Nature Conservancy of Canada conserves large sugar maple forest in central Nova Scotia

September 5, 2018
Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia


The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has protected a mature sugar maple forest in Colchester County, thanks to a large land donation made in memory of Dr. George Cook, a surgeon and part-time maple syrup farmer in Truro. Dr. Steven Cook, along with brothers Dr. Laurie Cook and Dr. David Cook, donated the 366-hectare (904-acre) property to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, through the Government of Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program, to honour their late father.

The property is located near New Annan in the Cobequid Hills, at the headwaters of the French River, which forms part of the municipal water supply for the town of Tatamagouche. For 30 years, the property was the site of Dr. Cook’s Maple Ridge Farm, a 25,000-tree commercial maple syrup operation.  The property will be known as the Dr. George Cook Nature Reserve.

Dr. George Cook grew up in Urbania, Nova Scotia, and as a young man loved working on his family’s woodlot. He bought the Colchester County property in the 1970s so he could enjoy working in the woods again. Although just a sideline project from his work as a surgeon, Dr. Cook took a hands-on role in the business, and often personally delivered his maple syrup to stores all over mainland Nova Scotia, even stocking the shelves. He wrapped up the business in 2006.

In addition to sugar maple, a native species, the forested property includes extensive intact stands of mature yellow birch, white ash, hemlock and red spruce. Some areas of the nature reserve have stands more than 100 years old. The forest provides habitat for bear, bobcat and Nova Scotia’s endangered mainland moose. It also features a wide diversity of birds, including two species listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act as being at-risk: Canada warbler (threatened) and eastern wood-pewee (special concern).  

Funding for this conservation project was provided by the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program and the Ecological Gifts Program, which provides enhanced tax incentives to individuals and companies donating ecologically significant land.  Additional funding was provided by the Nova Scotia Crown Share Legacy Trust and private donors.


“The Nature Conservancy of Canada would like to thank the Cook family for this incredibly generous gift. It’s not only a rare example of mature and intact hardwood forest, it’s an outstanding wildlife habitat in a part of Nova Scotia with very few protected areas.  We would also like to thank the Government of Canada for its assistance with this project through the Natural Areas Conservation Program and the Ecological Gifts Program.”
Craig Smith, Nova Scotia Program Director for the Nature Conservancy of Canada 

 “On behalf of Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, I’d like to thank the Nature Conservancy of Canada and its partners on the protection and conservation of 366 hectares of forested lands through the Natural Areas Conservation Program and the Ecological Gifts Program. Through these programs, our government is proud to support Canadians making a difference for their environment and wildlife.”
Bill Casey, Member of Parliament for Cumberland-Colchester

“My brothers and I are very happy to know that our New Annan land will be maintained in perpetuity as an intact forest, and delighted that the donation will honour our father, without whom none of this would have happened.  We are also grateful for the help and guidance from Craig Smith and the Nature Conservancy of Canada staff during this process, and look forward to an ongoing relationship.”
Dr. Steven Cook, Land donor


The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the nation's leading 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 protected more than 13,700 hectares (34,000 acres) of ecologically significant land in Nova Scotia. 

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.

The Ecological Gifts Program provides enhanced tax benefits for individuals or corporations donating ecologically significant land. Between inception of the program in 1995 and March 31, 2018, 1371 gifts were completed with 57 of those being in Nova Scotia.

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