ISLE HAUTE NS - Cumberland – Colchester MP Bill Casey’s New Year’s resolution is to continue pressing the federal government to make Isle Haute a national wildlife area.
While the island is 18 km from Kings County shores, it is easily visible and several of its five lighthouse keepers were closely connected to Harbourville.
“It really is an incredible place,” Casey said in a phone interview. The MP tries to visit by boat every summer from Spencer’s Island.
“It’s pristine,” he said. “A fascinating place… Peregrine falcons have been known to nest there.”
Casey wants it to be preserved as habitat for several species including the great cormorant, the great blue heron and the leach’s storm petrel.
“I’m quite optimistic now,” he said. “There’s no disagreement, so I’m confident we’re making progress this time.”
He has petitioned the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to give Isle Haute protected status. Casey said he has been concerned about its status for about 20 years.
Just 20 hectares in size, the rocky island, which was described in 1604 by Champlain, has cliffs on the Kings County side that are over 300 feet tall. Despite that fact, portions of it were farmed by various lighthouse keepers over close to 80 years.
A manned lighthouse was operated year-round until it was destroyed by fire in the 1950s. Today an unmanned beacon remains.
Evidence of tool-making by the early Mi’kmaq has been discovered and pirate tales abound. Casey said Spanish gold was found there in 1952.
After being declared ‘surplus’ by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the 1990s, the island was nearly sold, but for the intervention of Casey and former minister of the environment David Anderson.
Ile Haute’s elevation to a National Wildlife Area will be the ultimate step to ensure its preservation for generations to come, he believes. Casey says Ile Haute meets the Canadian Wildlife Service’s criteria and he will continue to push for its designation.
“I’ll never give up,” he stated. “I’m going to be persistent and this is my goal during the term of this government.”
According to marine curator Dan Conlin, who grew up visiting the island, Isle Haute is a very special island both for ecological and archaeological reasons.
The island is currently owned by the Canadian Coastguard.