Dunns Beach (pictured), along with Monks Head and Pomquet Beach, protect more than nine kilometers of beach ecosystems along St. Georges Bay.

HALIFAX: The provincial government said it will achieve its goals once 20 more sites are officially on the protected list.

“Pending the results of the consultation, if all sites move forward, Nova Scotia will achieve its 13 per cent land protection goal,” Nova Scotia Environment communications advisor, Barbara MacLean told The Reporter.

The province confirmed that the Strait area sites that will go through formal consultation are Dunns Beach Provincial Park, Monks Head Provincial Park, Pomquet Beach Provincial Park, and the Eigg Mountain – James River Wilderness Area, all in Antigonish County.

The Department of Lands and Forestry (DLAF) said Dunns Beach, along with Monks Head and Pomquet Beach, protect more than nine kilometers of beach ecosystems along St. Georges Bay. Dunns Beach includes 21.17 hectares (ha) of land, including sandy beach, small wetlands, and forested backshores comprised of softwood and mixed wood species, the province said.

The endangered Piping Plover have been reported at Dunns Beach, according to the province.

Monks Head is 127.95 ha and is also managed as a core park, the province said. They went on to note that it includes sandy beach, coastal headlands, old fields, a barachois pond, and stands of softwood and mixed wood forest in varying stages of succession. The province said the Pomquet Development society played a central role in developing the Pomquet Acadian Trails system which includes three stacked loops totalling six kilometers in length.

Monks Head is home to one plant species listed as “may be at risk” (Bastard’s Toadflax), one bird species listed as “sensitive” (Common Tern), and one bird species listed as “may be at risk” (Willet), the province said.

The province noted that the western boundary of Monks Head abuts the Monks Head Conservations Lands. This 85-hectare protected area is owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and contributes towards provincial protection goals, the DLAF stated.

Pomquet Beach is 164 ha with a natural environment classification, and an undesignated status. It is managed as a core park.

According to the DLAF, Pomquet Beach is a significant coastal system with over nine kilometres of beach on St. Georges Bay. The province said it is one of the best examples of dune succession in Nova Scotia.

It is regarded as a site of ecological significance since multiple species of vascular plants and birds found at the park are considered critically imperilled, imperilled, or vulnerable to extirpation or extinction, the province noted.

The DLAF went on to state that Pomquet is one of few beaches in Nova Scotia with a range of successional forests.

The Eigg Mountain – James River Wilderness Area is 2,450 ha and according to the province is adjacent to hardwood dominated forest patches.

Among its ecological values is a mature to old sugar maple and yellow birch forest, as well as some old conifer forest, the province noted.

The province said it primarily contains a mix of mature hardwood, softwood and mixed wood forest, with some younger stands in areas harvested in the last few decades. There are also some forest access roads, the province said.

It also provides habitat for the provincially endangered mainland moose, the northern goshawk and spawning Atlantic Salmon, the province said, noting it connects separate parts of the existing Eigg Mountain – James River Wilderness Area and creates a larger protected forest area.

In addition to opportunities for hiking, snowshoeing and backcountry skiing, mountain biking is available on an adjacent road system and some use could be authorized in wilderness area, the province said. Hunting, trapping and some fishing are also permitted, they said.

The DLAF did note that the expanded wilderness area would include most of the Town of Antigonish’s James River drinking water supply watershed and the department said it will support the town’s efforts to protect its drinking water supply.

Local sites also intended for protection include two in Inverness County, the Glendyer Nature Reserve and Les Caps Nature Reserve.

The Glendyer Nature Reserve is 211 ha and contains mature to old growth tolerant hardwood forest, as well as old growth Yellow Birch and Sugar Maple, the province said.

The province will be consulting with Nova Scotians on some of the areas where there have been changes since the last consultation.

“In some instances, there have been changes to the sites since the last consultation, such as boundary lines, or where more input is needed from Nova Scotians on how they are using these sites,” noted MacLean.

A 60-day online consultation has launched at: https://www.novascotia.ca/parksandprotectedareas/ which will allow the public to submit their comments, MacLean said, noting Nova Scotians will be informed via ads in newspapers.

“Following the consultation, we will gather and assess the feedback, and formal protection would take place over the coming months,” MacLean explained.

Since 2013, the province said it has protected more than 150 sites, including areas protecting habitat for mainland moose, migratory birds and Atlantic salmon. The province said these areas also help efforts to conserve species at risk, as well as old and mature forests and coastal ecosystems.

Descriptions and locations of protected areas are available at: https://novascotia.ca/parksandprotectedareas/.