In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

On the edge of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

McNutt's Island is on the edge of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.  These reserves are protected areas not subject to human activity except for research and monitoring, and some traditional uses by local communities.  The Southwest Nova Scotia Biosphere Reserve consists of the core area, made up of the vast Tobeatic Wilderness and Kejimkujik National Park. Then, like a doughnut, all the rest of southwest Nova Scotia -- five counties-- surrounds the core area and is called an area of cooperation. Since we sit out here at the edge of southwestern Nova Scotia, we are on the edge of this area of cooperation. 

There are about four hundred UNESCO Biosphere Reserves around the world, and thirteen in Canada. The Southwest Nova Scotia Biosphere reserve is the first in Atlantic Canada. The reserves are places where environments are monitored and conserved, where scientific research is carried on, and where large-scale extractive processes ( for instance, logging or mining ) are not.       

Within the Tobeatic Wilderness and Kejimkujik National Park are a wide variety of animals and plants including endangered species sited within an environment of forests, lakes, marshes, bogs, the headwaters of nine rivers, and archaeological sites important to the Mi'kmaq First Nations. You can paddle and portage through a landscape that evokes the time when these rivers were the primary routes for the Mi'kmaq travelling back and forth between the Bay of Fundy and the Atlantic coast. One of my dreams is to do some of this paddling, maybe as early as this year.

The Biosphere Reserve sits on the edge of my consciousness, something significant just out of sight.  The interior of southwest Nova Scotia has a compelling wildness to it. Our first direct experience of that wildness came when we drove from New Brunswick to Shelburne  almost two years ago, in late spring. Consulting our map, we turned left from the Annapolis Valley and entered the interior.  Every once in a while highway signs announced, unnecessarily, "Rough Road Ahead."   We were on a major secondary road, one of a few that crosses the province along the shorter north-south axis. Sometimes we encountered a few houses close together, but aside from that we encountered this astonishing emptiness. 

We had turned off from the main highway without a full tank of gas, never thinking that there wouldn't be a gas station along the way. As we got closer to empty, Greg reminded me that according to our map we would soon come to the entrance to Kejimkujik National Park. "Don't worry," he said with confidence. "There will be a gas station there." We envisioned not only a gas station but also restaurants and ye olde souvenir shoppes -- a little cluster of ticky tacky.  Is there any other way to enter a national park?  

Apparently there is. The entrance to Kejimkujik was just that, an entrance, with no parasitical excrescences attached for the benefit of the bored or the unprepared. Woe to the one who set off without having packed a picnic lunch and filled up the gas tank! And so we Americans learned our first lesson about travelling southwest Nova Scotia style. 

Since Europeans and Americans began to settle this area sporadically in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the small population of southwestern Nova Scotia has clustered along the coasts -- the biosphere's area of cooperation --  and left the interior alone.  Over the years, the main threats to the integrity of the interior environment have been not from population growth but from mining and logging. Now its layers of wilderness, national park and biosphere reserve designations protect this vast place. 

Even though we are out on the edge of the Biosphere Reserve, and don't really think about it all that much, its wildness balances the other, more immediate wildness we encounter, the sea. About which I shall write at another time.  

Image from SNBRA

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