Long-time conservationist and mentor retires from NCC
Linda Stephenson leaves a natural legacy across the country.
It is the end of a conservation era in the Atlantic provinces. Linda Stephenson, one of the longest-serving pillars in the environmental community, is retiring this week.
Stephenson has been with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) since 1998 when she headed up the charity’s work in the four Atlantic provinces. Most recently, she has been NCC’s vice-president, regional operations, overseeing all 10 provinces.
NCC has successfully created over 100 nature reserves in Atlantic Canada by working with private landowners and donors. This has resulted in quite a nature legacy. A total of 458 conservation projects, including 142 land donations, has placed 35,000 hectares (86,300 acres) of ecologically sensitive habitat into conservation status. These areas are home for 38 different wildlife and plant species at risk.
“These results have been made possible by generous donors and visionary landowners,” said Stephenson. “Together, we have made it a better and healthier place for today and ensured these sites will be here for future generations. The Atlantic provinces are a special place to live, work and explore, with wild spaces, rare animals and plants found nowhere else in the world. Nature can feed your soul and improve your quality of life.”
With climate change, severe weather and erosion continuing to pressure local infrastructure and communities, Stephenson encourages more property owners to consider entrusting their lands to NCC, to save some of the region’s most important habitats. For example, Stephenson notes there are many opportunities in the Maritimes, as half of New Brunswick’s land base is privately owned while that number is much higher on Prince Edward Island (88%) and in Nova Scotia (71%). On the Island of Newfoundland, 12 per cent of the land is privately owned.
“Wetlands and forests are natural defences in helping fight our changing climate,” added Stephenson. “Wetlands help clean our water, protect our communities from flooding and droughts, and are home to hundreds of species of wildlife. Wetlands store carbon and so do our forests. Starting beneath the ground, their expansive root systems help stabilize our hillsides and coastlines. Above, tree trunks offer habitat and safety to thousands of species, while their leaves work to capture the carbon dioxide. Forests play a huge role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions all while cleaning the air we breathe and the water we drink.”
Stephenson has been involved with many memorable projects, negotiations with landowners and meetings with government officials, and business and foundation leaders to raise money for conservation. Among notable NCC conservation areas in the Atlantic provinces, Stephenson highlights a handful based on their significance, including the Chignecto Isthmus (Moose Sex) Wildlife Corridor project, where NCC is conserving crucial habitat on both sides of the Nova Scotia/New Brunswick border, with more projects on the way.
- New Brunswick: NCC’s Johnson’s Mills Shorebird Reserve and Interpretive Centre, near Dorchester, opened in 2000. Thousands of visitors flock here each year to marvel at the shorebirds that feast and rest at the protected area before continuing their migration to South America. Musquash Estuary is NCC’s largest conservation area in New Brunswick and features beautiful hiking trails.
- Nova Scotia: The Dr. Bill Freedman Nature Reserve at Prospect High Head in the Halifax Regional Municipality, which is a popular destination for hikers, along with scenic Gaff Point in Lunenberg. Other highlights include key coastal lands in Port Joli Harbour along the South Shore and many sites along the Pugwash River Estuary on the Northumberland Strait.
- Prince Edward Island: Boughton Island near Cardigan, the Conway Sandhills near Alberton and beautiful forest, and beach properties on PEI’S north shore at St. Peters Harbour, St. Peter’s Lake Run and Blooming Point.
- Newfoundland and Labrador: Key conservation areas in Doyles, Sandy Point Island, Robinsons River, St. Fintans, Reidville, the Lloyd’s River Nature Reserve and contributions to the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve.
Born in Halifax, Stephenson moved to Fredericton in 1963 when her father was hired as the manager of new CBC radio stations in Fredericton (CBZ) and Saint John (CBD). When Stephenson began with NCC in 1998, she opened an office for herself and former director of conservation John Foley, and together they grew the team, and the conservation portfolio, in Atlantic Canada. Today, there are more than 30 staff in Atlantic Canada, with offices in all four provinces.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the nation's leading not-for-profit, private 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 14 million hectares (35 million acres), coast to coast to coast. To learn more, visit natureconservancy.ca.
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