Nova Scotia

Nature Trust inks deal to save Halifax wilderness area

The Nova Scotia Nature Trust has inked a deal to preserve a wilderness area just 20 minutes from downtown Halifax. Now, it must raise $2.1 million to make it happen.

The group has until June 2020 to raise $2.1 million needed for purchase

The proposed protected area is undeveloped wildlands between Hammonds Plains, Timberlea and Halifax. (Irwin Barrett)

The Nova Scotia Nature Trust has inked a deal to preserve a wilderness area just 20 minutes from downtown Halifax.

The Blue Mountain Wilderness Connector is 230 hectares of land near Hammonds Plains, sandwiched between two sections of the provincially protected Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes wilderness area.

The Nature Trust now has until June 2020 to raise $2.1 million to acquire the land.

"From an ecological perspective, it's really important and it's one of the last large intact wilderness areas that we have in that greater Halifax area," said Bonnie Sutherland, executive director of the Nova Scotia Nature Trust.

Sutherland said Friday the group hopes three levels of government will commit to helping the entire area become a regional park.

"We're hoping that this is something that people will really get and really want to help support, because it's right here in all of our backyards," she said.

The Nova Scotia Nature Trust says the boundaries for the area are still somewhat unclear. (Nova Scotia Nature Trust)

The land is owned by Robin Wilber and Bill Fenton. Wilber said it was initially slated for housing development.

"We thought it was much better in the Nature Trust's hands than in future development. There's lots of areas to develop for housing and whatnot, but not every area is this special," said Wilber, who is the president of the Elmsdale Lumber Company.

Wilber said this was a missing piece of the puzzle and "connects the whole area together."

"Taking this piece of land out of forestry is not great for us in the sawmill industry, but it's the absolute best use for this piece of land," he said.

The Blue Mountain area is home to over 150 species of birds, including sensitive and at-risk species like the Canada warbler, pictured here. (Scott Leslie)

Sutherland said people worried what would happen if that area was developed.

"It would really fracture the entire wilderness and kind of destroy the whole ability to have this intact ecologically important connected corridor. So people asked if the Nature Trust could step in," she said.

Sutherland said people have been hiking, paddling and bird-watching in the area for years.

The Blue Mountain area is home to over 150 species of birds, including sensitive and at-risk species like the Canada warbler, olive-sided flycatcher and common nighthawk.

The Halifax Regional Municipality has also purchased three other pieces of land adjacent to wilderness area.

The area, just 20 minutes from downtown Halifax, is used for hiking and canoeing. (Andrew Chow)

"We are facing a massive global biodiversity crisis where the scientific reports that came out this last year have been really shocking," Sutherland said.

"But one of the big drivers of that is habitat loss … So there's really increasing recognition that we need to protect habitat for wildlife."

She said it's also important for people in Halifax to have a place close by where they can connect with nature.

"It's important for our own well-being, and for our sanity in some ways with the pace of life these days," Sutherland said.

"I know lots of people are concerned about what's happening with the environment and all of the doom and gloom that's around them, and getting involved in something like this is a really great way to give back."

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