THE YEAR IN CONSERVATION IN NOVA SCOTIA
Published on Dec 18 2018
It was another busy year for conservation in Nova Scotia and important progress was made on several fronts. Here are a couple of the highlights.
First land purchase for Birch Cove Lakes
Hobsons Lake (Photo: Irwin Barrett)
In January, the very first land purchase for the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park occurred. This marked an important milestone, as the Halifax Regional Municipality works to establish a regional park adjacent to the existing Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area. The commitment to establish this regional park goes back decades.
The property that was acquired was a very good land purchase for conservation, containing the entire shoreline of Hobsons Lake and an important access point for public use. In total, about 80 hectares was acquired, which is about the same size as Point Pleasant Park.
Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes is an important near-urban wilderness for Halifax. Much work remains to do to complete the regional park, but getting this first land purchase done helps build momentum toward additional land purchases next year.
Two new marine protected areas proposed for Nova Scotia
Eastern Shore Islands (Photo: Peter Green)
In March, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced two new proposed marine protected areas (MPAs) for Nova Scotia, 1) Eastern Shore Islands, and 2) Fundian Channel – Browns Bank. The Federal government has made good progress in recent years creating new marine protected areas.
The proposed MPA for Eastern Shore Islands is 200,000 hectares in size and includes an extensive island archipelago and rich coastal ecosystems with tidal salt marshes, eel grass beds, beaches, and headlands. The proposed Fundian Channel – Browns Bank MPA is an offshore site, 720,000 hectares in size, and contains important cold-water coral assemblages and habitat important for fish diversity and abundance.
Both of these sites are currently undergoing public and stakeholder consultations. CPAWS-NS is pushing for heavy industrial activities, such as oil and gas exploration, bottom-trawling, and open-pen fish farms to be prohibited, while still allowing lower impact fisheries.
Wentworth Valley finally receives official protection
Wentworth Valley Wilderness Area (Photo: Irwin Barrett)
In November, the Nova Scotia government announced that it had completed the designation process for Wentworth Valley Wilderness Area, meaning that this site is now officially a protected area. The final, final, final step has now been completed. This has been a long wait for the local community, who have been advocating for the protection of these important lands for many years.
The new protected area is approximately 2,000 hectares in size and includes large intact forests in the Cobequid Hills, as well as steep slopes, ravines, waterfalls, and old growth hardwood forests. A substantial portion of this protected area was previously owned by a forest company, but was acquired for conservation by the Nova Scotia government way back in 2010.
Nature Fund offers big opportunities for conservation
Earlier this year, the Federal government made an historic investment in nature conservation, allocating $1.3 Billion for the creation of new protected areas across Canada. This will help Canada achieve its international commitment to protect at least 17% of Canada by the year 2020. CPAWS has been advocating for an investment in nature conservation at this scale for many years.
A lot of work is happening across the country to put these funds to good use. Here in Nova Scotia, a lot of effort is focused on private land conservation, since many of our most endangered ecosystems and species are found on private lands. CPAWS-NS has been advocating for federal investment in support of land purchases for Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes.
In the coming year, expect big announcements across Canada as the Nature Fund begins to help generate conservation outcomes and new protected areas. I’m most excited about the Indigenous-led conservation that’s happening from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic. It’s a very exciting time for conservation.
Map: Existing (green) and pending (yellow) protected areas in Nova Scotia
The Nova Scotia government needs to make better progress implementing the Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan. At the moment, there are still nearly 100 pending protected areas awaiting legal protection by the Nova Scotia government. All that’s needed is an Order-in-Council by cabinet to make everything official. The Nova Scotia government has indicated that more protected area announcements will be made soon. We will be following this closely until ALL of the pending protected areas are finalized, including sites such as St. Mary’s River, Mabou Highlands, Sackville River, Giants Lake, Pleasant River, McGowan Lake, and Cherry Hill Beach, to name a few.
Similarly, the federal government has promised to establish a network of marine protected areas in the waters off Nova Scotia, for Maritimes Region and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. MPAs in Canada take many years to establish, so going site-by-site will simply take too long to put a proper network of MPAs in place to properly conserve ocean ecosystems. Earlier this year, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said that they are “on the verge” of releasing the MPA network plan for Maritimes Region, but that was seven months ago and we are still waiting. Places like the Bay of Fundy, which are incredibly important for conservation, have almost no protection in place whatsoever.
For 2019, both of these systems of protected areas (on land and in the sea) require faster progress toward completion, if we are to better protect the natural biodiversity that occurs in our little corner of the planet.
Yours in conservation