By Richard Bell
The Musquodoboit River is one of the less-appreciated ecological and recreational treasures of Nova Scotia. On October 13th, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) announced its protection of 70.5 hectares (174 acres) of what the Conservancy said was “some of the most unspoiled and intact wildlife habitat remaining on the Musquodoboit River, just 30 minutes from Halifax.”
The land purchase was made possible by funding from the federal Natural Areas Conservation Program, the Nova Scotia Crown Share Land Legacy Trust, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and many individual landowners and donors. Central Nova Member of Parliament Sean Fraser and District 2 City Councillor David Hendsbee were both on hand to welcome the NCC’s newest acquisition.
The protected area contains several different habitats, including riverside wetlands and forested floodplains. One special feature is a rare floodplain forest that includes black cherry trees. There are also a number of species listed under the federal Species at Risk Act as endangered, threatened, or of special concern, including the wood turtle, the snapping turtle, and the chimney swift.
These new acquisitions are part of the Nature Conservancy’s long range plans to protect significant parts of the Musquodoboit River system. The organization had already protected several islands in Musquodoboit Harbour, bringing the total area the NCC has conserved in the Musquodoboit area to more than 619 hectares (1,529 acres).
MP Sean Fraser pointed out the importance of the lower Musquodoboit River because of its connections to a network of major wilderness areas along the Eastern Shore. The river “borders and connects to existing protected areas such as White Lake, Ship Harbour Long Lake, and Tangier Grand Lake Wilderness Areas. Together, this is a key corridor of protected land larger than Kejimukujik National Park, with three times as many lakes.”
Craig Smith, the NCC’s Program Director in Nova Scotia, said the acquisitions were also important to upholding the Canadian government’s commitment, under the Ramsar Convention, to protecting the Ramsar site that lies in the Musquodoboit River’s coastal estuary. The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty that went into effect in the 1970s to protect internationally significant wetlands.
There are 37 Ramsar sites in Canada. The Ramsar website describes the Musquodoboit Harbour site as “A complex of intertidal sand and mudflats with scattered islands protected from the sea by a sand spit (Martinique Beach) and fringed by saltmarsh…One of the most important coastal staging and wintering sites for Branta Canadensis [aka the Canada goose]…Erosion may eventually destroy the protective spit.” For more information, check out the NCC’s website (http://www.natureconservancy.ca) and the Ramsar website (http://www.ramsar.org).