HALIFAX - Just over 3,600 hectares of land in Cumberland County has been purchased by the province as it works to reach economic and environmental goals.
The land, in 21 parcels ranging from two to 759 hectares, is part of a purchase agreement with the J.D. Irving forestry company for 25,300 hectares of land in Cumberland, Annapolis, Digby and Yarmouth counties.
"The province has acquired some nice properties in Cumberland County. It includes a long stretch of wilderness coastline along the Bay of Fundy and important lands at the Isthmus of Chignecto near the Town of Amherst water supply," Chris Miller, national manager of wilderness conservation and climate change with the Canadian Parks and Wildnerness Society, said Wednesday.
CPAWS has been pushing the province for the creation of more protected spaces including the development of a wilderness area on lands in and around the Chignecto Game Sanctuary. It has also supportive of the creation of another wilderness area around the isthmus.
Miller calls the purchase an important step that means more public land is being created for all Nova Scotians to enjoy and means more places for wilderness and nature.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. If these lands were picked up by private developers or land speculators, then these important wilderness areas would have been lost to the public forever," said Miller. "
The land will support wilderness protection, heritage conservation, tourism, recreation, community use, fishing, hunting and potential Mi'kmaq uses. Some of the land will help protect jobs in the forestry industry in rural Nova Scotia.
Among the local parcels are pieces of land along the Cumberland Basin at Shulie as well as land in behind Springhill between Rodney and Wyvern and at Long Lake.
The sale may also be bad news for a number of people who leased camps from Irving. Those impacted were notified last month by the forestry company that they would have to remove their camps. An official with the Natural Resources Department said in January that the province is not interested in getting into lease arrangements.
Natural Resources Minister John MacDonell said the government is making a sound investment.
"Economically, an investment in land is always smart. This deal will give Nova Scotia a greater chance to lease land to enhance forestry activities, help municipalities protect their water supplies, and provide wilderness recreation spaces for tourism and health," MacDonel said in a news release.
Of the land purchased, about half will support economic development, recreation activities and potential Mi'kmaq uses. The remaining land has higher conservation values and will be a focus for environmental protection, which could also develop into economic advantages.
The purchase is expected to help the province meet its goal of protecting 12 per cent of Nova Scotia's land mass by 2015. Currently, 8.5 per cent of the province's land mass is protected.
Detailed protection decisions will be made over the next few years as part of the province's broader protected areas planning process, which will include opportunities for involvement by the public and interested groups.
The province confirmed in early January that it intended to buy the land, for $40 million from its $75 million budget for large land purchases.