Gerald Deboer

Nova Scotia

Number of projects: During this period, NCC also funded the relinquishment of 82,313 acres (33,311 hectares) of timber rights outside the new Birch River Wildland Park in Alberta. These rights were cancelled by the provincial government and will only be re-issued for ecological purposes. 11

Land value: Land value is the fair market value as determined by independent appraisal. $1,547,950

Acres conserved: 1,918

Stewardship volunteers: 139

Two firsts for NCC in Cape Breton

Mike Dembeck

There is no question that Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton is a special place in Canada. In fact, the unique landscape and communities of central Cape Breton were recognized in 2011 by UNESCO when it designated the Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve. There are only 18 biosphere reserves in Canada, which are deemed to demonstrate a balanced relationship between humans and the natural world.

This year, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) acquired three extraordinary properties in central Cape Breton, near the Bras d’Or Lakes. The newly acquired properties protect important habitats and provide wildlife corridors to nearby existing protected sites

Totalling 676 acres (274 hectares), these conservation areas are NCC’s first in Cape Breton in more than a decade. They are also the first in our long-term plan to protect some of the unique habitats and ecosystems in central Cape Breton.

The new conservation areas include unusually rich and diverse habitats of unique wetlands, mature Acadian forest and, in particular, rare gypsum karst landscapes. The habitats are situated in locations near Lake Ainslie and around the northwestern shore of Bras d’Or Lakes.

Cape Breton is home to some of the best remaining undisturbed gypsum-based ecosystems in eastern North America. These sites have unique plant communities that have a very limited distribution. It is estimated that only one per cent of these unique gypsum-based ecosystems are currently protected.

Three species of birds listed under the federal Species at Risk Act have been identified on these new conservation areas:

  • Canada warbler
  • olive-sided flycatcher
  • rusty blackbird

The conservation of these Cape Breton properties was made possible with funding support from the Government of Canada, under the Natural Areas Conservation Program. In addition, a portion of this project was donated to the NCC under the Canadian government’s Ecological Gifts Program, which provides enhanced tax benefits for individuals or corporations donating ecologically significant land. The Nova Scotia Crown Share Land Legacy Trust, US Fish and Wildlife Service, through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and many private donors also contributed to the success of these projects.

Protecting a rare salt marsh species

Anthony Crawford

On February 2, World Wetlands Day, NCC announced the conservation of a 61-acre (25-hectare) island in Lobster Bay, Nova Scotia. The island contains a plant that is rare in Canada and listed as threatened under Canada’s Species at Risk Act: the eastern baccharis.

Lobster Bay provides important salt marsh habitat for the eastern baccharis. The flowering shrub measures about three metres tall and, in Canada, is found only in southwest Nova Scotia.

In fact, the entire Canadian population of eastern baccharis — approximately 3,000 individual shrubs — is found in the marshes of Lobster Bay. The eastern baccharis is at the northern tip of its range in Nova Scotia, and is more common on the east and southern coasts of the U.S., and ranges as far south as Cuba.

NCC purchased the property from John Brett of Halifax, who wanted to see its rare salt marsh plants permanently protected. This conservation project was supported by funding from the Government of Canada, through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, the Nova Scotia Crown Share Legacy Trust and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

NCC has now completed two conservation projects in the Lobster Bay region, building on work by the Province of Nova Scotia to establish the Tusket Islands Wilderness Area.

Improving the view at Gaff Point

Mike Dembeck

Gaff Point is a spectacularly beautiful headland consisting of impressive cliffs, conifer forest, heaths and grasslands. The beauty and accessibility of Gaff Point make it a favourite destination for both locals and visitors.

In July 2017, 19 Conservation Volunteers joined NCC staff and Cobequid Trail Consulting to build a viewing platform here.

The new viewing platform provides a safer vantage point than the platform people were previously using. A section of the trail was also re-routed to accommodate the platform and provide better views of the ocean.

Gaff Point is a wonderful place to connect with nature. Seabirds, whales and seals can be seen in the surrounding bays. And its coastal habitats are an ideal place for hiking, bird watching, photography and outdoor learning.

NCC’s central Cape Breton nature reserves feature “sinkholes,” some of which are filled with water. Sinkholes can be shallow indentations or tens of metres deep. They are common in gypsum-based landscapes (also known as karst) due to the soft, easily eroded rock. NCC staff have to take particular care when working in karst areas: sinkhole openings are sometimes narrow and difficult to spot, especially when located in old forests and covered in thick layers of moss.