Nova Scotia Nature Trust and some relieved turtle families are celebrating a special gift – the protection of Bull Moose Meadow conservation lands.
On Saturday, Dec. 21, the Nature Trust announced the permanent protection of 75 acres of critical habitat for the endangered Blanding’s turtle in Kempt, near Kejimkujik National Park and Historic Site.
Bull Moose Meadow provides important freshwater wetland habitats for the turtles. It is also a key property in the middle of a proposed 2,800-acre nature reserve. This large protected area will provide extensive, interconnected habitat and corridors for the turtles and other species at risk including birds, snakes and rare plants.
The property is adjacent to previously protected Nature Trust lands at Meadow Brook, and surrounded by Crown lands to the east, west and south. The Crown lands are slated for protection through the province’s commitment to have 12 per cent of Nova Scotia set aside as protected areas.
This major nature reserve, a partnership between the Nature Trust and the province, will provide the first significant protected area for the Pleasant River population of Blanding’s turtles, one of only three populations in the province. The other two populations are found at Kejimkujik and McGowan Lake, where the Nature Trust also has protected habitat.
The Blanding’s turtle is one of the longest-lived and slowest maturing freshwater turtles in Canada. It lives up to 80 years and reach maturity at age 20, much like humans. The tiny hatchlings have a survival rate of less than one per cent, and with expanding cottage development and roads in the areas where these turtles live, the endangered turtles are struggling to survive.
With less than 500 adult Blanding’s left in Nova Scotia, scientists suggest that populations are on the decline and that conservation of critical habitats is key to their survival. Experts on the provincial recovery team for Blanding’s Turtles cite land conservation as essential in addressing some of the most serious threats to these turtles, ranging from habitat destruction, fragmentation and loss to human-caused mortality.
“Blanding’s turtles are endangered on a national scale, so our success protecting their critical habitat here in Nova Scotia is essential to their survival in Canada,” says Caitlin Porter, conservation coordinator with the Nature Trust.
“Even more exciting, the property is highly strategic. It is connected to over 2,800 acres of existing and proposed conservation lands. The turtles will be able to move freely between feeding, breeding and overwintering habitats without facing significant risks, particularly from road mortality.”
Key researchers in the area, including Acadia University, Parks Canada and the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute, monitor turtle population trends over time and contribute to stewardship activities that protect the turtles on this and other Nature Trust properties. The Nature Trust will continue to work closely with researchers to better understand the turtles and how best to protect them.
Brennan Caverhill, a Blanding’s researcher, was pleased to hear of the site’s protection.
“I explored the Pleasant River and Bull Moose Brook wetland systems from 2002 through 2010, and it is one of the most beautiful and bio-diverse ecosystems I have encountered in Nova Scotia. We discovered that Blanding's turtles are abundant throughout its meandering meadows and fens, and nighthawks nest alongside turtles on the rocky outcrops that Nature Trust is protecting. I'm thrilled that this amazing landscape will be preserved forever."
The protection of Bull Moose Meadow was made possible by grants from Environment Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Davis Conservation Foundation as well as the ongoing support of the Nature Trust’s friends and supporters.
For more information about the Nature Trust, its conservation efforts and opportunities to help save nature in Nova Scotia, visit www.nsnt.ca or call (902) 425-5263.