More Strait area land gets provincial protection

HALIFAX: The provincial government is designating 17 new and expanded protected areas around the province.

Environment Minister Gordon Wilson announced the new sites on September 30.

Among the land now designated as protected areas are the Cape Mabou Wilderness Area, the Middle River Wilderness Area, the Ashfield Nature Reserve, the River Denys Nature Reserve, and the River Inhabitants Nature Reserve, all in Inverness County.

Among the sites that will be designated once consultation and survey work is complete is the St. Mary’s River Provincial Park in Guysborough and Pictou counties.

“These sites now connect and complement important land trust conservation lands, from the St. Mary’s River to the Mabou Highlands and McGowan Lake,” Bonnie Sutherland, executive director, Nova Scotia Nature Trust noted. “We look forward to continuing to work with the province, land trusts, and our Indigenous partners as we continue to build on our protected areas network across Nova Scotia.”

Other partners include the Nova Scotia Nature Trust, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Nova Scotia Power and Georgia Pacific Canada.

“We’re very pleased that the province continues to make progress protecting Nova Scotia biodiversity and wilderness areas,” Craig Smith, Nova Scotia program manager, Nature Conservancy of Canada said. “We applaud the new designations including those at Silver River Wilderness Area in southwestern Nova Scotia and River Inhabitants and the incredible Mabou Highlands on Cape Breton Island.”

The 17 designated sites total about 7,400 hectares. They include four wilderness areas, 10 nature reserves, and three provincial parks. The 10 sites to be designated include six wilderness areas, two nature reserves and two provincial parks. Together, these will bring the provincial protection total to about 12.73 per cent or 704,000 hectares.

Ten more sites will be designated in the near future. Some of them need consultation and some need survey work before they can be officially designated.

Raymond Plourde, senior wilderness coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre (EAC), applauded the announcement.

“This is wonderful news,” Plourde says, “We’ve seen staggering declines in plant and wildlife populations around the world, including here at home. It’s encouraging to see the province take steps to stem the tide in Nova Scotia.”

Plourde is particularly pleased that St. Mary’s River, Holden Lake and Cape Mabou are among the newly announced group of protected areas.

“These special nature spaces have been at the top of our list of priority areas for protection,” Plourde says.

The province has long promised to protect at least 13 per cent of land in Nova Scotia. The commitment was part of the 2013 Parks and Protected Areas Plan. The EAC has been pushing the province to uphold this plan for years. The announcement brings total land protection in Nova Scotia to 12.7 per cent.

According to a recent UN report on global biodiversity, more than one million species are at risk of extinction, and the trends that have pushed them to the brink continue.

“Habitat loss is the number one driver of species loss. We must do more to protect the living biosphere and our precious little piece of the planet,” Plourde says.

Plourde is urging the province to continue this important work and redouble efforts to protect land in Nova Scotia.

“We welcome these important additions to the Protected Areas Network in Nova Scotia and encourage government to add the remaining areas from the Parks and Protected Areas plan soon.”