Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve, worth saving from Government cuts

Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve in the Town of Raleigh is home to some 300 plant species, 30 of which are considered rare. COSEWIC has determined the arctic bladderpod, alpine arnica, dwarf hawk’s beard and Burnt Cape cinquefoil, which the Great Northern Peninsula is the only place in the world where this species grows.

The Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve needs your help since the Department of Environment & Conservation cut it’s Parks & Natural Areas Division budget, and removed two seasonal interpretation staff that provided much-needed education and protection at this site.

According to Government’s own print material found on their website (http://www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/publications/parks/introduction_burnt_cape.pdf)  even today:

Interpreters offer daily tours of Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve from mid May to September. Tours begin from Pistolet Bay Provincial Park, which is located 4.5 km outside Raleigh.

This is simply not true anymore. As well, under “Rules & Regulations” section of the Ecological Reserves on the Department of Environment & Conservation’s website, recommends the following:

The public can visit most ecological reserves for educational purposes or low-impact recreational activities, such as hiking or sightseeing. This is true at Burnt Cape, although because of the  taking a guided tour is strongly recommended. http://www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/parks/wer/r_bce/rules.html

Even Government’s own material highlights the vulnerability of the rare plants found at Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve and still recommends taking a tour more than 3 months after it cut all its interpretation staff. This must be rectified and these seasonal position must be re-instated before we lose something very valuable to us and our natural environment.

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On April 4th, 2013, I wrote the Minister of Environment and Conservation just days after a destructive Provincial Budget that cut jobs, programs and services across Newfoundland & Labrador asking for reversal.

Dear Minister Hedderson:

I am deeply concerned by recent cuts to the Parks and Natural Areas Division that impact the operations at Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve, located in the Town of Raleigh. Two interpreters offered daily tours from mid-May to September, which began from Pistolet Bay Provincial Park. Eliminating these positions and programming is a backward step to preserve our protected areas.

Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve is home to some 300 plant species, 30 of which are considered rare. COSEWIC has determined the arctic bladderpod, alpine arnica, dwarf hawk’s beard and Burnt Cape cinquefoil, which the Great Northern Peninsula is the only place in the world where this species grows.

The efforts of local citizens, supporters, scientists, conservation groups and the government led to the creation of a reserve in 2000. The Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Act states the act is to provide for natural areas in the province to be set aside for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people of the province.

The loss of these positions and associated programming, such as Nature’s Classroom limits the benefit, education and enjoyment that can be obtained at Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve and leaves the site vulnerable.
The Reserve Order outlines operations in Schedule B:

The area known as Burnt Cape near Raleigh in northern Newfoundland and Labrador is established as an ecological reserve to preserve numerous rare plant species for scientific and educational purposes.  In order to accomplish this, there will be no development within the reserve.  Scientific research at this site will be encouraged and educational use will be permitted where it does not conflict with the general purpose of preservation and scientific research.  Vehicular access on the existing road will be continued and activities such as hunting, trapping, fishing, and snowmobiling, which do not threaten the survival of rare plant species will be permitted to continue. (http://www.assembly.nl.ca/legislation/sr/regulations/rc000049.htm)

The interpretation staff helped preserve these rare plants and educate those on tour, adding to the services offered at Pistolet Bay Provincial Park. These tour activities indirectly helped protect the integrity of the site with regular monitoring. Additional job losses at the Wildlife Enforcement Division, which has one active position on the Great Northern Peninsula north of Gros Morne National Park, leaves me to question if the reserve will be protected from all-terrain vehicle, snowmobile or other developmental activity?

The loss of interpretation will have an impact on the protection of environment and conservation, regional tourism and reduce our product offering, impacts local businesses and places a further strain on our local rural economies. These decisions send the wrong message to the International community about the commitment Government places on preservation of endangered and rare plant species. It also places in question Government’s own promotional material that highlights the strong partnerships at work, including the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Town of Raleigh, Friends of Burnt Cape and Parks and Natural Areas Division to plan a new Interpretation Centre (http://www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/publications/parks/introduction_burnt_cape.pdf). The elimination of staff and programming places much doubt on Government’s commitment to a project it has been promoting for years.

I ask that you reverse this decision to cut funding that jeopardizes the integrity of Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve. I trust that you will work with your counterparts to review and offer solutions. Should you have any questions, please contact me at your earliest convenience. I look forward to your response.

Best regards,

The Straits-White Bay North


Minister Darin King, Department of Justice
Minister Terry French, Department of Tourism, Culture & Recreation
MHA George Murphy (St. John’s East), NDP Environment & Conservation Critic
Mayor Millicent Taylor, Town of Raleigh
Chairperson Wavey Greenham, Friends of Burnt Cape
Regional Vice President Linda Stephenson, Nature Conservancy of Canada
Viking Trail Tourism Association
Editor, Northern Pen Newspaper

The Town of Raleigh is picturesque, pristine and provides ample views that will lead you to the uniqueness of the Cape. It needs your support in this matter.  I have received a number of emails and letters voicing concern that leaves an ecological reserve in jeopardy of not being able to protect and provide an educational experience to those who wish to share it. Please reach out to anyone that may assist with writing letters or helping by some other means to see interpretation restored at Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve on the Great Northern Peninsula.

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA – cmitchelmore@gov.nl.ca

Hon. Tom Hedderson, Minister of Environment & Conservation – thedderson@gov.nl.ca

Hon. Terry French, Minister of Tourism, Culture & Recreation – terryfrench@gov.nl.ca 

Hon. Kathy Dunderdale, Premier of Newfoundland & Labrador – premier@gov.nl.ca

Thank you –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North


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