The Nature Conservancy of Canada's Nature Reserve in Escuminac, NB (Photo by Mike Dembeck)

The Nature Conservancy of Canada's Nature Reserve in Escuminac, NB (Photo by Mike Dembeck)

American family’s fifth land donation expands Escuminac Nature Preserve

February 22, 2019
Miramichi, NB


The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has expanded an important conservation area for shorebirds near Escuminac, 55 kilometres east of Miramichi. Thanks to a land donation from Nancy Novak, the fifth donation to NCC from her family, NCC has conserved a 41-hectare (101-acre) coastal property at the mouth of Miramichi Bay.

The donation expands NCC’s Escuminac Nature Preserve to 297 hectares (735 acres), all of which has been donated by the family of the late John and Margaret Maxfield.  John Maxfield was an American visiting professor at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.  He purchased land at Escuminac in 1980 and he and his family spent many summers there. Gifts of land were previously received from Margaret Maxfield, sons David and Daniel Maxfield, and daughters Elaine Starling and Nancy Novak.

The newly expanded nature preserve is a high priority for NCC. It is located in an internationally recognized Important Bird Area, and provides critical breeding habitat for endangered piping plover, listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act as well as the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.  

The new preserve is located within one of the rarest landscapes in Atlantic Canada. Its fossilized forests, peat bogs and peat cliffs are more than 9,000 years old, and portions of which, outside NCC’s nature preserve, are either being harvested or facing pressure to be harvested. Along with supporting a diversity of species, peat bogs store significantly more carbon than other types of vegetation and are increasingly recognized as important in mitigating the effects of climate change.

As well as a 16-hectare (40-acre) peat bog, NCC’s nature preserve features other freshwater wetlands, a sandy beach, tidal flats and a provincially significant salt marsh. It provides habitat for large populations of waterfowl as well as shorebirds. Species found in the Escuminac area include common eider, common loon, black scoter, common goldeneye, long-tailed duck, American black duck, Canada goose, great blue heron and double-crested cormorant. Bank swallow, listed as threatened under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, nest in the peat cliffs.

NCC is actively working to conserve coastal wildlife habitat in northern New Brunswick, which features eight Important Bird Areas and one Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. The Escuminac conservation project was made possible through the Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program. Pat Finnigan, Member of Parliament for Miramichi-Grand Lake, represented Catherine McKenna, the federal minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, at the conservation announcement today.  

Some of the funding for this conservation project was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, a U.S. Act passed by the United States Congress in 1989 to conserve North American wetland ecosystems and waterfowl. For more information, visit  American Friends of Nature Conservancy of Canada, and many private donors also supported this project.


“New Brunswick’s northern coastline is an incredibly rich and important region for birds, many of which are threatened by loss of habitat, in particular the loss of coastal wetlands. I would like to thank Nancy Novak and the entire Maxfield family for their generous donations and for working with NCC for the past 8 years. I would also like to thank the Government of Canada for its contribution to this important project through the Natural Areas Conservation Program.”

Paula Noel, NB Program Director, Nature Conservancy of Canada

“The expansion of the Escuminac Nature Preserve will protect important coastal wetland and forest habitat here in New Brunswick. On behalf of my colleague, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, I welcome the progress made here today to protect more of Canada’s nature. Through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, our government is working with the NCC and making progress toward doubling the amount of protected nature across Canada’s lands and oceans.”

Pat Finnigan, Member of Parliament for Miramichi-Grand Lake


  • Important Bird Areas are places of international significance for the conservation of birds and biodiversity. They are identified using standardized criteria and are used to coordinate international conservation efforts for migratory birds and threatened species.
  • A survey of the property by the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre found many uncommon plant species on the property: bog willow, tawny cottongrass, white-fringed orchid, swamp birch, peach-leaved dock, slim-stemmed reed grass and cloudberry.
  • Conservation of peatlands is increasingly recognized as an important measure in the mitigation of climate change

Learn more

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the nation's leading private, not-for-profit land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the 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 31,000 hectares (77,000 acres) in the Atlantic provinces. To learn more, visit

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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