Leaving a Conservation Legacy on the Beloved St. Mary’s River

09 Aug 2014

Life-long naturalists and passionate conservationists Hardy & Barbara Eshbaugh have generously protected their 160 acre property on the St. Mary’s River by conservation easement.

The beautiful riverfront land is on the main branch of the St. Mary’s River, near Waternish in Guysborough County. It includes over a kilometre of river shoreline with extensive upland forests and rare, mature Acadian floodplain forest. These floodplain forests, which once lined many Nova Scotian rivers before large-scale clearing for forestry and agriculture, are a critical part of river health. They help to keep rivers cool, clear and fast flowing.

Protecting these remnant forests is an important part of restoring the St. Mary’s River ecosystem and ensuring it can sustain important species including Atlantic Salmon and nationally endangered Wood Turtles.

The property also supports important habitat for a diversity of bird species, including several which are on Canada’s endangered species list: Common Nighthawk, Canada Warbler, Barn Swallow, and Eastern Wood Peewee.

The property has been in the Eshbaugh family since 1922 when Dr. Eshbaugh’s grandfather bought the land for his family logging business. When financial times were tough, a savvy local lawyer saved the family property by arranging for American hunters and anglers to use the property for a few weeks each year. Thus the Club for the Well-being of Men was formed. The land and lodge became part of the treasured cultural and recreational heritage of the St. Mary’s, which continues to this day.

In 1967 the Club disbanded and property ownership was passed on to Dr. Eshbaugh, and he has been a passionate steward of the land ever since. He has fond memories of visiting the property every summer with his father, his uncle and cousin. As testament to his connection to the land, he and his young bride Barbara, honeymooned on the property. They have spent as much time there as his busy career as a botanist, award-winning conservationist and professor at the University of Miami allowed. He even used the lands as an outdoor classroom and ‘living laboratory’ for the very fortunate students of his Natural History of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland course.

Asked why he chose to protect the property, Dr. Eshbaugh replied, “One doesn’t often get a chance to make a significant difference for the environment, but placing a conservation easement on the Waternish property that has been a part of my family since 1922 feels right. I think both my grandfather and my father and their respective families would have been pleased to see this happen. Hopefully future generations of Nova Scotians will be able to enjoy this beautiful and serene place that has brought my family, friends, and former students such joy.”

The Eshbaughs will continue to own the property and intend to pass it on to their children one day, but the conservation easement ensures that whoever owns the property many years from now, its natural values are protected, forever.

St. Mary’s River Conservation Legacy Campaign launched in 2006.  The Eshbaugh property is the fifth Nature Trust conservation site on the river, bringing the total protected areas close to 600 acres. With proposed protected areas designation of surrounding Crown lands and ongoing efforts of other conservation partners, significant progress is being made in protecting this ecologically unique and important freshwater gem.

This conservation success and the Nature Trust’s freshwater legacy work on the river is possible thanks to generous funding by the Nova Scotia Crown Share Land Legacy Trust, Keurig Canada, Banrock Station Wines, the David and Faye Sobey Foundation, the RBC Blue Water Project and many other supporters, conservation partners and volunteers.

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