Limestone Barrens



Early Efforts

International Biological Programme (I.B.P) Sites:

Between 1965 and 1972, the International Biological Programme (I.B.P) [Conservation Terrestrial section] identified 81 ecologically representative sites in Newfoundland and Labrador as potential "I.B.P. Sites", and surveyed most of them (I.B.P. 1974). The goal was to recommend, to Government, the preservation of all those I.B.P. Sites that proved to be of critical ecologically importance (Tompa 1971).

In 1971, three relatively unspoiled "limestone barrens" areas were surveyed, and subsequently recommended to Government as worthy representatives of that habitat type:
    A 57 km2 area east of Eddies Cove East (I.B.P. 8.01 - "Northern Peninsula Barrens")

    A 9.6 km2 area on the summit of Table Mountain, just north of Port au Port (I.B.P. 8.05 - "Table Mountain Plateau") ["Special Site"]

    A very small 0.25 km2 area near Big Brook (I.B.P. 8.34 - "Big Brook Barrens") ["Special Site"]
The "Northern Peninsula Barrens" site was subsequently compromised when the Northern Peninsula Highway was re-routed inland, just east of Eddies Cove East, separating the southern quarter of the site from the rest of it (W. J. Meades 1982), and causing a lot of localized habitat degradation. A replacement I.B.P. Site was quickly selected, further to the northeast, between Watts Point and Four Mile Cove. After some adjustments, the Watts Point Ecological Reserve eventually resulted.

Early Reactions to Habitat Degradation Resulting from Highway Construction:

In March of 1979, a biology student, Robin T. Day, wrote to an official of the Department of Environment, Government of Newfoundland, to note the concerns of a rock garden enthusiast from New Brunswick who had been travelling annually to the "limestone barrens" in the Strait of Belle Isle since 1970 (Day 1979, W. J. Meades 1982). That informant had apparently noted "extensive damage to [plant] habitat over the past eight years".

The same informant further related (according to Day 1979), that: "in the process of widening and straightening the west coast highway, from Portland Creek to Eddies Cove the surface limestone rubble and gravel has been scraped off the land. Municipalities of this area have also been taking the loose rubble for their own purposes. The limestone barrens often occupy only a narrow strip of land running along the coast and this is where the quarrying has been concentrated. There is a rock crushing station at Eddies Cove and some quarrying north of this town. Most of the area north of Eddies Cove is untouched ..."

The Government official reacted favourably to Day's letter, noting that he had tabled the letter when he raised the matter at a meeting of the "Wildlands Committee" (the committee charged with drafting the Province's "Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Act"), noting further that several members of the Committee (although not himself) were aware of the gravel-pitting problem in the Strait of Belle Isle. Committee member William J. Meades (perhaps coincidentally?) made a survey of the Great Northern Peninsula "limestone barrens" during the summer of 1979 (W. J. Meades 1982).

Saving Burnt Cape:

Gravel-pitting began on Burnt Cape about 1985. In 1994, after almost 10 years of relatively small scale operations, plans were put forward for a MAJOR "limestone" bedrock mining enterprise that would not only completely jeopardize the unique and rare flora of the Cape, but also, eventually, destroy the Cape itself.

In September 1994, botanist Susan J. Meades, with the support of some others, began a campaign to have Burnt Cape declared an ecological reserve (Meades 1995: pp. 13-16). The campaign eventually bore fruit, with quarrying finally coming to an end in 1995 - but only after an unbelievably dramatic series of events that read like a soap opera!

Susan Meades' detailed accounts of this struggle (Meades 1995 pp. 13-16; Meades 1996: pp. 7-17) are a real "eye-opener", and well worth the read! [See also, portions of the: Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve Management Plan]

Burnt Cape attained Provisional Reserve status under the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Act on January 23, 1998; and full Ecological Reserve status on March 24, 2000 [see press release]

[Page last updated: May 26, 2011]

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