Major coastal conservation wins on the Bras d’Or

04 Jul 2023

We’re pleased to introduce you to the Nature Trust’s newest group of conservation lands: Pony’s Point and Maskell’s Harbour Beach, spanning nearly 460 acres of spectacular forest, rolling hills, and over three kilometres of Bras d’Or Lake shoreline in Maskell’s Harbour.

Gillis Point

This impressive land assemblage adds to the adjacent Barra Forest-MacNeils Vale Provincial Park and lands at Gillis Point protected by a conservation easement. With these critical gaps now secured, the entire shoreline of Maskell’s Harbour is forever protected, encompassing a combined 7.4 kilometres of undeveloped coastline and 1,200 acres of contiguous coastal protected area.

The opportunity to assemble such a large, intact coastal protected area is rare anywhere in Nova Scotia with almost 90% of the coast privately owned, but especially rare on the Bras d’Or, where the shoreline is almost entirely privately owned and highly subdivided. With only 5% of the coast protected in the province and even less protected on the Bras d’Or, combined with unprecedented development pressures, the benefit of securing this vast, contiguous coastal wilderness is significant. The area is recognized globally as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and nationally as a Priority Place for conservation due to its rich biodiversity and unique ecological, cultural and historical features.

The small but treasured Maskell’s Harbour Beach property is considered by many to be the crown jewel of the harbour, a special place for generations of locals and visitors alike, charmed by its red sandy shoreline, tranquil waters and stunning vistas.

The conservation lands encompass a rich mosaic of habitats including mature forests of Yellow Birch, Maple, Spruce, Fir and Eastern Hemlock, wetlands and unique gypsum karst topography filled with fascinating sinkholes, ridges and ravines. The extensive shoreline is dominated by steep slopes and cliffs, and punctuated by barachois ponds (coastal lagoons separated from the sea by a sand or rocky bar).

The areas protect important habitat for a diversity of plants and wildlife, including rare and at-risk species like Eastern Wood-Pewee, American Redstarts, Bald Eagles, Blue-headed Vireos, Ring-necked Ducks, Spotted Sandpipers and numerous Warbler species, as well as rare plants like Bulblet Bladder Fern and Bristle-leaved Sedge.

The news is not only good for nature, but for people too. The Bras d’Or is Canada’s largest inland saltwater sea with over 1,000 kilometres of coastline to explore, and Maskell’s Harbour specifically is one of Nova Scotia’s most prominent and beloved harbours. For over 200 years, it has been a vital destination and stopover for mariners due to its strategic location, idyllic sheltered harbour and stunning scenery. In the late 1800s, then known as Boulaceet Harbour, it was a hub for fishing schooners traveling to and from the Grand Banks, and in 1919 became the birthplace of the Cruising Club of America. The harbour remains a must-see stopover for sailors traveling to Newfoundland and Labrador and a destination for countless boaters, paddlers and sailors.

Funding to acquire and ensure the long-term protection of the Pony’s Point properties was provided by the Canada Nature Fund Target 1 Challenge and the Nova Scotia Crown Share Land Legacy Trust, and by many generous donations to our Twice the Wild Campaign.

For the Maskell’s Harbour Beach property, a group of concerned local citizens and sailor joined together with the Nova Scotia Highland Village Society, recognizing the urgency to save this treasured beach and the last unprotected parcel of land in Maskell’s Harbour. The Nature Trust was then able to acquire the land from this group and we will ensure its long-term protection and stewardship. Our deepest thank-you to all involved for this inspiring collaborative effort!

And thank you to all our amazing supporters and volunteers for making this very exciting and significant win for coastal conservation possible.

To help ensure the long-term conservation of Pony’s Point and Maskell’s Harbour, as well as the protection of other treasured coastal gems, please support Twice the Wild today.

Get the latest conservation news in your inbox