A closer look at saving the wild Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes
The Nature Trust, community groups, the Municipality, and Province have long shared a vision of protecting the vast wilderness of the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes area. After over a decade of collaborative effort and passionate public support, the project is truly coming into view, and it’s looking good.
Just minutes from downtown Halifax and accessible by public transit, the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes area lies between Bayers Lake, Kingswood, and Tantallon and encompasses a mosaic of extensive forests, bogs and wetlands, rocky barrens and hills, sparkling rivers and three pristine headwater lakes. The diverse habitats support over 150 species of birds, including loons, osprey, and woodpeckers, and those at risk, like the Canada warbler, Olive-sided flycatcher, and Common nighthawk.
A big first step towards protection in the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes area occurred when the province designated two large Crown land blocks as Wilderness Areas, protecting 4366 acres in 2009 and 2015. In 2018 and 2019, the Municipality purchased and added another 519 acres of private property. Unfortunately, the lands were not contiguous, but a connector between them did exist, a property owned by Bill Fenton and Robin Wilber. When public concern mounted about its potential development, neither the Province nor Municipality responded, so the Nova Scotia Nature Trust decided to step in.
A “Save the Wild Blue” campaign was launched by the Nature Trust in hopes of raising the funds needed to purchase the expansive property and create a 12-kilometre connector critical for wildlife, including the endangered Mainland moose. By the end of 2020, the campaign had succeeded, thanks to partners, organizations, community groups, individuals and most importantly, the land’s owners, Bill Fenton and Robin Wilber. The pair enthusiastically agreed to sell to the Nature Trust and donate a sizable portion of the land’s value as a charitable gift through Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program.
Soon after, additional land was protected by the Nature Trust thanks to another Ecogift donation by Keith and Anne Fraser. With deep roots in the area, their family’s land held a history of sentiment but when the Frasers learned more about the Nature Trust, their decision was made easy. “I’d much rather see it remain in the public domain and part of the wilderness area”.
Another step forward in securing the future of one of North America’s largest urban wild areas came later in 2021 when Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes was announced as a candidate for a new National Urban Parks Program to help conserve nature, connect people to the wild, and advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Although this initiative is still being assessed for feasibility, the realization of making Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes official, with the Nova Scotia Nature Trust acting as a core partner, landowner, and caretaker, is clearer and closer than ever before.
Adding and protecting lands in the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes area is part of the Nature Trust’s ambitious goal to double the land under its care by 2025. Funds raised are used to acquire and steward the land in perpetuity. You can help conserve these wild spaces and more by donating today to Twice the Wild.
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