New Urban Wildlands Saved in Halifax

16 Aug 2018
We are thrilled to announce new urban wildlands, preserving over 300 acres of lakes, river, wetlands and coastal barrens. The conservation lands, on the Pennant River near Sambro include “The Brook,” a treasured swimming hole and hiking trail just 30 minutes from downtown Halifax. The lands were entrusted to our care through an anonymous land donation.

An enthusiastic crowd gathered at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax to celebrate our latest conservation achievement. Nature Trust Executive Director, Bonnie Sutherland, announced the new conservation lands, noting, “Protection of this 300 acre wildland at Pennant River is an exciting achievement for biodiversity conservation. And a big win for urban greenspace too!”

The conservation lands protect a natural corridor that extends from near the coast at Pennant Cove, along both sides of the Pennant River, through a series of inland freshwater lakes, streams, bogs, wetlands, barrens and forests, and back to the sea at Sambro Basin. They protect an important migratory corridor for fish, moving between spawning and feeding grounds, and for birds and other wildlife that use river corridors as an essential travel route. Every spring, Blue herons and osprey gather by the river mouth to feed on migrating Gaspereau. Endangered American eels make their way up the river on a similar journey.

The mossy forests and wetlands provide important habitat for several species of birds on Canada’s endangered species list such as Olive-sided Flycatcher, Canada Warbler, and Rusty Blackbird.  They shelter a diversity of ferns, and delicate forest plants, lichens and mosses, including potentially rare species. The protected area even offers potential habitat for the small local population of endangered mainland moose.

The conservation lands border the Terence Bay Wilderness Area and are close to Crystal Crescent Beach Provincial Park. Their protection creates connectivity and corridors between protected areas that is essential for wildlife and for the long-term preservation of healthy natural ecosystems.

The conservation win is exciting news for nature, and for people too.  The Pennant River Conservation Lands include a treasured spot that many people know and love, known as “The Brook.”  The site includes a series of scenic swimming holes, hiking trails, and fishing pools. It is a place that has been enjoyed by generations and locals and visitors alike.

Like so many special places in Nova Scotia, people thought “the brook” was public land. Most took it for granted that it would always be there to enjoy. But it was private land, like over 70% of Nova Scotia. And like all privately-owned lands, it was at risk of development.

Fortunately, the lands were in the hands of people who understood that this is truly a unique place. The landowners have fond memories of the land, a place they would go to unwind and escape from the stresses and pace of everyday life. It was a place they take their children and now grandchildren, to connect with nature and to connect with each other.

This family has now very generously entrusted their land to our care through a land donation. They wished to see the lands left intact, for nature to thrive, and for people to be able to continue to enjoy this natural sanctuary, for generations to come.

“What an incredible legacy the owners of this very special place, this beautiful wild treasure, are leaving,” noted Sutherland of the land donors, who wish to remain anonymous. “Their generous donation is an irreplaceable gift of nature, to all of us, and to our children and grandchildren too.”

The new conservation lands add to our growing network of sites protected in the Halifax area including the Purcell’s Cove Conservation lands in the Halifax Backlands, Troop Island, Rogues Roost and the 100 Wild Islands. The Nature Trust has protected nearly 100 conservation sites across the province, encompassing over 11,000 acres of Nova Scotia’s most significant and unique natural areas.

This conservation win helps to advance national, provincial and municipal commitments to biodiversity conservation. The Government of Canada has joined international efforts to preserve the planet’s biodiversity, including an ambitious commitment to protect 17% of Canada’s terrestrial areas 2020. Nova Scotia has committed to preserve at least 13% of Nova Scotia as protected areas, and is proposing the province’s first biodiversity act. Just this week, Halifax approved the Green Network plan and reinforced its commitment to protecting urban biodiversity and greenspace.

Sutherland noted, “With over 70% of Nova Scotia privately owned, and 13% of our small Crown land base proposed for protection by the end of this year, future biodiversity conservation gains in Nova Scotia will depend significantly on preserving nature on private lands.  The Nature Trust will be a critical partner for governments at all levels in meeting national, provincial and local biodiversity targets.”

In Nova Scotia, and across the country, urban wildlands are particularly threatened.

“If we don’t take action now, our urban wildlands will be lost. Fresh air, clean water, the cooling trees and soothing birdsongs that make the city liveable and healthy will be lost. Special places to connect with nature and to keep active and healthy, close to home, will be gone, forever,” Sutherland added.

In light of this particular threat to biodiversity, we are launching a new Urban Wildlands Campaign. This campaign will raise funds and awareness to secure more urban and near-urban wildlands, and to care for these wildlands in perpetuity. The program provides citizens the opportunity to take action to protect and steward natural areas as volunteer “property guardians,” helping to care for the wild places they love.

Donate to the Urban Wildlands campaign or learn more about volunteering as a property guardian. Reach us at: (902) 425-5263 or email

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