A multitude of diverse islands have moved from private to public hands in the last few years, and the approval of a large new budget for land buys may result in further island conservation.
In a surprising display of Nova Scotia’s commitment to protecting its treasured wilderness, the province has announced a new budget for land acquisitions – in 2012, the government will spend $6.5 million purchasing ecologically significant lands, a striking sixfold increase from the 2011 budget. This latest move, championed by MLA Denise Peterson-Rafuse of the Chester-St. Margarets district, is part of Nova Scotia’s ambitious plan to have 12% of the entire province under protected status by 2015. Currently, Nova Scotia has one of the smallest proportions of Crown land in the country, with the vast majority of its coastal territory in private hands.
The question is: what will this mean for Nova Scotia’s island market? Islands have long topped Nova Scotia’s list of ecologically-sensitive lands in need of protection, both at a government level, and through numerous local public-action committees like the Mahone Islands Conservation Association, which has acquired several islands in Mahone Bay, and the Kingsburg Coastal Conservancy, whose projects include West Ironbound Island. Other larger groups, like the Nova Scotia Nature Trust and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, have a broader provincial reach and have successfully lobbied for government aid in their conservation efforts.
With this new windfall, island and coastal conservation groups have an excellent new opportunity to add to their protected lands. According to a report in the Chronicle Herald, accolades have poured in from various government agencies and NPO’s. The Director of Wetlands and Protected Areas for Nova Scotia’s Environment Department, Peter Labor, was reportedly thrilled at the sextupling of his typical land acquisition budget, saying, “This is great news for us.” And he added that the early release of the budget will allow for plenty of time to assess where the funds would be best deployed.
Recent land purchases may provide some clue as to where the money will be spent, at least where islands are involved; as Private Island News previously reported in June of 2011, it is the province’s coastal bays and inlets that are most tightly held in private hands, and so these are highly desirable properties to put back into the public domain. Mahone Bay, a scenic hour’s drive from Halifax, may be a good place to start – while the local conservancy group has successfully acquired several islands, there may be at least 20 remaining private islands that could be purchased and protected in the area.
Motivating this upcoming acquisition spree, according to MLA Peterson-Rafuse, is a basic desire to protect Nova Scotia’s beautiful wilderness for generations to come. “We do need to protect that space, make sure my son and his children, and children of future generations, have the opportunity to take a Sunday walk through the woods and look at nature and learn about what nature is about and develop an appreciation for it,” she said after announcing the budget increase. As the government’s stated focus is on the most at-risk, ecologically sensitive land, islands should play a strong part in 2012’s new acquisitions.
Read more about Nova Scotia’s new land acquisition budget: Chronicle Herald