Nature Trust campaigns to save major ‘missing link’ in beloved Halifax urban wilderness

17 Oct 2019

Our Silver Anniversary Dinner and Auction ended on a high note when we announced an ambitious 2.1 million dollar campaign to protect a vital missing link in a beloved Halifax wilderness.

The 232 hectare (575 acre) property we plan to protect is located within an area known as the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes, a vast expanse of undeveloped wildlands between Hammonds Plains, Timberlea, and Halifax. It is one of the last, large, intact areas of urban wildlands in Halifax Regional Municipality. The lands encompass a mosaic of extensive forests, bogs and wetlands rich in biodiversity, rocky barrens and hills, sparkling rivers and three pristine headwater lakes. The diverse habitats support over 150 species of birds including loons, osprey and woodpeckers, and many sensitive and at-risk species like Canada Warbler, Olive-sided Flycatcher and Common Nighthawk. The area is a popular destination for hikers, paddlers, birdwatchers and anglers.

We have now secured a deal to acquire the property. We announced the good news to an enthusiastic crowd of over 500 people last night in Halifax, including many individuals and organizations like the Ecology Action Centre and Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, who have been fighting for decades to see the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes area set aside as protected wilderness. More recently, the Friends of Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes, now with 400 members, has taken up the cause and is an active advocate for a regional wilderness park, with the apt slogan of “Hear the quiet!”

While final boundaries and type of protected area are still to be determined for the broader Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes area, the Nature Trust, community groups, the Municipality and the Province all share a common vision of a large protected urban wildland, bringing together multiple parcels of government-owned and private lands in some form of protection. Many of these parcels are not yet protected, and face the increasing threat of urban development.

The first big step towards fulfilling the urban wildland vision was the Province’s designation of two large Crown land blocks as Wilderness Area in 2009 and 2015, protecting 1767 hectares (4366 acres). Then in 2018 and 2019, the Municipality purchased and added 210 hectares (519 acres) of private lands. However, neither the Province nor the Municipality are actively pursuing the property that would link the gap in the Wilderness Area, and citizens and community groups were growing increasingly concerned about threats to this central and highly strategic property.

Now, we have the opportunity to protect this critical piece.

The land purchase will fill the worrisome large gap between the existing protected sections of the wildlands, creating a contiguous 12 kilometer corridor important for wildlife. This corridor was identified as a priority greenspace to provide landscape ‘connectivity’ in the City’s Green Network Plan. In all, 2209 hectares (5460 acres) will have been protected by the Nature Trust, the Province and the Municipality once this latest addition is complete.

The owners of the property, Robin Wilber and Bill Fenton, responded favourably to the our encouragement to add their lands to the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes wilderness. They recognized that while resource and urban development are important, some places, like their lands, are just so unique and so strategic for conservation, that they are truly irreplaceable.

The landowners agreed to forgo potential development, instead selling their land to add to the growing protected area. They generously agreed to donate a sizable part of the land’s value as a charitable gift. The remainder will be purchased by the Nature Trust.

The announcement was welcome news to the Friends of Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes, who see the land acquisition as another exciting step towards realizing their urban wilderness park vision.  The group’s Chair, Diana Whalen, “Seeing that this important link is going to be protected from development is an enormous boost to the future of a regional wilderness park, and an initiative by the Nature Trust that deserves a huge round of applause and our total support.”

While the 2.1 million dollar fundraising goal is large, we’re hopeful Nova Scotians, governments and the business community will step up generously, especially where the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes is such a well-known and loved area. Such a large protected greenspace is important in protecting biodiversity, and also providing important ecological benefits to the city, like clean air and water, carbon sequestration, and refuge from the busy city life.

Your donation will help protect the heart of the beloved Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes from development. And it will help to preserve an important wildlife corridor, and treasured hiking and canoeing paradise, just minutes from downtown Halifax.

Donate today to help protect the missing link in the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes wilderness!

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