Sobey Family Recognized for Land Donation and Leadership in Nature Trust’s St. Mary’s River Campaign

26 Oct 2018

New protected lands to be donated by Paul and Marsha Sobey. Photo credit: Scott Leslie

A significant land donation to be made by Paul and Marsha Sobey gave an exciting boost to the Nova Scotia Nature Trust’s campaign to protect the beloved St. Mary’s River. The gift adds to an inspiring natural legacy the Sobey family is helping to protect on the river. In recognition of their contributions, the family was honoured with the Nature Trust’s 2018 Conservation Award last night. At its annual fundraising gala in Halifax, the Nature Trust celebrated a generous gift of 230 acres of land to be made by Paul and Marsha Sobey—a spectacular natural gem on the beautiful and ecologically rich St. Mary’s River, in Guysborough County.

“The Nature Trust has done a remarkable job protecting the St. Mary’s river and so many other special places across Nova Scotia. Like my parents before us, Marsha and I are proud to add our lands to the Nature Trust’s growing network of protected wild spaces.”

The new conservation lands, just north of Sherbrooke on the eastern shore, encompass almost three kilometers of pristine river shoreline featuring rare old growth hemlock and Acadian floodplain forests with massive oaks, maples and yellow birch. Stillwaters and pools provide habitat for a rich diversity of wildlife from nationally endangered Wood turtles to frogs and salamanders. Songbirds, including imperilled Wood Peewees, Canada Warblers and Barn Swallows find refuge on the lands. The protected riparian habitats help to keep the river healthy and viable for Atlantic salmon and trout.

Nature Trust Executive Director, Bonnie Sutherland was thrilled with news of the Sobeys’ intended land gift. “Paul and Marsha Sobey are adding an incredible natural gem to Nova Scotia’s protected areas network. Through their gift, they are ensuring these lands will remain wild and beautiful, ecologically rich and unspoiled, forever, adding significantly to the growing corridor of wild lands on the river.”

New protected lands to be donated by Paul and Marsha Sobey. Photo credit: Scott Leslie

The donation will mark the Nature Trust’s 9th conservation site on the river, preserving almost 1000 acres of shoreline habitat. The new lands are adjacent to three existing Nature Trust conservation lands. New protected lands to be donated by Paul and Marsha Sobey.

Mr. Sobey noted that the St. Mary’s is rich in memories for his family, from the days his grandfather first brought his father and uncles camping and fishing on the river. He and his siblings, and now their children and extended family, have all come to know and love the river.

“Our family’s connections to the river and to conservation run deep,” said Mr. Sobey. “My dad was our inspiration, but the Nature Trust has given us a way to act on that connection and to leave a lasting natural legacy.”

The Sobey family’s impact on protecting the river goes beyond their generous gifts of land. Almost two decades ago, Paul’s father, David Sobey, was already a strong supporter of salmon conservation efforts on the river. When he heard about the Nature Trust’s bold vision to protect the ecological gems of the river, helped plant the seeds that ultimately made the Nature Trust’s St. Mary’s River Legacy Campaign flourish. Together with his wife Faye, his son Paul and daughter Janis, the family provided critical funding support, through the David and Faye Sobey Foundation, to get the conservation campaign off the ground. They stepped up again in subsequent years, generously supporting major land acquisitions as the campaign evolved.

Old forest on the St. Mary’s River. Photo credit: Scott Leslie

And then, as their commitment grew, David and Faye moved beyond financial support. In 2017, they generously entrusted 30 acres of land at Mitchell’s Pool to the care and stewardship of the Nature Trust. Today, inspired by David and Faye’s leadership and generosity, Paul and Marsha are stepping up to donate their treasured family lands on the river as well. The Sobeys’ recent land gifts have drawn significant attention and inspired new energy and excitement around protecting the river, opening the door to even more river conservation.

Ms. Sutherland noted, “The Sobeys’ land gifts have unleashed unprecedented momentum for the river. Three A-list conservation sites that have been on our wish list for decades are suddenly available for purchase. Other landowners have stepped forward to donate their ecologically significant lands. The momentum is truly building to protect the St. Mary’s!”

If successful, the new lands would add more than 500 acres of wild shoreline to protected areas on the river. Their protection will also fill key gaps in connectivity of river habitat. Together with surrounding Crown land slated for protected area designation, these new sites will go far in creating an interconnected, ecologically rich wildlife corridor, a vibrant ribbon of green along the St. Mary’s.

“Their generous early support that launched our conservation efforts, their generous land gifts, and their inspiration of others, have all been transformative for the Nature Trust and for river conservation,” Sutherland noted.

Sobey family accepts Conservation Award at the Nature Trust’s Annual Dinner and Auction. From left: David Sobey, Marsha and Paul Sobey, Bonnie Sutherland. Photo: Jenn Nauss of Cooked Photography

The Sobeys were delighted to learn that their land gifts have inspired significant interest and conservation opportunity on the river. For all they have done to protect the river and to build new momentum and conservation action, the Sobey Family was honoured with the 2018 Nature Trust Conservation Award at the Nature Trusts Annual Dinner & Auction.

Donations to save the St. Mary’s can be made at or by calling the Nature Trust at (902) 425-LAND. The Nature Trust has until March 31 to complete the land purchases. Every dollar raised before March 31 will be matched by the new federal Nature Fund, doubling conservation success on the St.Mary’s.

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