Conservation group buys church land for huge expansion of Salmonier Nature Reserve

Nature Conservancy of Canada protected land is still open for public use. (Nature Conservancy of Canada)

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is buzzing after a small victory in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

The national non-profit land conservation organization bought 233 hectares of intact boreal forest, heathland and freshwater wetlands, doubling the size of the Salmonier River Nature Reserve. 

“This is an area we’ve been working in for close to 10 years now and it brings our nature reserve there to a total of 410 hectares, which is a little bit smaller than the town of Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove,” Piers Evans, the NCC’s Newfoundland and Labrador program director, said Tuesday. 

The land was acquired through a blind bid on Roman Catholic assets being sold throughout Newfoundland and Labrador to pay the settlement for victims of abuse of the Mount Cashel orphanage.

The NCC reserve sits just downstream from the Salmonier Nature Park and near the Avalon Wilderness Reserve, which was originally established to protect the Avalon caribou herd. It runs along the Salmonier Arm and southeastern side of St. Mary’s Bay. 

By expanding the conservation area, the NCC now protects other at-risk wild life and lichens found nowhere else on Earth.

A map that shows bundles of protected land.
The NCC recently purchased a large section of land near Salmonier Arm. (Submitted by Nature Conservancy of Canada)

“This area we know is home to close to half a dozen federally protected species listed under the Species at Risk Act,” said Evans.

“Those are the ones that we’ve found. We continue to do the science work in this area to make new discoveries of who else is using the area.”

But the purchase is just one small step forward for the group.

Its goal is to have 30 per cent of lands protected across Canada by 2030. That number is just over six per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador right now. 

“It’s a pretty lofty goal. We’ve got a long ways to go in this province to reach that target,” Evans said.

“We’re making our little bites here and there where we can and trying to have bigger impacts in other areas where we’re able.”

WATCH | Why meeting protected land targets is like the saying, ‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time’:

Nature Conservancy of Canada buys lands equal to about the size of Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove

The Salmonier River Nature Reserve is 233 hectares bigger. The non-profit organization was successful via a blind bid on Roman Catholic assets being sold throughout the province to pay the settlement for victims of abuse of the Mount Cashel orphanage.

Since 1962, the NCC has helped protect 15 million hectares across the country.

While the land is protected, it’s still open for public use. Evans said that can mean a number of activities, since the land doesn’t fall under National Park regulations. 

“We welcome, in particular, pedestrian use of the land. We acknowledge that people enjoy the landscape in many ways so for ATVers going through or using the land we just ask that they stay to existing trails wherever possible so that we’re not causing too much damage to wetlands or things like that,” he said.

“Even in Newfoundland, wherever it’s legal to do so, we welcome hunting and trapping on our lands because we know the province manages this licensing and things like that and species of conservation concern are generally left alone in that process.” 

Funding for the conservation project was made through local residents, businesses, donors in Ontario and money from the federal government’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program as part of Canada’s Nature Fund.

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