Pictured is the Newtown area which is beiing protected by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

The Strait area recently received two items of good news when the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and the Nova Scotia Nature Trust (NSNT) both announced the protection of properties in Cape Breton.

On October 11, the NCC announced the protection of three Cape Breton habitats which cover a total of 676 acres of land and include wetlands, forests, and gypsum ecosystems. They include 170 acres near Marble Mountain and a 106 acre stretch of land at West Lake Ainslie.

The sites are home to a wide variety of animals and plants, including three species of birds listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. Priority habitats identified for this project included old, large Acadian forests, as well as gypsum and limestone ecosystems. Gypsum, which is prevalent in Cape Breton, creates a unique habitat because it tends to erode easily and raises the pH levels of soil and water.

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The habitats under the protection of NCC will be open to the public for leisure activities such as hiking, as well as education and research initiatives.

Pictured is a section of MacRae’s Island.

Then on October 25, the NSNT announced the protection of two new conservation lands on the Bras d’Or Lake.

Generously donated by Alastair Saunders and Chris Corston, the new conservation lands will help preserve rare island and coastal habitats, wetlands, and old-growth forests.

The new conservation lands include the 80-acre MacRae’s Island, a beautiful forested island, ringed with pebble beaches and wetlands. With few islands in the entire Bras d’Or, it contributes significant island habitats important for a diversity of birds and other wildlife.

The Lime Hill property begins on the nearby shoreline, extending up Marble Mountain to the proposed North Mountain Wilderness Area. It encompasses 100 acres of old growth forests, brooks and marshes, providing an important ecological corridor, and potential hiking trail opportunity, connecting the lake to the inland mountain wilderness.

Both properties are part of the internationally recognized Bras d’Or Lake UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and add to a growing network of lands in the watershed that are protected by the Nature Trust, the province and other conservation partners.

The Saunder’s sense that the lands were special was confirmed when the province approached them to buy MacRae’s island in the 1970s. Bald eagle populations were endangered across North America at that time, and being home to an eagle’s nest, the island’s protection was critical.

The Nature Trust said it has been working to protect important land for conservation in Cape Breton for over 20 years. In all, it has protected 11 conservation lands, encompassing over 1,500 acres in Cape Breton.

Thanks to the efforts of these esteemed groups, these special properties can be protected today and preserved for the future.

Once ecologically fragile environments are lost, they are lost forever, and nothing can reverse that. It is incumbent that these areas be preserved, and not just for the local environment.

These announcements will also allow current and future generations to visit and learn from these areas, and hopefully pass along this knowledge.

The impact on tourism is also important. These announcements serve the dual purpose of promoting the organizations, but also increasing awareness of the areas being protected.

This increased profile will inevitably lead to more visitors and tourists venturing to these properties, which will translate into economic spin-offs around the region, not just around the Bras d’Or Lake.

These announcements mean more than the protection of land, they are a means to preserve fragile and unique ecosystems, educate the public and maintain these areas for tourists and future generations.

This is an instance when the environment and economy win at the same time.