New Brunswick

Nature Trust looks to nearly double conserved land over next decade

The Nature Trust of New Brunswick is embarking on a campaign to nearly double the amount of land under its protection in just 10 years. The plan would require $10 million in fundraising to increase its holdings to 15,000 acres from the current 8,000 by 2030.

Group wants to raise $10M and add 7,000 acres to nature preserves by 2030

The Bliss Island Nature Preserve on the Passamaquoddy Bay is one of many new additions to the Nature Trust's holdings. (submitted by Nature Trust NB)

The Nature Trust of New Brunswick is embarking on a campaign to nearly double the amount of land under its protection in just ten years.

The plan would require $10 million in fundraising to increase its holdings to 15,000 acres from the current 8,000 by 2030.

"We call it our big, hairy, audacious goal," said Renata Woodward, the CEO of the Nature Trust.

The effort comes in the wake of decisions by both the federal and New Brunswick governments to protect more land in government hands by the end of 2020.

Ottawa has committed to conserving 17 per cent land across Canada by the end of this year. And, the New Brunswick government has committed to bringing the amount of conserved Crown lands to 10 per cent, up from 4.6 per cent protected in late 2019.

For its part, the Nature Trust works with private landowners to protect land deemed vulnerable or important.

Renata Woodward, the CEO of the Nature Trust of New Brunswick, calls the plan to nearly double the organization's conserved land by 2030 'our big, hairy, audacious goal.' (submitted by Nature Trust NB)

Woodward said the organization generally looks for intact habitat, typically coastland, wetlands and old forest growth. 

Land that is habitat for species at risk or is already connected to conserved land is also a priority.

Woodward said that while the campaign goal is a big one, the trust has already made progress.

"We've actually been at this for a year and we've already conserved 1,000 acres and raised $2.6 million dollars… which is one of the biggest we've had since I've been here," Woodward said.

A big portion of that money came from the Canada Nature Fund, a five-year, $500-million federal program set up in 2018.

The Nicol Family Nature Preserve is typical of the types of donations to the Nature Trust, properties that have been passed down through families for generations. (submitted by Nature Trust NB)

The Nature Trust received $1.5 million from the fund to help complete a number of conservation projects.

But it still has a long way to go to reach its goal, and it relies on private donations of land for conservation.

While the non-profit organization isn't necessarily looking to add everyone's backyard to its holdings, Woodward said it is open to discuss every single property, because "for somebody, their backyard could be a woodlot."

The focus is on the upper and lower St. John River Valley, the St. Croix River area of Charlotte County, and most coastlines of New Brunswick.

But Woodward said that doesn't mean urban green spaces are not on the organization's radar.

The Nature Trust looks after the donated properties. On Grand Manan, volunteers collect debris from Meredith Houseworth Memorial Seashore. (Curtis Richardson/Nature Trust NB )

Back in 2015, the Nature Trust joined with a community group to protect the Ferris Street Forest and wetland on Fredericton's north side. It also established the Boars Head Nature Preserve in Saint John's north end, and 10 years ago, it created the Blueberry Hill Preserve, a large property on the outskirts of Saint John bordering Grand Bay-Westfield.

Woodward calls Blueberry Hill a gem for the two communities.

Since taking on the nearly 50-acre site, the Trust has spent more than a million dollars restoring it, removing culvert pipes from Henderson Brook that blocked fish passage, and replacing it with a bridge.

Woodward said it has also trained people from the local community to manage the site and done a species baseline study.

The Big Rock Nature Preserve near Springfield. (submitted by Nature Trust NB)

She said one of the advantages of a site in an urban setting is the community keeps an eye on it.

"If a neighbour cuts down a tree, we know within days," Woodward said, "The human aspect of stewardship is very important."

Woodward said people who donate land to the organization have many different reasons to do so, and that's why the Nature Trust makes such an effort to work with donors to ensure the process goes smoothly.

Donors also receive generous tax benefits from donating property.

The Nature Trust has 61 nature preserves in New Brunswick, and Woodward hopes to see that number grow substantially by 2030.

For information on donating, go to naturetrust.nb.ca. 

About the Author

Steven Webb

Producer

Steven Webb is a producer for CBC based in Saint John

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