Nova Scotia protects 2,000 hectares of 'incredible landscape'

The provincial government granted legal protection on Monday to land known as the Wentworth Valley wilderness area as it works toward a goal of protecting 13 per cent of all Crown land.

Wilderness areas in Wentworth Valley and near Oxford receive legal protection

The Wentworth Valley wilderness area includes old-growth hardwood forests, ravines, wildlife habitat and waterfalls. (Irwin Barrett)

Monday was a long time coming for Chris Miller and other environmentalists in Nova Scotia.

"This is something that we've wanted for a long, long time," said the executive director for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society's Nova Scotia branch.

Miller and others welcomed the news the provincial government is granting legal protection to land known as the Wentworth Valley wilderness area. The 1,954 hectares of Crown land covers parts of Colchester and Cumberland counties and features wildlife habitat, old-growth hardwood forest, and steep slopes, ravines and waterfalls.

"Really, it's an incredible landscape," said Miller.

The Wentworth Valley wilderness area is one of three pieces of land the provincial government granted legal protection on Monday. (Communications Nova Scotia)

More than 50 people gathered at Ski Wentworth to hear Environment Minister Margaret Miller make the announcement, which also included legal protection of 874 hectares in the Chase Lake wilderness area and 202 hectares in the Steepbank Brook nature reserve, both near Oxford and each with rare species and important wildlife habitat.

It's the latest in the government's effort to legally protect 13 per cent of the land in Nova Scotia. The minister said Monday's announcement was an important one, but acknowledged it takes time to do the necessary work to grant a site legal protection.

That work includes waiting for mineral rights to expire, doing survey work and considering characteristics of the land that make it a good candidate for legal protection.

"It takes a while for them to actually make the list, do the work that's involved when you know they're going to be designated and bring them to this point," she said.

Monday's announcement means just shy of 12.5 per cent of the province's land is now protected. Miller called it an ongoing process, with staff in her department regularly evaluating land.

Aside from the environmental and ecological benefits of protecting land, the minister also touted the economic development potential of doing so, pointing to a recent report by Gardner Pinfold that notes growing business opportunities related to wilderness-area experiences.

"Small businesses that operate in close proximity to or within the boundaries of protected areas see a range of benefits that include increased attraction of clientele, unique and more diversified business opportunities, and the creation of a stable investment climate," reads the report.

"Many businesses in Nova Scotia have been created, have grown, and continue to thrive because of the existence of protected areas in their region."

Environment Minister Margaret Miller promised more news from her department on protected lands in the coming months. (Robert Short/CBC)

One of those businesses is Ski Wentworth, where management is pursuing the idea of expanding operations into all four seasons. Leslie Wilson, general manager and president at Ski Wentworth, said having the protection for the land serves as an anchor on which the area — including her business — can possibly build tourist attractions.

"I think any time the land is protected in a community and an area, it just brings further focus on what we have to offer here."

As she has in the past, Miller resisted putting any kind of timeline on when the government might reach its total protection goal. She promised the crowd in Wentworth that more good news from her department would come in the next few months.

Chris Miller, meanwhile, said he'd like to see more action sooner from the government. His organization has advocated for legal protection for all the remaining sites — about 100 — that are pending legal protection. To do so would bring total protected land to 14 per cent, he said.

"Really, there's no reason why the government couldn't have completed all of those sites by now."

Monday's announcement won't be the last for land protection in the Wentworth area. A representative for the Nova Scotia Nature Trust touted news to come in early February about a pending agreement for private land near the region's newest protected wilderness area.

About the Author

Michael Gorman

Reporter

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca