Canoeing through the connector — Photo: Corey Isenor

It was the last piece of the puzzle for the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes area: with a mix of private donations and funding from three levels of government, the Nova Scotia Nature Trust has been able to complete the purchase of the Blue Mountain Wilderness Connector.

The Nature Trust announced in a news release on Tuesday that it had finalized the purchase of the 220-hectare (545-acre) property from landowners Robin Wilber and Bill Fenton.

“This purchase will ensure that more than 2,023 hectares (5,000 acres) of undeveloped wildlands remain unbroken, securing the future of one of the largest expanses of urban wilderness in North America,” the release said.

The provincial government protected 1767 hectares (4366 acres) of property in the picturesque area between Bayers Lake and Hammonds Plains in 2009 and 2015, and Halifax Regional Municipality added another 210 hectares (519 acres) in 2018 and 2019.

But a large gap remained in the wilderness, susceptible to development pressure.

The Blue Mountain Wilderness Connector, a.k.a. Wild Blue, is outlined in red. Map: Nature Trust of Nova Scotia

“Since neither the Province nor the Municipality was actively pursuing the ‘Wild Blue’ connector, the Nature Trust stepped in,” the release said.

“The newly protected connector property bridges the large gap between these previously protected sections of wildlands, creating a contiguous 12-kilometer corridor important for wildlife, including the endangered Mainland moose.”

Halifax regional council voted in July to contribute $750,000 to the purchase, rejecting a staff recommendation against the funding. Municipal manager of policy and planning Richard Harvey argued the lands were well outside the municipality’s proposed park boundaries, and so council shouldn’t help pay for them. The recommendation sparked a debate about the true boundaries of the conceptual park, with another report on the issue still pending.

In an email on Tuesday, Tanya Colburne, the Nature Trust’s director of philanthropy and engagement, confirmed that the municipality contributed $750,000 from its Park Reserve Fund, as agreed upon.

The federal government kicked in $630,000 from the Canada Nature Fund and the provincial government contributed $544,000 from the Nova Scotia Land Legacy Trust, Colburne said. “The remaining funds were donated through a public fundraising campaign.”

The report to council in July pegged the total cost of the land, including HST, land securement and management planning costs, and Stewardship Endowment Funds at $2,525,250.

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Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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