Budget 2013 saw the ax fall on Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve, Raleigh with the Minister of Environment & Conservation showing no remorse for not ensuring both the protection and education of the Province’s newest ecological reserve. The loss of two interpretation positions, left the site without any staff to provide educational tours and be visible on site daily. It is quite a contradiction to the Government sign posted en route to the site, as they clearly do not see the importance of protection, preserving and educating others about our natural treasures:
Burnt Cape is one of the most important botanical sites in the Province. Its unique landscape, cold climatic conditions, and calcium rich soil allow northern plant species to grow in a rich and rare variety. The reserve is home to more than 300 species of plants, over 30 of which are rare.
The Department of Environment & Conservation is failing to live up to ensuring the protection, preservation and education of this site, evident from lack of maintenance on the gravel road, no signage directing to the Reserve once in the Town of Raleigh, lack of restroom facilities and refuge containers. I have been actively reaching out to groups, organizations and individuals to help this cause and press Government to reverse this decision.
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael and I (MHA, The Straits-White Bay North) visited the site. It is with regret that interpretative tours were not restored, as this was not deemed a priority from the Minister of Environment & Conservation. Despite a barrage of emails with compelling arguments that were sent to him, the Premier, Minister of Tourism and myself calling for the reinstatement of these knowledgeable guides. They have ignored the call from Nature Conservancies, Environmental Awareness Groups, Ph. D holders, experts and concerned citizens from Newfoundland & Labrador, other parts of Canada and the United States of America. This only tarnishes our reputation of preservation, protection and education with the international community.
There has been much irreparable damage done already to the site, with vehicles unknowingly parked on rare plants like the Longs and Fernalds braya, to more direct movements of rocks and tire tracks that clearly illustrate a vehicle has driven over a protected area. In addition, visitors to the region are losing out on the experience of what Burnt Cape offers and some are opting not to even bother. The lack of interpretative tours leaves very important details and information of such a provincial treasure. Unless you are an expert in botany, this reserve has lost much of its meaning to the general populace with an interest to explore, learn and understand the uniqueness of this protected area on the Great Northern Peninsula.
The Minister noted about 500 people visited the site annually. It is clear there are many vehicles and people visiting the site on this Sunday afternoon. I believe the stat of visitors to the site is likely understated. Nevertheless, these well-trained guides should never have seen their jobs eliminated.
The Raleigh Historical Society Inc. has applied for permits to have its staff and vehicle bring people to the site during the season. They have stepped up, although it will be a reduced service without the knowledge of trained guides.
Government must also step up. I encourage you to email: Minister Tom Hedderson, Environment & Conservation (firstname.lastname@example.org) and myself, Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (email@example.com). We must continue to voice our discontent of this decision that is leading to the destruction of a geological, botanical and pale-ontological treasure.
Thank you for any support you can provide.
Live Rural NL –Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA The Straits-White Bay North
- Calling on Minister Hedderson to Reverse Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve cuts (christophermitchelmore.com)
- Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve, worth saving from Government cuts (liveruralnl.com)
- Cutbacks deprive ecological reserves, parks of most staff (cbc.ca)