Volunteers and workers with the Nature Conservancy of Canada spent Saturday uprooting and removing invasive species of plants in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

The glossy buckthorn was targeted in the third annual Buckthorn Bash in Pugwash, N.S., while woodland angelica was hit in the Kingston Peninsula, N.B.

The Pugwash River Estuary, where NCC has protected 1,030 acres of land over the past 10 years, is a prime staging and migration route for a wide variety of waterfowl and shorebirds.

Staff and volunteers removed two- to three-meter high glossy buckthorn saplings and seedlings.

"The buckthorn plant, originating from Europe, was noticed in Nova Scotia about 14 years ago," said Craig Smith, NCC program manager. "It out-competes native species for food and water and can grow up to 12 metres high if left alone. This poses a major threat to the Pugwash River Estuary’s ecosystems and native trees such as maple, ash, oak and pine."

Shampers Bluff Nature Reserve

In New Brunswick, the target was a harmful, exotic plant called woodland angelica at the Shampers Bluff Nature Reserve. It is where NCC has been conserving 272 acres of land since 1990.

Woodland angelica is a perennial plant that spreads rapidly to the point where it can overwhelm native vegetation. It grows quickly in moist, open or woodland habitats, moving into large areas and taking over fields and woodland edges.

"This troublesome plant is growing along the Saint John River and is a threat to our natural ecosystems," says Brittany Clifford, with NCC in New Brunswick. "Woodland angelica is a member of the celery family and has a thick stalk. It is robust and features umbrella-like flower heads and leaf sheaths. If left unchecked, it can grow up to 2.5 metres tall and is commonly seen along the side of the road."

New 5,000 acre reserve

Meanwhile, the NCC announced Friday that 5,000 acres of woodland are now a conservation area in southwest Nova Scotia. It's the largest such project that's ever happened in Atlantic Canada.

The woods at the head of the Tusket River are home to species such as the mainland moose, the threatened snapping turtle, and rare bird and plant species.

Craig Smith of NCC says it'll be a permanent sanctuary for those animals.

"It really is a remarkable achievement. It represents the largest private land conservation ever undertaken and succeeded in Atlantic Canada. And it was achieved through a partnership between JD Irving Limited and the Nature Conservancy of Canada."

Some land in Digby County was sold to the conservancy, and some was classed as an "ecological gift." A quarter of the land, valued at $890,000, was donated. The exact purchase price was not disclosed.

The province gave $1.5 million to fund the project. The federal government gave just under $1 million and a further $1 million came from the Nova Scotia Crown Share Land Legacy Trust. Bill Freedman is a biologist and chairman of the trust.

"I write ecological and environmental science textbooks, and this is a textbook sort of case of really good and successful private conservation action," he said.

The nature conservancy says in the fall it will consult with residents in Digby County about how the public can best make use of the land.