Nature Trust’s Big Win for the Birds: Seal Island Protected

Aug. 16, 2019 (Clark’s Harbour, NS)—A   conservation achievement by the Nova Scotia Nature Trust brings good news for birds and bird lovers. Tonight they announced the protection of 650 acres on Seal Island, off the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia. One of the region’s most important sites for migratory birds, the remote island is renowned for its vast numbers of birds, variety of species and rarities. Its protection is welcome news amidst plummeting migratory bird populations across the planet.

The news was celebrated at a community event in Clark’s Harbour on Cape Sable Island—a traditional jumping-off point for reaching remote Seal Island.

The 650 acre Seal Island Conservation Lands, encompassing nearly 80 per cent of the island, had been threatened by private development, which would have devastated the natural habitats and the birds they support, and ended traditional use of much of the island. Thanks to the Nature Trust, birds will thrive, and people can continue enjoy what has been called the ‘wondrous foggy isle’ as they always have.

The Nature Trust’s Executive Director, Bonnie Sutherland noted, “Protecting Seal Island, one of the most important islands for migratory birds in Atlantic Canada, is a major win for bird conservation and recovery.”

One of Nova Scotia’s largest and most remote islands, located 32 km off the coast, Seal Island features a diversity of habitats, from stunted, mossy forest, salt marsh, bog and barachois pond, to rocky shore, sandy beach and grass dunes. This diversity, its isolation from the mainland and major human impacts, and location in the flight path of countless migratory birds all contribute to its significance for birds and bird conservation.

Over 330 species have been recorded on Seal Island, using it for breeding, overwintering, migration or storm shelter. Recorded species include over 20 nationally and provincially-designated bird species at risk such as Roseate Tern, Harlequin Duck, Canada Warbler, Rusty Blackbird, Red Knot, and Barn Swallow. Other birds of conservation concern have been sighted on the island, including Common Eider, Leach’s Storm-petrel, and Atlantic Puffin.

Located strategically on a major migration path called the Atlantic Flyway, the island acts like a migrant trap, drawing in birds from across a vast swath of ocean, and providing a critical refuge for birds to refuel and replenish on their long migratory journeys.

Astounding numbers of birds have been recorded, including single day reports of 5000 American Robins, 1100 White-throated Sparrows, 1000 Palm Warblers and 500 raptors. Seal Island also provides refuge for rarely seen visitors to Nova Scotia, exotic birds blown far off course during storms.

Protecting this unparalleled migratory hotspot and large, ecologically rich island is not only significant for bird conservation. It is also significant in addressing biodiversity loss, and conservation of over 20 species at risk in Canada and many other species of increasing concern for conservation.

Eric Mills, a passionate birder who has been visiting Seal Island with his bird-loving family and friends almost every year since 1967, was delighted with the news.

“The Nature Trust’s protection of Seal Island is an important step forward for migratory bird populations” Mills said. He noted that migratory birds face the continuing loss of food and shelter across many parts of eastern North America. “Ensuring these necessities, especially at Seal Island—the critical beginning or ending point of their long migrations—is a highly significant,” he added.

Protecting the island from private development also preserves its rich history and culture. Although year-round habitation ended in the 1990s, it is still used seasonally by fishermen, birders, and many local families who have been connected to the island for generations.

Seal Island was acquired with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the federal department of Environment and Climate Change, the Nova Scotia Crown Share Land Legacy Trust, and many generous families and individuals.

The island adds to a growing network of protected islands in the area including the Nature Trust’s nearby Outer Bald Group and Bon Portage Island Conservation Lands, conserved in partnership with the Nova Scotia Bird Society and Acadia University, respectively.

But according to the Nature Trust, with 96% of coastal islands in the area privately-owned and very few (about 6%) formally protected, more island conservation is critical in protecting coastal biodiversity and recovering and sustaining bird populations. The Nature Trust is already working to secure its next island win for birds. They have also begun collaborative planning for long-term restoration, monitoring, and management of Seal and surrounding islands, in partnership with community members and other research and conservation partners.

Sutherland noted, “People keen to make a difference for birds can join in the conservation action. Charitable donations are critical to help protect more coastal islands and to ensure their long-term stewardship.”

To donate, volunteer, or find out more, visit nsnt.ca or telephone the Nature Trust at 1 (877) 434-LAND.

April 5th Deadline: Enable N.S. Nature Trust (NSNT)  to save 3000 wild acres through the federal gov’t funding

(Dartmouth, NS) – The Nova Scotia Nature Trust’s Lasting Landscapes campaign was already on track for historic land conservation achievements.  Now, an unexpected $400,000 top-up in matching funds means even greater biodiversity wins can be leveraged for Nova Scotia. The Nature Trust has just added 2 more potential conservation sites to the 15 already being protected across the province.  To seize this new opportunity, the Nature Trust needs to raise another $100,000, and secure both new conservation sites, by April 5, 2019.

The Nature Trust began its historic “Lasting Landscapes” conservation campaign just months ago, providing nature-loving Nova Scotians with a rare opportunity:  for every dollar donated, four additional dollars are generated through the Government of Canada’s Nature Fund and the Nova Scotia Crown Share Land Legacy Trust.

To date, the Nature Trust has raised its minimum goal of $750,000, which has leveraged matching funds of over $3 million for land conservation. With these funds the Nature Trust is working to secure 15 outstanding conservation sites across the province, encompassing over 3,000 acres of Nova Scotia’s best wild areas. It took the Nature Trust its first 13 years to save 3,000 acres of private land. Though this inspiring campaign, the Nature Trust aims to repeat that feat in a matter of months.

The new protected areas include spectacular forest and freshwater wilderness in the Mabou Highlands and Cobequid Hills, and the renowned Seal Island, a critical refuge for migratory birds. New lands will also be added to the Barren Meadow Turtle Sanctuary, the 100 Wild Islands, and the majestic St. Mary’s River conservation lands.

The charity credits the campaign’s success to an unprecedented outpouring of support from donors and landowners across the province who took full advantage of a 4 to 1 matching of donations.

Recognizing the Nature Trust’s inspiring track record, the Government of Canada offered a last-minute increase to their funding incentive. Up to $400,000 can be leveraged to save land, if the Nature Trust can deliver two additional conservation sites and raise at least $100,000 by April 5.

Bolstered by the outpouring of support to date, the Nature Trust has seized this opportunity and signed offers to acquire the two additional properties:  one in the Mabou Highlands and another in a popular near-urban wildland just minutes outside of Halifax.

The deadline to close on both land deals, and to raise $100,000 in donations, is April 5.

“Seeing so many people support this campaign, including many who’ve never supported us before—it’s clear that saving nature matters to Nova Scotians,” says Bonnie Sutherland, Executive Director of the Nature Trust. “And yes, it’s a tight timeline, but we simply can’t say no to this historic 4 to 1 conservation funding opportunity and from the generosity we’ve seen so far, Nova Scotians agree.”

One of the new sites targeted for protection encompasses 100 acres of forest lands near Inverness, Cape Breton. The property fills a critical gap between the vast coastal lands already protected by the Nature Trust and Crown lands slated for designation as a Wilderness Area.

The other new site is a 100 acre property, just outside of Halifax, with extensive shoreline on Frederick Lake. The land is surrounded by the Five Bridge Lakes Wilderness Area, a vast, wild landscape of rugged, rocky barrens, unique forests and lakes, home to endangered mainland moose and rare plants, birds and lichens.

The risk of development of this ‘inholding’ of private land has long been a concern to the many environmental groups who helped to establish the Wilderness Area, and the countless volunteers and organizations who help to steward the area and the spectacular Bluff Wilderness trail.

“We are just thrilled that the Frederick Lake property will be saved,” says Richmond Campbell, a long-time volunteer with the Woodens River Watershed Environmental Organization and Nature Trust supporter. “Development of that shoreline would seriously impact connectivity of habitat within the Wilderness Area. Housing all along that shore would also devastate the incredible vistas and wilderness values for the many people who like the Bluff Trail and paddle these wilderness lakes.”

 “With the Bluff Wilderness Trail and the Mabou Highlands so cherished by so many people, we’re confident the community will step up to help us save these special places,” says Sutherland. “With every dollar donated leveraging another four dollars, there’s never been a better chance for Nova Scotians to make a difference for nature.”

All donations will be matched 4 to 1, but only until the April 5 deadline.

Charitable donations can be made online at www.nsnt.ca or by phone at (902) 425-LAND. For more information visit nsnt.ca/lastinglandscapes.

Nature Trust adds missing puzzle piece to a Cape Breton wilderness area

Baddeck River Lands Adds to Nature Trust’s Historic Land Campaign

[Baddeck, NS]—A 130-acre gift of Cape Breton land to the Nova Scotia Nature Trust protects old growth forests, habitat for endangered wildlife, and ensures the future of a major provincial Wilderness Area. The achievement is part of an extraordinary Nature Trust land conservation campaign. Through matching fund commitments, every dollar raised by March 31 brings four more dollars to save land, up to 3,000 acres, across the province.

The Baddeck River land protects ecologically rich and important old-growth hardwood forests, pristine river shoreline and habitat for endangered wildlife such as Canada Lynx and Pine Marten. The conservation benefits extend beyond the property as well – as an inholding of private land within the 6,800 acre Baddeck River Wilderness Area, the property is like a missing piece in a puzzle. Without protection, the property could have been developed opening the wilderness to roads, invasive species, clearcutting, and other threats.

Its protection eliminates these threats and ensures an intact corridor for wildlife between the highlands and the river valley. This vast, unbroken wilderness with old growth forests is essential for wildlife like lynx, bears, owls and woodpeckers.

Irene and the late Ernest Forbes, the land donors, are delighted their treasured lands will be protected, forever. Many Nova Scotian families have strong, multi-generational connections to their land, and worry about what will happen to their special place after they’re gone. Will it be sold, subdivided or cleared?  Will the beautiful woods or pristine lakeshores be destroyed, and opportunities to enjoy these wild places lost?

The late Ernest Forbes did not want that to happen to his treasured lands on the Baddeck River. The lovely old hardwood forests and the wild river had been perfect for Ernest, a hunter and angler.

“Ernest loved that piece of land,” said Irene of her husband, who passed away in 2015. “It was good for his soul. It made him happy. He wanted other people to enjoy it as much as he did. That’s why we have donated the land to the Nature Trust. They can ensure the property remains in its natural state, forever.”

This conservation achievement is part of national efforts to address the growing crisis of biodiversity loss across Canada and beyond. The government of Canada has recently committed to protecting 17% of Canada by 2020 and made a historic $1.3 billion investment to ensure that goal is reached.

To build momentum for this national effort, the Government chose key conservation leaders across the country, including the Nature Trust, to deliver quick wins for biodiversity—significant, immediate land conservation gains. The Nature Trust launched an ambitious, landmark conservation drive, the Lasting Landscapes Campaign that aims to protect as many as 15 new conservation sites encompassing over 3,000 acres of Nova Scotia’s natural areas, in just a few months. The campaign will protect as much land as the organization conserved in its first 13 years of conservation.

The Honorable Mark Eyking, Member of Parliament for the Sydney-Victoria riding where the lands are located, welcomed the news of the new protected lands. “Being from a rural community, I recognize the importance of maintaining our forests and wildlife. I commend the Forbes family for setting aside the 130-acre inholding to be protected, and I commend the Nova Scotia Nature Trust as the caretakers of this property and others across the province,” noted Mr Eyking.

By supporting the Nature Trust’s Campaign, other citizens can be a part of protecting Canada’s biodiversity too. Through matching funds from the Nature Fund and the Nova Scotia Crown Share Land Legacy Trust, every dollar donated by March 31, 2019, leverages another four dollars to save the land.

To meet matching fund requirements, and leverage over three million dollars for conservation, the Nature Trust must not only secure a record number of conservation sites by March 31 but must also raise another $750,000 in public support.  To date, Nova Scotians have stepped up with $600,000.

Bonnie Sutherland, Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Nature Trust noted, “It’s an incredible, unprecedented opportunity for individual Nova Scotians to make a big difference for nature. With this 4 to 1 match, a $100 donation means $500 to save the land.  A $1000 donation means $5000 to protect the places we love!”

Charitable donations can be made at nsnt.ca or by phone at (902) 425-LAND. Every dollar donated by March 31, 2019, will leverage four additional dollars in biodiversity conservation.

The Baddeck River Conservation Lands add to a growing network of over 100 lands protected by the Nova Scotia Nature Trust across the province, encompassing over 11,000 acres of priority habitats and rich biodiversity.