatic for backcountry recreation it is crucial that the Province protect the Whitesand Stream lands from logging.
Lake Franklin (Block 3)
This 300 hectare block is surrounded by the Tobeatic Wilderness Area on three sides. It lies adjacent to the strip of forest bordering the north side of Kejimkujik National Park, known as the Tobeatic Finger. The Department of Natural Resources has included this land in the Lewis (i.e., JD Irving Ltd.) license agreement.
Siskech Lake (Block 4 or "the boot") wilderness within a Wilderness
From the air the Siskech Lake lands look like a big boot stomping rudely into the east side of the Tobeatic Wilderness Area: 3,000 hectares of vulnerable "small w" (i.e., unprotected) wilderness almost completely surrounded by protected area. Kejimkujik National Park lies to its north. The Siskech Lake area boasts several old white pine - red spruce forest stands, access to a dozen undeveloped lakes, and several kilometres of woods on the Shelburne and Roseway River canoe routes.
The block's exclusion from the Tobeatic Wilderness Area puzzles traditional users of the area. The Tobeatic Wildlife Management Area includes these lands and anyone familiar with the area would consider them to be part of "the Tobeatic".
The Province omitted the Siskech Lake block because it contained roads. But the roads haven't been used for years, and they are starting to grow over (some have disappeared!). Try telling people who have canoed the Siskech area that these lands aren't wild enough. They will tell you about the old pines on Irving Lake, the huge bear and moose tracks, the hoots of barred owls echoing through the night sky, or of the evenings spent at camp patching their canoe in hopes that, maybe tomorrow, the rapids on the Shelburne River will be more forgiving.
Make no mistake about it, the boot is a wild place. It needs to be in the Tobeatic Wilderness Area.
Indian Fields Road (Block 5) Roads and wilderness don't mix
Roads carve wildlife habitat into small fragmented pieces and cause "edge effects" like parasitism, predation, and windthrow. Then there's illegal dumping, introduction of exotic plants, and easy access for poachers and off road vehicles.
Yet the current boundaries of the Tobeatic Wilderness Area run inexplicably up one edge of the Indian Fields Rd. and down the other, a ten kilometre intrusion into the heart of the Tobeatic. The road leads to an unprotected 1,000 hectare inholding, of which roughly 600 hectares are publicly-owned. The road begins at Route 203.
The threats posed by the road and the public inholding can be eliminated if the Province extends the border of the Tobeatic Wilderness Area across Indian Fields Road at Upset Falls.
Napier River (Block 6) The one that got away
The proposed Napier River addition to the Tobeatic Wilderness Area is roughly 4,700 hectares. These woods lie adjacent to the Wilderness Area's western border and contain more productive forest than what is typically found in the protected area, including many stands of old conifers. The site includes the headwaters of the Napier River, which drains into the Tusket River.
The Province carved off 1,400 hectares from the future Tobeatic Wilderness Area here in 1997 to fulfill a timber commitment to JD Irving Ltd. In return for wood at Napier River, the company "agreed" not to log the public lands at the Tobeatic "finger". As is custom, the Department of Natural Resources negotiated the wood allocation behind closed doors and with little thought to how cutting rights would compromise protected areas planning.
JD Irving Ltd. has temporarily agreed to stop harvesting in the portion of this block within a mile of the former Nova Nada monestary. The company advertises the site as the "South Carrying Road Lake Wilderness Area", but it has no legal protection.
Roseway Lake (Block 7)
The Province acquired this small (80 hectares) parcel adjacent to the Tobeatic Wilderness Area in 1998. This property includes about two kilometres of frontage on the Roseway River system.
After several false starts, the Province afforded legal protection to most of the Tobeatic in 1998. However, concessions to industry and a decision to exclude lands with old roads on them caused several key portions of the Tobeatic wilderness to be excluded from the protected area. Extensive road building and clearcutting on adjacent private timberlands owned by JD Irving Ltd. and Bowater heighten the urgency for more protection. A new quartz mine established by Black Bull Resources along the Toby's southern border is another threat.
Associated Member Groups
This initiative is supported by the Tobeatic Wilderness Committee (TWC) For a closer look at the Tobeatic Wilderness Area visit the Tobeatic Wilderness Committee web site.
© Nova Scotia Public Lands Coalition, Ecology Action Centre, 2006