Stehelins donate land on Long Tusket Lake to Nature Conservancy

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
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The Stehelin family has donated almost 400 acres of land in New France to the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Paul Stehelin, the great grandson of Jean Jacques who built the original homestead at Electric City in New France in 1892, and his wife Ann have donated 370 acres on the east side of Long Tusket Lake.

“We are pleased to know that this very special place will be preserved and protected by the Nature Conservancy of Canada,” said Paul. “We are happy that we could contribute to this important initiative.”

The Stehelins donated 80 per cent of the property and the NCC bought the other 20 per cent thanks to support from several partners.

The TD Bank provided $89,000 through its TD Forests program; the Nova Scotia Crown Share Land Legacy Trust, a crown agency that works at arms length from provincial government, provided $85,110; and the US Fish and Wildlife Service provided $8,583  through the North American Wetlands Conservation Council.

Some of the funding also went to cover associated associated project costs such as biological inventory work, surveys, appraisals, and legal fees.

Craig Smith, the Nova Scotia Program Manager for NCC says the property is important for several reasons.

First the property itself is ecologically valuable: it contains rare old growth forest, wetland suitable for waterfowl nesting and over 1.5 km of lake shore on Long Tusket Lake.

Smiths says certain species like the flying squirrel need big old hardwoods because they nest in cavities in big gnarly trees.

The towering stands of red spruce, white pine, yellow birch and red maple are also host to uncommon and at-risk birds including the Canada warbler, chimney swift and common nighthawk.

Smith’s says they have found moose droppings indicating the endangered mainland moose move through this area.

“This is a fantastic site to bring into conservation and we are extremely grateful to the Stehelin family for their generous donation,” said Smith. “We will be diligent in stewarding and managing this site that has been so well cared for by Mr. and Mrs. Stehelin.”

The Stehelin property is also important because it adds to a big chunk of protected land—last year the NCC acquired 5,000 acres of land from J.D. Irving around the southern end of Long Tusket Lake, Little Tusket, Langford Lake and the Silver and Caribou Rivers. The province has also set aside the land at Electric City itself, between Little Tusket and Langford Lake as a provincial park reserve.

The NCC land connects to the Silver River Wilderness Area, 6,000 acres of land proposed for protection in the province’s Parks and Protected Area’s System Plan, released last summer.

Smith says the NCC is happy to be adding onto the block of protected land.

“‘Land-assembly’ is the term we use,” says Smith. “That’s the approach we prefer to use, rather than protecting a piece here and a piece there, we like to move into an area, put down roots and do as much as we can there.”

Smith says the approach means more habitat for the wildlife living there.

“If you’ve got two parcels of land with a highway in between, well that’s less resources for the animals there,” he said. “With one big patch, the animals are able to move around more, find more places to eat, more places to nest, to breed. It creates more availability of resources.

“This is a case where larger definitely is better.”

The NCC is also interested in the area as part of an effort to protect the Tusket River watershed and the fragile ecosystem downstream.

He says the Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora downstream, some of which grows within a 20-hectare provincial nature reserve, includes rare plants found nowhere else in Canada.

He says a dozen of those plants are endangered.

“So the maintenance of water quality it is important and it all starts at the headwaters,” he says.

Conservancy to consult locals this spring

The Silver Wilderness Area also protects the area as a recreation corridor, of interest particularly to paddlers.

The NCC intends to allow low-impact recreation in the areas it protects.

“I expect most of the recreation uses are heavily concentrated along the shorelines,” said Smith. “We’re not going to restrict access but we are also not going to facilitate it; we won’t be building trails or installing campsites with outhouses.”

Smith says the NCC wants to hear from locals.

“We’d like to hear what are the values people associate with these properties,” he said. “Values could be recreational, social, economic. We’d like people to describe how they use the area and what values are associated with that site.”

Smith says they haven’t set any dates yet but are hoping to hold some kind of consultation this spring and use that information to make decisions about their management plan.

Organizations: NCC, Nova Scotia Crown Share Land Legacy Trust, TD Bank Group TD Forests United States Fish and Wildlife Service North American J.D. Irving System Plan

Geographic location: Tusket Lake, Canada, New France Electric City Nova Scotia Little Tusket Langford Lake Silver River Protected Area Tusket River

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