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After strong pushback, Nova Scotia has halted logging plans in an area that is home to the world's only remaining population of Atlantic whitefish.

The province’s Department of Natural Resources and Renewables announced the decision Monday, citing the species’ precarious state as the reason for an indefinite hold on logging plans near Minamkeak Lake that include three sections of Crown land.

The move comes after WestFor, a forestry group that supplies lumber to 13 mills in the province, proposed a 49-hectare cutblock in the Petite Rivière watershed in southwestern Nova Scotia. The Atlantic whitefish population has shrunk to only 40 fish with the ability to reproduce, according to 2012 estimates. The federal government notes the “estimate is among the smallest reported for single populations of fish, let alone an entire fish species.”

Logging plans were halted during the 40-day public input stage as feedback rolled in from the public, including from members of the Minamkeak Watershed Protection Alliance. That feedback was then reviewed by foresters, biologists and the department, said Natural Resources and Renewables spokesperson Steven Stewart.

“The primary concern is [the] potential impact to the lakes, where the endangered Atlantic whitefish are located, due to road construction needed to access the proposed harvest area,” he said.

“The department has also confirmed the presence of rare lichens in one area of the proposed harvest plan after it was reported through the public comment process.”

In April, Paul Bentzen, who runs a lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax dedicated to researching and protecting the fish, told Canada’s National Observer if the harvest were to go forward, it could have huge negative implications for the fish.

Although the hold is good news, George Buranyi of the Minamkeak Watershed Protection Alliance said his group isn’t stopping there. He said the next goal is to designate the watershed as a protected area. At this point, he said a forestry company could come back and apply to harvest the land, which shouldn't be allowed. He points to the Town of Bridgewater and its public service commission opposing the cut as further support for the vision of permanently removing the block from harvesting.

“... The government owns a fair amount of land through the Petite Rivière watershed … we'd like to see all of that protected,” he said. “... To protect all species at risk within that, plus the whitefish, so we're going to continue working towards that.”

Although the hold is good news, George Buranyi of the Minamkeak Watershed Protection Alliance said his group isn’t stopping there. #Logging #Fish #NS #Watersheds

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