Sunset Valley Nature Reserve, NB (Photo by NCC)

Sunset Valley Nature Reserve, NB (Photo by NCC)

Nature Conservancy of Canada protects important land along the Nerepis River

July 29, 2021
Nerepis, NB


The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) today announced the protection of an important forest and provincially significant wetland along the Nerepis River. 

The private land conservation charity has purchased two parcels totalling 70 hectares (175 acres) to expand its Sunset Valley Nature Reserve, located approximately 10 kilometres from the Town of Grand Bay-Westfield in New Brunswick. 

These two parcels expand NCC’s nature reserve to 319 hectares (787 acres). An adjacent wetland is owned and managed for conservation by Ducks Unlimited Canada.

Small streams cross these properties near the confluence of the Nerepis and Wolastoq/Saint John rivers. The forested property has some trees that are well over 100 years old and is a mixture of white pine, red and black spruce, balsam fir, cedar and black and white ash trees. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has assessed black ash as a threatened species because of impacts from the invasive emerald ash borer.

The lands were entrusted to NCC by Joseph O’Donnell of Fredericton, NB, in honour of his family.  O’Donnell also generously donated to NCC’s stewardship endowment fund, which is used to care for and manage NCC properties, including this one, over the long term. These new additions to the Sunset Valley Nature Reserve will be named the Flanagan Property to celebrate the family that cared for these lands for many years. It was homestead for Mr. O’Donnell’s mother’s family. 

The Sunset Valley Nature Reserve features a trail used by the local community for hiking. This conservation area is important for waterfowl and other wetland birds as well as two species at risk listed as threatened under Canada’s Species at Risk Act: Canada warbler and barn swallow. It is breeding habitat for common goldeneye, wood duck, black duck, mallard, American wigeon, green-winged teal and blue-winged teal. The nature reserve was first established in 2003 with land donated from the late Bob Yeomans.

The community of Sunset Valley has experienced spring flooding in recent years. Protecting forests and wetlands along rivers helps to hold water and mitigate storm and flood effects on homes and infrastructure.

The project was also made possible with funding from private donors, along with the support from the Government of Canada through the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change under the auspices of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. It was also supported by the New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.


“We are excited to expand the conservation of this beautiful area and important wildlife habitat and are grateful that Mr. O’Donnell and the Flanagan family were such good stewards of this land for generations. We thank our supporters, including the Government of Canada, the New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

 - Paula Noel, New Brunswick Program Director, Nature Conservancy of Canada

“My father, Charles O’Donnell, always intended  to maintain this property for his family and for other family members and descendants, so that we were connected to our Irish roots. NCC’s work to protect nature, forever, is right in line with that.  To permanently conserve this land and have it available for the family members and decendents to visit and feel connected to their relatives is amazing and something we are very happy about.”  

- Joseph O’Donnell – previous land owner

“Nature has many important benefits – to our health, to our well-being, and to the fight against climate change. I am pleased to see the expansion of the Sunset Valley Nature Reserve, which will provide opportunities for people to get outside, while protecting important wetland habitat to fight climate change by storing carbon and making our communities more resilient to the impacts of a changing climate.” 

– The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change


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, with more than 32,979 hectares (81,494 acres) in the Atlantic provinces. To learn more, visit natureconservancy.ca.

‘The North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) is a tri-national (Canada, United States of America, and Mexico) partnership, composed of federal, state, provincial, territorial and municipal governments, non-governmental organizations, industry, and private individuals. The NAWMP has laid the foundation for international cooperation in the recovery of declining waterfowl populations by securing, restoring, and sustainably managing wetlands and associated upland habitats. To learn more, visit nawmp.wetlandnetwork.ca/.

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