Nature Trust Protects Cherished Parrsboro Gem

15 Aug 2016

The Nova Scotia Nature Trust announced today it has protected, forever, one of Nova Scotia’s cherished island gems – Partridge Island.  Several generous island owners have come together to ensure that this natural, historic and cultural landmark is preserved, though a conservation easement agreement with the Nature Trust.

Situated in the narrow passage between the Minas Basin’s north shore and Cape Blomidon, the 21 hectare Partridge Island is a unique and highly significant place. Ringed by steep cliffs rising to 50 meters above the sea, its hiking trail and look-offs provide spectacular views of the surrounding land and seascapes.

Known as wa’so’q or “Heaven” by the Mi’kmaq, Partridge Island was a traditional place for gathering significant materials that helped with survival including semi-precious stones like amethyst and Jasper.  It is also the home of the Mi’kmaq god-giant Glooscap’s grandmother.  Generations of local families and visitors alike have enjoyed visiting the island, hiking, bird-watching, rock-hounding or searching for the next big fossil find.

One of only a few islands in the Bay of Fundy (actually connected to the mainland by a narrow beach), Partridge Island is ecologically significant in several ways.  It supports a rare, rich coastal hardwood forest.  The tidal flats, salt marsh, steep cliffs and forests provide important habitat for 48 species of shorebirds, songbirds and raptors, and refuge for many spring and fall migrants.  The island and surrounding beaches and cliffs are also internationally recognised for their diversity of gemstones, minerals and fossils.

“It’s amazing to see Partridge Island protected,” said Gregor Wilson, a Nature Trust Board member and supporter with family roots in the area.  “Many people assumed it was protected, just because it hadn’t been developed, and people have been visiting the island for generations. But there was no protection.  Things could have changed here drastically if the Nature Trust hadn’t stepped in.”

The story of its protection began with a historic conservation agreement between the Nature Trust and Acadia University.  The agreement commits Acadia to legally and permanently protect several ecologically important lands owned by the University.

“Environmental sustainability is one of the fundamental underpinnings of an Acadia education and if Acadia is going to do more than talk, we decided the responsible thing to do was ensure all of the ecologically sensitive properties we own are protected, in perpetuity,” said Acadia’s Dr. Tom Herman. That protection commitment began in 2012 with Canada’s first conservation easement protecting University-owned land to protect Bon Portage Island on Nova Scotia’s south shore.

While working to complete the conservation easement on Partridge Island, it was discovered that Acadia actually shared ownership with other landowners. Most of the island was once owned by the late Morley Taylor.  His land was bequeathed jointly to Acadia and Dalhousie Universities, Sharon Taylor and another anonymous owner.  All four recognised the significance of the island, and the wonderful opportunity that its preservation offered, and all generously agreed to protect their land.

“The conservation easement, covering over 95% of the island, ensures that the island’s unique natural values are protected, in perpetuity,” noted Dr. Herman.  “Generations to come can continue to explore, enjoy and learn from this unique place.”  Both Acadia and Dalhousie can continue to use the island as an outdoor classroom, research and learning site for their students and faculty.

Sharon Taylor, another of the island owners, is delighted to see the island protected. “Morley Taylor was very proud to own Partridge Island. I believe a wonderful man is looking down on all this excitement with a big smile – I know he would be so pleased.”

Protection of Partridge Island was also possible thanks to generous support from the Nova Scotia Crown Share Land Legacy Trust, the Government of Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program, the Wilson Merriam Foundation, Gregor Wilson, Dave Wilson, Mary O’Regan, and Stephen and Suzanne O’Regan.

“Partridge Island is one of Mother Nature’s real gems, and one enjoyed by so many people, including my own 13 grandchildren,” said Stephen O’Regan, an enthusiastic project supporter.  “It is such a great place for children to explore and enjoy nature. To know it will be protected for future generations is very comforting for me. I’m pleased to be a part of it.”

Tax-receipted donations to support the long-term stewardship of Partridge Island can be made online or by calling the Nature Trust at 902-425-5263.  Volunteers interested in helping to care for the island are also welcome.

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