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Keepers of the river

130 acres of land along the St. Mary's River was donated to the Nova Scotia Nature Trust by members of the Sobey family.
The St. Mary's River - a great deal more land around it and shoreline of it are now under the protection of Nova Scotia Nature Trust. -CONTRIBUTED

Nova Scotia Nature Trust puts more land on and around the St. Mary’s river under protection

The pristine lands around the St. Mary’s River in the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s just got a little more pristine, with the announcement of four new protected areas along the river by the Nova Scotia Nature Trust.

According to information from Nova Scotia Nature Trust, these additions mean 1,300 protected acres of land and 21 kilometres of protected river shoreline in the St. Mary’s region.

The announcement will protect a number of habitats along the river, including old growth forests, Acadian floodplain – and several species of wildlife.

Species set to benefit from the new designations of protected land by the Nova Scotia Nature Trust include; salmon, wood turtles, the Canada warbler, the olive-sided flycatcher, the rusty blackbird, the common nighthawk, the barn swallow and the bobolink.

The secured land consists of 230 acres donated by Paul and Marsha Sobey, and the purchase of 145 acres, 75 acres on the West Branch and 85 acres at Crow’s Nest near Glenelg.

Nova Scotia Nature Trust aims to protect the biodiversity of the lands it holds.

Executive director Bonnie Sutherland said the wild areas will be preserved for research, “and people are welcome to hike, bird watch and fish along the river – those kinds of things. None-invasive activities where people can experience nature.”

“It’s fantastic for us, because of the paddling people do there – we call it a paddler’s paradise,” Scott Beaver, president of the St. Mary’s River Association, said. “The more land protected along the river the better.”

The lands, held in trust and bought and donated from private landowners, are available for public access, but any sort of industrial or commercial development is forbidden.

“Those lands are held by Nova Scotia Nature Trust as conservation lands,” Sutherland said. “It’s a little different from protected areas, but the idea is to protect biodiversity in ecologically important natural areas.”

Nova Scotia Nature Trust looks after the areas it holds, relying on the labour of a troupe of volunteers who keep an eye on the properties held in trust, and “make sure nothing bad is happening to the nature on the property,” Sutherland said.

The announcement for St. Mary’s is part of Nova Scotia Nature Trust’s larger general mandate to prevent habitat loss – and the subsequent loss of ecological diversity that stems from it.

“Since it’s protected, people aren’t allowed to cut or develop along the river anymore, and that works perfect for us,” Beaver said. “That will be good when we’re doing our salmon stocking or habitat restoration programs.”


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Another reason the announcement interests Beaver: some of the land now held in trust is land Atlantic Gold is looking to use in its opening of a gold mine at Cochrane Hill.

“I do know one piece of protected property overlaps with the proposed gold mine,” Beaver said.

Beaver is also excited about surrounding Crown-owned “corridor lands” that are still pending designation as protected.

“There are pending ones along the St. Mary’s, sitting in limbo, ready for a signature,” Beaver said.

If those lands are added to already-designated lands, the entire conservation corridor held in trust will include 9,000 acres, along with 50 kilometres of shoreline.

This all fits well within the purview of Beaver’s work with the SMRA. The SMRA works in partnership with the Nova Scotia Nature Trust to find property donors to protect more lands, to help preserve the health of the river.

“It’s a great working relationship, and it’s ultimately about protecting the landscape along the riverbanks,” Beaver said. “That’s of the utmost importance and concern – the habitat of fish, turtles and other aquatic creatures.”


The announcement of new protected lands along the St. Mary’s River is part of the Nova Scotia Nature Trust’s partnership with the federal government’s Nature Fund Quick Start program.

With the assistance of federal and public funding, Nova Scotia Nature Trust was able to launch the Lasting Landscapes campaign – one that has provided 17 new conservation sites across Canada, consisting of 3,200 acres of “biologically rich conservation lands across the province in just a few months,” information from Nova Scotia Nature Trust states.


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