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TOBEATIC: ITS HISTORY IN A NUTSHELL

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One of the first maps of the Tobeatic

(Click on images for larger view)

On October 27, 1927, with a push from Mi’kmaq and non-native guides, local and from-out-of-province sports, and other prominent outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists, and with a keen fisherman as the province’s leader, the Tobeatic Game Sanctuary, also known as Tobeatic Park or the Boundary Rock region or simply the Tobeatic Sanctuary, was established in southwestern Nova Scotia. In a government report the following year, the province wrote the following:

Under the peculiar conditions that exist on the North American continent, where the opening up of enormous areas of land by […] the penetration of virgin forest by […] lumbermen, and prospectors, and the reclamation of the wilderness have led to wide-spread destruction of the haunts of our wild life with a consequent disappearance of the greater portion of it, other measures than the promulgation of game laws, which at the best are difficult to enforce completely, are necessary to ensure the preservation of what wild life remains. Of such protective measures by far the most important is the establishment of wild-life reserves, refuges, or sanctuaries in which the native mammals and birds are protected.

The intention of the Game Sanctuary is not alone to create a game reserve where the bigger and smaller game animals can breed and multiply and spread into the surrounding country, but also to create a Provincial park where tourists can enjoy beautiful scenery and fishing, and the greatest hunting of all, “camera hunting.”

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Wardens patrolling the Sanctuary

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A ranger investigates a beaver dam

The Bad

Unfortunately, the Sanctuary’s intended purpose was soon compromised and has yet to take full effect. Among other degrading activities such as Mainland Moose poaching, the pulp industry clearcut portions of the southeastern end of the Sanctuary, both on public and private lands. The Sanctuary was significantly set back by the lack of proper legislation to protect its values, the fact that some of the Sanctuary was privately-owned, and by pressure from industry to clearcut the area’s trees and dam the area’s lakes for moving wood. Although not much has happened about large, profit-driven industry’s influence on government, the province eventually stepped up to rectify, in part, the two other setbacks. In 1998, Nova Scotia approved the Wilderness Areas Protection Act to “maintain and restore the integrity of natural processes and biodiversity” of designated protected areas, and protected what we now know as the Tobeatic Wilderness Area, which captured most of the Sanctuary but could not secure the privately-owned, southeastern portion. In 2012, however, almost all of that privately-owned portion was purchased by the province when it acquired all of Resolute Forest Products’ (formerly Bowater’s) land, due in large part to local “Buy Back” groups petitioning the government to move in and impose changes in land-use practices. Part of the Sanctuary remains in a teetering situation even though it is publicly-owned. Check out the Stewardship page for more details. 

The Hardhacks

Despite those setbacks, the much storied-Sanctuary (now called the Tobeatic Wildlife Management Area), with its rich history of First Nations use, guiding and sporting in the 1800s and 1900s, published accounts describing ruggedly pristine, peaceful wilderness abounding with wildlife, unpublished accounts going all the way back to the American Revolutionary War, and a rare network of oft-used picturesque paddling and hiking routes still active to this day, continues to represent the finest of gems in Nova Scotia's backcountry.

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Cofan Cabin

Paddlers on Oakland Lake

The Good

An impressive anniversary is coming up in Nova Scotia, notable to anyone who enjoys the out-of-doors or simply the notion of areas being set aside for protecting our rich backwoods heritage, for wildlife to prosper and for Species At Risk to recover (note: many have yet to do so). The year 2027 will mark 100 years since the first large wild spaces were safeguarded in Nova Scotia, and they included the famed Tobeatic.

Across North America in the late 1800s, the noticeable decline in wildlife populations and in pristine places was starting to reach the public’s eye. In short, people didn’t want to see a further decline of places where they could observe wildlife unspoiled, vacation in utmost peace and quiet in scenic areas, and ensure a healthy game population for surrounding areas. Here in Nova Scotia, the Beaver almost disappeared, the Caribou was on its way out, and the Passenger Pigeon, among other species, had already disappeared. Seeing the writing on the wall, passionate outdoor enthusiast groups and wildlife stewardship groups started cropping up across the continent and began to push for more protection for wildlife. They understood that those threatened wildlife populations and wild places were vital to their outdoor experiences, to overall ecological health of forests and streams, to human health, and to many aspects of the economy. This resulted in the establishment of some of the most celebrated parks like Yellowstone National Park in the Rockies and Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. And in Nova Scotia: the Tobeatic.

Hikers near West River