Significant protected forest in southwestern Nova Scotia

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Rare plants and animals that inhabit much of the mature Wabanaki-Acadian forest can continue to thrive undisturbed in southwest Nova Scotia thanks to a new $2.8 million conservation agreement.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has purchased nearly 1,100 acres of land including primarily Wabanaki-Acadian forest, over 15 miles of lake shoreline and 130 acres of freshwater wetlands in Upper Ohio, NS

“It’s really significant because it’s very big. It is the third largest project we have undertaken in NCC’s 50-year history here in Nova Scotia,” Jaimee Morozoff, the group’s provincial programming director, told CBC radio information morning on Tuesday.

“It’s a really unique site.”

The area, about 15 miles north of Shelburne, first came to the attention of the conservation agency when it was listed by a real estate agent, Morozoff said.

The land contract covers the protection of 7 separate lakes in the Upper Ohio, NS area. (Mike Dembeck/NCC)

She added that the property actually consisted of 24 parcels, so the huge block of land could have been sold to multiple people and “could have had 24 different developments on it”.

Last summer, she said, the NCC surveyed the property and found 300 different plants, including several rare species such as Virginia meadowsweet, swamp loosestrife and longleaf panic grass. Several endangered lichens have also been sighted.

The group noted 66 different bird species; including 15 rare and three critically endangered species including the Canada Warbler. Eastern tortoises and snapping turtles have also been found, both of which are listed as species of very high concern.

The forest itself, which includes eastern hemlock, maple and white spruce, is a rare find. Only one to five percent of mature forest remains intact in the Maritimes due to centuries of deforestation, Morozoff said.

A map showing the protected areas of Upper Ohio, NS in red. (NCC)

“That helps inform how we’re going to manage the land and just emphasizes how valuable it is to conservation,” Morozoff said.

The NCC recognized the opportunity as “very special,” Morozoff said, and worked with the landowner and broker to reach a deal.

The group raised money from fundraising, private donors, federal and provincial governments, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to make the purchase.

The total cost of the project was nearly $2.8 million — including the purchase price, administrative funding, legal fees, property appraisal, land surveying and scientific data collection, the NCC said.

Protected areas in Upper Ohio include 950 acres of mature forest filled with eastern hemlock, sugar and red maple, and white spruce. (Mike Dembeck/NCC)

The Upper Ohio Conservation Area is mostly surrounded by protected areas in Indian Fields Provincial Park and the Tobeatic Wilderness Area. The project also falls within the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, one of 18 such reserves in Canada.

“It’s kind of a big chunk in the middle that helps fill in some of those gaps and create a really big sanctuary for Nova Scotia’s species,” Morozoff said.

The NCC said its next step is to develop a property management plan that will identify conservation priorities and explore how people can use the area for passive recreational purposes.

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