Traditional Acadian forest, Chignecto Region, NS (Photo by NCC)

Traditional Acadian forest, Chignecto Region, NS (Photo by NCC)

Nature Conservancy of Canada protects rare wetlands, mature forest and gypsum landscapes in Cape Breton

October 11, 2017
Baddeck, Nova Scotia


Total of 274 hectares conserved

As part of a new conservation effort in Cape Breton, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) announced today that it has protected three extraordinary habitats totalling 274 hectares (676 acres).

These conservation areas are NCC’s first in Cape Breton in over a decade, and the first in the organization’s long-term plan to protect some of the unique habitats and ecosystems in central Cape Breton.

The new properties include unusually rich and diverse habitats of unique wetlands, mature Acadian forest and, in particular, rare gypsum karst landscapes, in locations near Lake Ainslie and around the northwestern shore of Bras d’Or Lakes.

Cape Breton is home to some of the best remaining undisturbed gypsum-based ecosystems in the Atlantic region and eastern North America.

Most of these areas are privately owned and have not yet been the focus of government-initiated conservation efforts.

Participating in a media conference today were Mark Eyking, MP for Sydney-Victoria, Rodger Cuzner, MP for Cape Breton-Canso, Nature Conservancy of Canada staff, local donors and supporters.

The project areas announced include:

• 162 hectares (400 acres) near Ottawa Brook, west of Iona, which features sinkholes, caves and exposed white cliffs characteristic of gypsum topography. The area provides habitat for many rare and uncommon plants, such as yellow lady’s-slipper and boreal aster. A portion of this project was donated by David and Pamela Newton, under the Government of Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program.

• 69 hectares (170 acres) of mainly Acadian forest near Marble Mountain at the Bras d’Or Lakes. Due to extensive harvesting over hundreds of years, less than 5 per cent of the Maritime provinces’ original Acadian forest remains intact.

• a 43-hectare (106-acre) site at West Lake Ainslie, near the Black River Bog Nature Reserve, managed by the Province of Nova Scotia. The area surrounding Lake Ainslie has one of the most significant groups of rare plants in Nova Scotia.

Three species of birds listed under the federal Species at Risk Act have been identified on NCC’s new Cape Breton conservation areas: rusty blackbird, Canada warbler and olive-sided flycatcher.

NCC has strategically acquired these properties to provide wildlife corridors and habitat connectivity to nearby existing provincially protected sites, such as North Mountain Wilderness Area, Cain’s Mountain Wilderness Area and the Black River Bog Nature Reserve.

Habitat connectivity is considered to be one of the most important factors in maintaining biological diversity and reducing loss of plant and animal species.

Conservation of these Cape Breton properties was made possible with funding support from the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program. In addition, a portion of this project was donated to the NCC under the Canadian government’s Ecological Gifts Program, which provides enhanced tax benefits for individuals or corporations donating ecologically significant land. The Nova Scotia Crown Share Land Legacy Trust, US Fish & Wildlife Service through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and many private donors also contributed to the success of these projects. 


“We are grateful for the Government of Canada’s support through the Natural Areas Conservation Program and the Ecological Gifts Program for supporting these key sites in Cape Breton. The properties we have conserved near the Bras d’Or Lakes include some of the best remaining gypsum-based landscapes in Nova Scotia and perhaps North America. We are thrilled to have protected them for the benefit of wildlife, the protection of rare species and the enjoyment of residents and visitors.”
Craig Smith, Nova Scotia Program Director, Nature Conservancy of Canada
“On behalf of my colleague Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, I am proud to support the conservation of 274 hectares of ecologically sensitive land in Cape Breton through the Natural Areas Conservation Program and the Ecological Gifts Program. Conserving and protecting our land and water not only supports biodiversity, but also helps to address climate change by creating carbon sinks. By working together, we can ensure that Canada’s natural environment is preserved for generations to come.”
Rodger Cuzner, Member of Parliament for Cape Breton-Canso

“I want to commend the families who have agreed to sell and donate their land to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, thus preserving our rich natural heritage. Piece by piece this has a major impact. The Government of Canada is pleased to support these habitat conservation projects through the Natural Areas Conservation Program.”
Mark Eyking, Member of Parliament, Sydney-Victoria


• The unique landscape and communities of central Cape Breton were recognized in 2011 by UNESCO when it designated the Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve; there are only 18 biosphere reserves in Canada, deemed to demonstrate a balanced relationship between humans and the natural world.
• Gypsum-based habitats are valuable to conserve due to their rarity within Nova Scotia, and because they support many rare plant species that thrive in the high-pH, calcium-rich environment.
• Gypsum and limestone are soluble and erode easily due to the effects of rain and snow, resulting in karst topography. Karst includes sinkholes and cliffs visible on the land as well as underground networks of caves and tunnels found in areas of gypsum and limestone.
• Karst is found almost entirely on private land in Nova Scotia.
• There is less than 5 per cent of the original extent of Acadian forest remaining intact in the Maritimes. Acadian forest is found mainly in the Maritimes and New England, and, as one of the world’s most diverse forests, comprises 32 species of trees, predominantly red spruce. Other common species are red maple, American beech, white ash, eastern hemlock, white pine, white birch, trembling aspen, tamarack, balsam fir and black spruce.


The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the nation's leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect more than 1.1 million hectares (2.8 million acres), coast to coast. The Nature Conservancy of Canada has conserved more than 29,500 hectares (73,000 acres) in the Atlantic provinces.

The Government of Canada's Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) is a unique public-private partnership to accelerate the pace of land conservation across southern Canada. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) manages the program. Federal funds are matched by contributions raised by NCC and its partners. Habitat conserved under the NACP enhances natural corridors and other protected areas.

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Media Contact:

Kathryn Morse
Director of Communications - Atlantic Provinces

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