Bras d'Or Lakes Charter finalized



HALIFAX (4 November 2006) - THE Bras d'Or Lakes Charter, based on a plan from the Mi'kmaq First Nations, was finalized this week as Richmond County came on board. The county's new warden, John Boudreau, signed the charter on 1 November.

Charlie Dennis, executive director of Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR), was proud to see the final signature committed to the Charter.

"We finally have a commitment from all of the major players around the Bras d'Or Lakes to work together to develop our management plan. It is an historic day for the Bras d'Or Lakes to have the people of Richmond County share in the joint commitment to the health of the environment for today and the future," Dennis said.

The signing by a wide range of Cape Breton agencies comes on the heels of morbid and specious reports in the Halifax Chronicle Herald over a so-called "race war" dividing native and "non-native" lobster fishermen.

Cape Breton chiefs, mayors, wardens and provincial and federal government partners have all signed the Bras d'Or Charter, committing to work together to pursue the vision, purpose and objectives of the Bras d'Or Lakes Collaborative Environmental Planning Initiative.

CEPI's vision is an attempt to lead a unique collaboration of partners that incorporate both traditional Mi'kmaq and western perspectives in order to foster a healthy and productive Bras d'Or Lakes watershed ecosystem.

The purpose of the Charter is to develop an overall management plan for the Bras d'Or Lakes Watershed ecosystem and to facilitate its implementation by governments and other relevant stake-holders. The objective of the Charter is to pursue a balance of environmental, social, cultural and institutional objectives to ensure the health and sustainable use of the Bras d'Or Lakes.

With an area of approximately 1100 square kilometres, the extents of Bras d'Or Lakes measures roughly 100 km in length and 50 km in width. The lack of significant tidal exchange with the Atlantic, coupled with freshwater outflow of rivers and innumerable streams results in lower salinity in Bras d'Or Lakes than in ocean waters. The Lake's limited circulation means that its waters are threatened by sewage discharge from community sewage treatment plants and individual septic tanks, as well as the increasing number of recreational boaters.

There is little significant protection for shorelines from development in the form of designated parks or conservation areas. In addition, Nova Scotia does not provide protection of rural areas from subdivision of property or from foreign ownership of coastal lands or maintaining coastal access for residents.

As well, independent researchers have discovered two WWII secret dumping sites in Kempt Head near Baddeck and Johnstown near Chapel Island in the interior of the Bras d'Or lakes for tons of chemical gases, especially barrels of Mustard gas. These two dumping sites are close to Mi'kmaq communities. There is no scientific research to indicate the effects it had on the environmental eco-system, or geographical areas but, according to researcher Myles Kehoe of Margaree, it has effected the marine biological chain, producing mutations in aquatic life.

CEPI is overseen by the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources, a natural resource management organization representing the five Cape Breton (Unama'ki) First Nation communities.

One of UINR's main activities is to promote and contribute to the understanding and protection of the environment in the traditional territory of the Mi'kmaq people.



FOR FURTHER READING

Who is inciting a "race war" in the Nova Scotia lobster fishery?
(October 2006) GARY ZATZMAN and TONY SEED

Mustard Gas in the Bras d'Or Lakes (October 2002) BARRY BERNARD
Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources

Bras d'Or Preservation Foundation WebSite

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