June 25, 2014 4:30 pm

Nature Trust aims to protect 100 islands off Nova Scotia coast

HALIFAX - The Nova Scotia Nature Trust is working on a once-in-a-lifetime conservation opportunity to protect more than 100 ecologically rich islands off the province’s Eastern Shore known as the “Bay of Islands”.

It has already raised $4 million toward its goal, but still needs at least $3 million more.

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An anonymous donor, whose $1.5-million dollar gift is part of the funds already raised, has promised to match any further fundraising toward the goal dollar for dollar — that means the Nature Trust still needs another $1.5 million from the public to preserve the natural wonder.

“Wilderness like this, on this scale is really rare globally,” said Bonnie Sutherland, the organization’s executive director. “There are few places left where we could protect something this significant and pristine.”

The islands support diverse wildlife and feature everything from sandy beaches to lagoons.

“Nova Scotia’s coast is made up of a whole range of different habitat types,” said Peter Green, also with the organization. “You’ve got everything from wetlands, bogs, forest, beaches, rocky headlands…you find everything out here.”

He said in addition to the varied environment, there is also plenty of wildlife.

“We’ve done a lot of bird surveys out here and we’ve come across about 120 species of sea-birds and songbirds using these islands,” he said.

Many of the archipelago’s islands have gone undisturbed for more than 10,000 years, which makes the area an ideal spot for scientists.

“If you want to study long term ecological change, you need systems that aren’t going to be interfered with by somebody chopping down the trees or developing the island,” said Martin Willison, a retired professor of environmental studies at Dalhousie University.

“The assurance that these islands will not in the future be changed makes them, in the scientific view, very valuable.”

The Bay of Islands coastal wilderness area spans 7,000 acres and is comprised of both provincial and private lands.

Local land owners are working closely with the Nature Trust.

“They’ve always used them, they’ve always cherished them and I think to be able to go out to them. I think a lot of people didn’t want to see them privatize and developed and have no trespassin signs put up” says Green.

Brian Murphy, who has lived in the area his entire life and makes a living from taking tourists to an island campground, said he sees the project as a boon for the region.

“I think this is going to be a great thing for the residents [and] for tourism,” he said.

Sutherland said it’s important because it will be “a place where people can experience nature”.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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