Mike Dembeck

Nova Scotia

Number of projects: 10

Land value: Land value is the appraised value of land that NCC has conserved directly and with partners. $1,981,640

Acres conserved: 860

Stewardship volunteers: 85

The first of its kind: A conservation plan for Cape Breton

Mike Dembeck

Famous for its dramatic Highlands, its scenic coastline and the “inland sea” of the Bras D’Or Lakes, Cape Breton Island’s unique ecosystems are a hot spot for biodiversity and for species at risk. In fact, 18 federally listed species at risk and 20 provincially listed species at risk are found in the central Cape Breton region.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada's (NCC’s) first habitat conservation project in Atlantic Canada was in Cape Breton in 1971, with the conservation of Sight Point, in the Mabou Highlands. Now, more than 45 years later, NCC has returned to its roots. To kick off 2017, NCC embarked on its first large-scale conservation plan for Cape Breton, with the goal of protecting 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares) of ecologically significant land in the central part of the island over the next 10 years.

Two years in the making, the science-based conservation plan identifies priority areas on private lands in Cape Breton, mainly surrounding the Bras d’Or Lakes and along the Margaree River. Now that the plan is complete, NCC is working to develop relationships with communities and owners of those lands who are interested in conservation.

NCC’s top priorities under the plan are the acquisition and conservation of rare ecosystems underlain by gypsum and limestone, riverside floodplains and wetlands, old Acadian forest and habitat for species at risk.

Conserving the Musquodoboit River

Mike Dembeck

The Musquodoboit River, east of Halifax, provides habitat for Atlantic salmon, wood turtle and snapping turtle, along with river otters. The floodplain and wetland areas provide habitat for songbirds and waterfowl, including common merganser, black duck and wood duck.

NCC announced its first conservation project on the lower Musquodoboit River, near the town of Musquodoboit Harbour, in the fall of 2016. With 25 kilometres of river frontage and 175 acres (70 hectares) of wetlands, the area supports mature forests, extensive wetlands and intact floodplains, which feature an uncommon combination of black cherry and red oak trees.

While much of the Musquodoboit River has been altered by mining, forestry and agriculture, the lower portions of the river, where NCC is working, have been spared and are largely intact. NCC-protected lands here provide connectivity from the river to Nova Scotia’s White Lake Wilderness Area, one of the largest protected landscapes in Nova Scotia, creating an extensive corridor for wildlife.

The well-maintained Musquodoboit Trailway crosses the property, making it an accessible wilderness for hikers, cyclists and nature lovers.

The Musquodoboit River properties were protected with the support of the Government of Canada, under the Natural Area Conservation Program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Nova Scotia Crown Share Land Legacy Trust, Halifax Regional Municipality, under the Community Grants Fund, Nova Scotia Habitat Conservation Fund (contributions from hunters and trappers) and many local donors and supporters.

Yours to explore: Google Trekker maps a new trail at the Pugwash Estuary

Mike Dembeck

One of the largest and last undeveloped estuaries on Nova Scotia’s north shore, and a focal area for NCC for many years, the Pugwash Estuary’s mix of forests, marshes and mudflats are home to a wide variety of birds.

Twenty-seven species of shorebirds, including semipalmated sandpiper and willet, pass through the region during spring and fall migrations. With prime habitat for waterfowl, ranging from striking wood ducks to green-winged teals, Pugwash is truly a spectacular and valuable conservation area.

Anyone around the world can now take a virtual hike along NCC’s new 3.5-kilometre coastal trail, thanks to Google Street View. Through a partnership with Google, NCC photographed and mapped 18 of its most spectacular natural areas across the country, including its properties at Gaff Point, Lunenburg County and the Pugwash Estuary, and the results are posted on NCC’s website and Google Street View.

Visitors can wind along the trail through mature and regenerating Acadian forest and skirt the edge of the salt marsh, where vistas across the estuary await.

Extremely common in other parts of eastern Canada, eastern white cedar is found in fewer than 30 stands in just four counties in Nova Scotia. It is naturally rare and now listed as vulnerable under the province’s Endangered Species Act.