The Nova Scotia Nature Trust has protected a 320 acre coastal wilderness at Hemeon’s Head, Shelburne County. The ecologically rich site encompasses an extensive coastal ecosystem including internationally significant habitat for birds. The new protected area makes an important contribution to coastal conservation in a province where a mere 5% of the coast is protected. It is also a rare good news story for bird conservation at a time when bird populations around the world face serious decline.
At a conservation celebration today in Little Harbour, Shelburne County, Acadia University and the Nature Trust signed a conservation easement that will protect forever, Acadia’s 170 acre Black Point Beach property. The Nature Trust also acquired the adjacent 150 acre Matthews Lake property to ensure protection of the entire 320 acre beach and wetland complex.
The newly designated Hemeon’s Head Conservation Lands include three kilometers of uninterrupted sand and cobble beach, sand dunes, coastal headland, tidal marshes, sandflats and mudflats, an extensive lagoon, freshwater wetland, bogs, barrens and coastal forest. They support a rich diversity of plants and wildlife.
The site is part of an internationally designated Important Bird Area, recognized for its significance for nesting, breeding and migratory birds. It provides critical habitat for several rare and endangered species, including Harlequin ducks, Red knots and Piping plovers. With so few plover nesting sites left in Nova Scotia, their habitat at Hemeon’s Head is essential to survival of the species.
Protection of such a valuable natural sanctuary for birds, especially critical habitat for many migratory birds, is welcome news for international bird conservation at a time when bird populations face significant decreases in Canada and worldwide, primarily as a result of habitat loss.
Chris Curry, with Bird Studies Canada was delighted with site’s protection. She noted, “Bird Studies Canada and our volunteers have monitored birds and protected Piping Plovers at Hemeon’s Head since 2009. We are thrilled about the long-term protection of this special place and the successful partnerships that made this happen.”
Hemeon’s Head is the second major achievement in a ground-breaking conservation partnership between Acadia University and the Nature Trust. A year ago today the two organizations made conservation history when they signed the first conservation easement in Canada protecting university lands, an agreement preserving the 300 acre Bon Portage Island.
Bonnie Sutherland, the Nature Trust’s Executive Director, commended Acadia’s leadership in environmental stewardship. She said, “Acadia University is an environmental pioneer among academic institutions in Canada. By permanently protecting its own ecologically important lands through conservation easements, Acadia is raising the bar on land stewardship for other academic institutions across the country and beyond.”
Tom Herman, Vice President Academic of Acadia University was delighted with the signing of Acadia’s second conservation easement, noting, “Partnering with the Nature Trust makes it possible for Acadia, as owners of important natural areas, to make a tangible and lasting contribution to biodiversity conservation in Nova Scotia. The conservation easement protects these lands, their conservation values, and their irreplaceable research and educational values, in perpetuity, something landowners cannot do on their own.”
The new protected area was also welcome news to many in the local community who have enjoyed this wildlife-rich coastal wilderness for generations.
With increasing subdivision, development and loss of traditional access to coastal areas all across Nova Scotia, and with over 85% of the coast in private ownership, Nova Scotians are increasingly concerned about the future of the coast.
Yet Sutherland is optimistic. “Together with visionary landowners like Acadia and enthusiastic local communities and conservation partners, we are already making exciting headway in coastal conservation. More and more Nova Scotians recognize that private land conservation is critical if we want to protect our unique coastal legacy. With their support, we can achieve even more.”
The momentum definitely is building. Hemeon’s Head is the Nature Trust’s 59th conservation site, including 28 protecting coastal lands, with a significant number of other coastal conservation projects on the horizon.