N.S. announces a slew of new properties to receive legal protection
List includes 49 provincial parks, six nature reserves and six wilderness areas
The Nova Scotia government marked Earth Day by announcing 61 new properties identified to receive legal protection.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Keith Irving said in an interview that the group of properties, which includes 49 provincial parks, six wilderness areas and six nature reserves, follows work within his department and the Lands and Forestry Department to identify sites that were ready for legal designation.
"There's still work to do but there's not complexities that need significant time to get across the finish line," he said.
"Many of them are existing parks and, of course, many Nova Scotians don't realize that they have never received official designation as protected areas."
Chris Miller, executive director of Nova Scotia's branch of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, praised the announcement not just for the quality of properties, but the sheer number.
"What this signals to me is that there is new energy to actually protect these sites more quickly," he said in an interview.
Of the properties announced, Miller said several are particularly notable. That includes an expansion of the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area, on the outskirts of Halifax, that will extend the boundaries to include some rare ecosystems, and create better public access points to allow the development of proper hiking trails.
Sugar Harbour Islands Nature Reserve in Guysborough County has seabird nesting colonies.
Ponhook Lake in Queens and Lunenburg counties, which will become a nature reserve, has "some of the rarest plants in Canada and is a known biodiversity hotspot in Nova Scotia," said Miller.
He's also pleased to see Trout Brook Provincial Park in Inverness County on the list. The land is "quintessential Cape Breton highlands landscape," said Miller.
"You know, beautiful mountains and hardwood forests on the slopes and really nice old growth forests."
Premier Iain Rankin has pledged to complete protection of the remaining properties identified in the Parks and Protected Areas Plan. With Thursday's announcement, there remain about 100 properties, according to the Environment Department.
Irving said it remains the plan to hit that goal as the province works toward a new target of protecting 14 per cent of the land in Nova Scotia, but he said there isn't a firm timeline for when it will happen.
Many pieces of land have different circumstances, including, in some cases, ownership, that first must be resolved.
"There are some properties in the Parks and Protected Areas Plan that we don't even own," he said. "And so, without a willing [seller], they cannot be protected."
Irving said the province had tried to compensate for that by buying properties that have high ecological value that weren't a part of the plan.
There are a variety of reasons to protect land, including to preserve biodiversity and fight climate change, but it's also important for the public to have access to free, natural spaces, he said.
"At a time like COVID, I think we are valuing nature more as we need to find places in which, in self-isolation, we can get out and get away from the confines of our home that we're trying to stay close to."
A 60-day online public consultation process will soon launch as part of the protection efforts.
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