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Big Triangle Pond and the competing demands of job versus environment

Darrin McGrath | Cabin Country | The Shoreline | Vol. 31 No. 46

There has certainly been a lot happening in the province’s great outdoors. What did you think of Mike Cooze’s recent blockade at the Big Triangle Pond Mineral Exploration Access Road? Cooze wrote a letter to the editor of this paper a few weeks ago about the road and his reasons for opposing it. He sure put his money where his mouth is. I say good for him for peacefully standing up for what he believes in. Cooze is reportedly planning another protest at the Confederation Building later this week. It will be interesting to see how many supporters show up, as interest in the project seems to be intensifying.

Last fall I wrote about a gate being put in place on the Great Northern Peninsula to keep resident hunters off a section of a Nalcor Transmission Line Road near an outfitter’s camp. At that time I wrote there is nothing like a gate on a road to rile up a bunch of Newfoundlanders. I know in the case of this road at Big Triangle, the main issue is not the gate and the reduced access, but the fact the road was exempted from an Environmental Impact Statement.

The EIS exemption for this road apparently has a history of being, “on-again, off-again.” Cooze says he is concerned about the environment and the impacts associated with gold mining.
Over the years, I’ve done a little canoeing in the Big Triangle Pond area. It is the start of beautiful canoe routes. I saw a huge caribou stag on the beach near the head of Big Triangle in the mid-1990s when the Avalon herd was reaching its peak. I shot my first moose in the area in the ‘80s. The area is beautiful and the nearby Avalon caribou herd is closed to hunting and struggling to rebuild.

On the other hand, our economy needs jobs. For example, my grandfather made a good living and fed thirteen children while working at the Buchans Mine during the height of the Great Depression.

However, there are environmental impacts. In my recent book Caribou Country I discussed a research paper that examined how caribou moved away from the site of Hope Brook Gold Mine as it was being developed in their range. The same thing happened at Star Lake when that hydro project was built. For example, habitat loss and fragmentation caused by road construction have been recognized by groups such as Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society as negatively affecting caribou throughout Canada.

Environmental controversies are layered and can pit citizens against miners, and citizens against government. People may be allies on one protest such as the Big Triangle Access Road, but then may be at odds over another matter such as catch and release angling. But we may even see various government departments at loggerheads. Hypothetically, the Department of Environment may oppose a project, while the Department of Natural Resources may support it. However, such internal government fighting may be hard to see.

The environment is the site of many political battles. Think about the many outdoor issues on-going now in this province. Of course there’s the concern over the methyl-mercury from Muskrat Falls flooding, and then there is the fight against the ERSB waste collection program in cabin areas. Catch and release angling is a hot potato, as is salmon aquaculture. These are just a few examples of the social issues that are at the fore-front in this province today.

Right across the country in British Columbia there is much controversy over oil pipelines and protesters are trying to stop the Trans-Mountain Pipeline. But I say build the pipeline, but play close attention to environmental protection. Of course, issues such as carbon emissions and global warming are major political battles.

But don’t underestimate Mike Cooze and the movement he is leading. Sometimes environmentalists have succeeded in stopping a project. For example, the late Eugene Conway of Conception Harbour played a lead role in stopping proposed logging south of the Fox Ponds near Hall’s Gullies. Conway helped identify the rare Boreal Felt Lichen (BFL) in the forest after the road was built and logging never happened.

But now some people think that there is a problem all along that resource road with thousands of windfall trees being left to rot. My position on this is that since the road is built, why not let some commercial cutter, or even domestic cutters at the windfalls?

It would be very interesting to hear Eugene Conway’s thoughts on that matter, and on the Big Triangle Pond Road.

I think back in the 1970s environmentalists like Greenpeace with its celebrity protesters were despised by many Newfoundlanders. Now in the 21st century there are many home-grown environmentalists who are much better respected than Greenpeace was.

Even if the Big Triangle Pond Road proceeds and is never put through an EIS, the controversy that has been raised over it will probably lead to greater care being taken. Things such as road construction, design of culverts and bridges, and management of waste by-product creation will probably be much more tightly monitored.

2 thoughts on “Big Triangle Pond and the competing demands of job versus environment

  • Madonna Poole

    Hi I would like to contact the author of this piece Darrin McGrath. If you could contact me please

    • Crystal W.

      Donna, I will forward your e-mail and request to Darrin.


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