Ottawa dedicates $682K to Sable Island protection and research

Click to play video: 'Sable’s Secluded Splendor' Sable’s Secluded Splendor
A local photographer has created a mesmerizing video of his visit to a well-known Nova Scotian island that very few people get to see in person – May 12, 2020

The federal government has announced funding to protect the ecosystem of Nova Scotia’s Sable Island.

Sable Island is a national park that is home to wild horses and the world’s largest breeding colony of grey seals.

Located around 300 kilometres southeast of Halifax, the island is also home to species like the Sable Island sweat bee, which is found nowhere else on the planet.

On Thursday, Halifax MP Andy Filmore announced on the behalf of federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson that the government is putting $682,000 in funding towards a new project to protect and research the Sable Island ecosystem and the wild horses.

Parks Canada and the Sable Island Institute are launching a study called Fences in the Sand, “where a series of small fenced areas will be installed to exclude horses from selected sites on the island to help provide new knowledge about Sable Island National Park Reserve.”

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According to a news release, each of nine fenced exclosures will be one hectare in size, and researchers will analyze how horses affect the environment, including:

  • dune processes (erosion)
  • ecological integrity of freshwater ponds (rare plants, water quality and invertebrates)
  • rare species and their habitats (roseate terns, Ipswich sparrows and rare or endemic insects)

The Ipswich sparrow is a species of bird that is also found nowhere else on earth; Sable Island is its only known breeding location.

The island has more than 300 species of birds and a rare, vibrant plant community, the release said.

“Sable Island National Park Reserve is known for its wild horses, rich history and unique biodiversity,” Filmore said in the release.

“That’s why the Government of Canada is investing in critical research to better understand the ecological role the horses have on this dynamic ecosystem.”

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This project will also support the creation of materials for virtual visitors, “so Canadians can learn more about the Fences in the Sand project and the importance of ecological integrity in managing national parks,” the release said.

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The funding comes from Ottawa’s annual $15-million budget for Parks Canada’s Conservation and Restoration program.

Fences in the Sand is a five-year effort that the government says will improve long-term management of the island’s natural heritage and inform future conservation efforts.

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