ST. MARY’S – The Nova Scotia Nature Trust has purchased and protected 133 acres of environmentally sensitive land along the St. Mary’s River, the conservation organization announced last week.
The three parcels, located on the West Branch of the watercourse – upstream from Sherbrooke, complement more than 1,400 acres it has already safeguarded from heavy commercial and industrial use.
“We’ve been working with private landowners along the St. Mary’s River to create a ‘ribbon of green’ since 2006,” said spokesperson Anna Weinstein, adding: “The effort is complemented by 7,600 acres of adjacent and nearby Crown-owned lands, which have been identified for protection as part of the province’s Parks and Protected Areas Plan, although formal designation is still pending for these corridor lands.”
Last October, Nova Scotia Environment designated a series of watershed parcels as the new St. Mary’s River Provincial Park, advancing its public land protection goal of 13 per cent across the province.
Proximate to, but not included in that area, was 684 hectares of woodlands, wetlands, and lakes belonging to the Archibald Brook watershed, where Atlantic Gold Corp. wants to build an open-pit mine. According to Environment Minister Gordon Wilson at the fall announcement, the government needed “additional time before making a decision on its protection.”
Earlier this month, Wilson’s successor, Environment and Climate Change Minister Keith Irving, told news reporters in Halifax that the province still had “no timeline on that … There’s quite a number of properties in the queue that are being considered and no decision has been made on Archibald Lake.”
Asked how close the Nature Trust’s new properties are to the site of proposed mine, Weinstein said, “My understanding is that they are not that far away, but actually some of our previously protected properties are closer than the new ones.”
The parcels fall under the organization’s Twice the Wild campaign, launched last year, which aims to double its protected lands to 30,000 acres across the province by 2023. The campaign focuses on the St. Mary’s River, the Mabou Highlands, Bras d’Or, Kespukwitk, the South Shore Coast and Islands, Wentworth Valley, the 100 Wild Islands, and urban wildlands, such as Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
Under the program, “some land is donated and some we purchase,” Weinstein said, adding that the new West Branch parcels “were purchased through our Twice the Wild campaign fund. The donations to the campaign are matched by the Canada Nature Fund – which is the Government of Canada incentive program – and the Nova Scotia Land Legacy Trust, and some other additional partnerships.”
She added: “The lands conserved through Twice the Wild include critical habitat for wildlife at risk [from] coastal island sanctuaries for birds [and] towering old forests [to] pristine lakes and rivers.”