Blanding’s and Backlands get the big boost they need!

02 Apr 2024

Just one month ago we launched a campaign to protect habitat for a beloved species and an urban wildland close to the heart of many. Now, thanks to an immediate outpouring of public support, we are thrilled to announce the successful protection of both lands!

Critical habitat near McGowan Lake

The first newly saved property is actually three different parcels totalling 184 acres near McGowan Lake in southwestern Nova Scotia. The Nature Trust protected our first property in this area in 2011, and we have worked steadily since then to help extend this collaborative network of protected lands. The new property becomes the fourth Nature Trust-owned land in our Katewe’katik focus area and is located to the immediate west of the provincial Katewe’katik Wilderness Area.

A Blanding’s Turtle hatchling, on Nature Trust protected land in 2014. Photo credit: Katie Porter.

This region is a high priority for the Nature Trust because it holds vital habitat for Nova Scotia’s Blanding’s Turtles.

Blanding’s Turtles are found in only a few small concentrated populations in the province. They can live almost as long as humans; this long generation time makes it difficult for them to respond quickly to changes in their environment and to increase their overall numbers.

Blanding’s Turtles can also travel five or six kilometers to meet the different habitat requirements they need for feeding, basking, nesting and overwintering. Being able to travel safely between protected areas is critical to their survival, especially as climate change shifts temperatures and environmental patterns, to which turtles are particularly sensitive. The large spans of undeveloped shoreline and extensive treed swamp in the Katewe’katik area are ideal habitat; connecting protected sections within this area, like this newly protected land does, constitutes a major win for these special creatures.

Evening Grosbeak. Photo credit: Jason Dain.

In addition to reptile refuge, the land includes appropriate breeding and feeding habitat for at-risk birds. Canada Warbler, Eastern Wood-Pewee, and Evening Grosbeak, which are all listed federally and provincially as species at risk, have all been recorded on Northfield Road to the west of the newly protected property.

This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change’s Priority Places for Species at Risk Program.

A missing link in the Purcells Cove Backlands

Aerial view of Purcells Pond. The full perimeter, visible in this photo, is now protected by the Nature Trust. Photo credit: Adam Cornick.

The second property lies within the Purcells Cove Backlands, a unique urban wildland in the heart of Halifax. Popular for hiking and picnicking, swimming and skating, birding and botanizing, the Backlands are also ecologically valuable, hosting unique ecosystems and habitat for many sensitive species.

With the successful protection of this latest 17 acre property, the Nature Trust now fully protects the perimeter of Purcells Pond, ensuring that this well-used lake will always remain available for swimming, skating, and enjoying the beauty of nature. The new property links together the Nature Trust’s other four protected lands here, and we will now be able to link together trails (including the trail to Purcells Pond), fulfilling a longtime wish for easier public access to our conservation lands.

Common Nighthawk. Photo Credit: Simon d’Entremont

This new property harbours globally rare Jack Pine/Broom Crowberry Barrens, as well as open woodlands, upland forests, forested wetlands, and open peatlands. The open barren and fire-disturbed habitats provide nesting opportunities for Common Nighthawk, which is known to breed in the area, and which is designated as a species of Special Concern under the federal Species at Risk Act and as Threatened under the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act.

The Purcells Cove Backlands represent a long and successful collaboration for conservation. In addition to the Nature Trust’s protected lands, others are protected by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Halifax Regional Municipality (Shaw Wilderness Park), and the MacIntosh Run Watershed Association. Community partners like the Backlands Coalition play an essential role in caring for this precious urban wilderness. We are grateful to all of these partners for their work in caring for this precious landscape, and we are grateful to everyone who loves and supports the Backlands.

This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change.

Our thanks as well for generous support from the Nova Scotia Crown Share Land Legacy Trust, a critical source of land securement funding for Nova Scotia’s land trusts.

Both of these newly protected properties are part of our Twice the Wild campaign and will move us closer to our target of 30,000 protected acres across Nova Scotia. Thanks to your support, these lands will be protected, forever.

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