New coastal conservation lands to expand beloved Owls Head

06 Apr 2023

Nature Trust raising final funds to protect unique Eastern Shore coastline.

Aerial view of Little Harbour in 100 Wild Islands. Credit: Nick Hawkins

Adjacent to the beloved Owls Head, the Little Harbour Conservation Lands encompass 450 acres of ecologically rich coastal habitats on our eastern shore. The Nature Trust is now set to protect this iconic coastal gem — a heartening announcement that’s timely in light of growing public concern and urgency to protect Nova Scotia’s coast.

The Little Harbour property has been on our conservation wish-list for over two decades. The non-resident owners had planned intensive development on the site, one of the last ecologically significant, intact coastal properties of its size in the province.

Aerial view with Little Harbour Conservation Lands outlined.

Encompassing a remarkable five kilometers of undisturbed shoreline, the property supports a diversity of coastal ecosystems including extensive, ecologically important saltmarsh, tidal flats, coastal forest, rocky shore, beaches, bogs and coastal barrens. It harbours important breeding and overwintering habitat as well as a migratory stopover for birds, including many species of conservation concern such as harlequin ducks, purple sandpipers, boreal songbirds, eiders, terns and raptors. The dramatic, exposed bedrock ridges host broom crowberry, a globally rare plant species, and its vast saltmarsh and eelgrass beds contribute to highly productive marine ecosystems and fish habitat.

The new conservation lands are an important addition to our 100 Wild Islands, coined one of “Nova Scotia’s most significant yet least-known natural treasures.” The archipelago includes over 280 beautiful, unspoiled coastal islands nestled between Clam Harbour Beach and Taylor Head, just over an hour from downtown Halifax. The new protected area also complements the Eastern Shore Islands Wilderness Area, federal land being designated as part of the Atlantic Archipelago National Wildlife Area. Perhaps most notably, it expands the neighbouring 657-acre Owl’s Head Provincial Park, a site whose potential development caused significant public outcry and demand for its protection.

Aerial view of Outer Island. Credit: Nick Hawkins

The Nature Trust’s acquisition and long-term stewardship of the property ensures Little Harbour’s significant biodiversity and natural systems are protected, forever. The land will never be privatized, commercialized or developed, instead left intact for nature to thrive, and for future generations to continue to enjoy.

“We are thrilled to be protecting this spectacular coastal gem at Little Harbour, bringing much-needed good news for coastal conservation, and to provide an opportunity for Nova Scotians to take positive, tangible action to save the coast they love” says Bonnie Sutherland, Executive Director of the Nature Trust.

With just $700,000 left to raise, we hope Nova Scotians will turn their concern for the coast into real and lasting conservation wins by donating today.

Over 70 per cent of the funds needed to secure and ensure the long-term protection of Little Harbour have been raised through generous support of the Canada Nature Fund Target 1 Challenge and the Nova Scotia Crown Share Land Legacy Trust.

With only five per cent of Nova Scotia’s coast protected to date, and over eighty per cent of the coast in private ownership, heavily fragmented and facing unprecedented threats, the urgency to protect the coast continues to grow. The Nature Trust is leading that charge.

“We’re thankful to be able to seize this rare opportunity to protect such a large, intact and ecologically significant piece of our coast, but we’re not finished yet! More urgent action to save the coast is on the way,” says Sutherland. “There is much more work ahead to save our coast and we’re asking Nova Scotians to show their love for the coast by donating today.”

Twice the Wild is an ambitious campaign launched by the Nature Trust in 2020 aiming to double the organization’s protected space for nature by 2025. To help protect Little Harbour and other coastal treasures, charitable donations can be made to Twice the Wild today.

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