Eight new areas of protected land and their owners were celebrated at a reception in Antigonish today, Sept. 29. The province paid tribute to the private, corporate, municipal, and non-governmental partners who have offered their land for protection under the Wilderness Area Protection Act and the Special Places Protection Act. “The province made a commitment to expand protected lands and green spaces,” said Premier Rodney MacDonald. “It’s all about securing Nova Scotia’s unique natural assets – now and for the future.” “Nature conservation in Nova Scotia depends upon a system of partnerships between the province and committed private land owners,” said Mark Parent, Minister of Environment and Labour. “We want to congratulate and sincerely thank these landowners for their selfless contribution to preserving more of Nova Scotia’s best natural spaces.” The eight new areas of protected land include four new nature reserves, two expanded nature reserves, and two expanded wilderness areas. Nature reserves are usually small areas of land containing unique, rare, or outstanding natural features. They protect endangered plants and animals including some of Nova Scotia’s most precious natural specimens. There are 15 nature reserves in the province that total more than 4,000 hectares. Wilderness areas protect some of the province’s remaining wild spaces. They protect biodiversity, improve air and water quality, foster healthy lifestyles, diversify local economies, and serve scientific research. Nova Scotia has 33 wilderness areas that cover about 300,000 hectares. They include waterfalls, wetlands, forests, lakes and mountains. The province is committed to protecting 12 per cent of Nova Scotia’s land mass. Designated private lands remain the property of landowners but are protected for their special natural qualities. Premier MacDonald and Mr. Parent were joined by government members, elected representatives and other guests in honouring the province’s conservation partners. The newly designated protected lands and their owners are: — Eigg Mountain-James River Wilderness Area: Town of Antigonish lands addition. The Town of Antigonish was the province’s first municipality to volunteer some of its land, including its drinking water supply, to be designated as part of a protected wilderness area. This area protects 1,340 hectares. — Tusket River Nature Reserve: Gillfillan Lake addition. The Nova Scotia Nature Trust purchased 16 hectares of land at Gillfillan Lake to add to the existing Tusket River Nature Reserve in Yarmouth County. The addition features rare and endangered coastal plain plants. — Cloud Lake Wilderness Area: Wilson Hill addition – The Nova Scotia Nature Trust also provided 80 hectares of land at Wilson Hill to add to Cloud Lake Wilderness Area in Annapolis County. The land had been privately owned. — Abraham Lake Nature Reserve. The 400-hectare reserve at Abraham Lake in Halifax Regional Municipality is on land donated by Neenah Paper Ltd., formerly Scott Paper Inc., to the Nature Conservancy of Canada. DDV Gold Limited also gave up its mineral exploration rights in the new reserve, which features an old-growth forest largely of red spruce. — Roman Valley Nature Reserve. The new 57-hectare nature reserve at Roman Valley, in Guysborough County, is on Crown land. This property features an old-growth forest which, according to department records, has never been logged. — River Inhabitants Nature Reserve. Stora Enso Port Hawkesbury Ltd. owns 360 hectares which are being designated as the new River Inhabitants Nature Reserve in Inverness County. This reserve is home to rare plants and the wood turtle — a vulnerable species in the province. — Washabuck River Nature Reserve. Private citizens Henry Fuller and James O’Brien offered 67 hectares for the new Washabuck River Nature Reserve in Victoria County. Jubilee Minerals Ltd. voluntarily gave up its mineral exploration rights to land in this reserve. The property features a large natural forest and 2.6 kilometres of undisturbed coastline on the Bras d’Or Lakes. — MacFarlane Woods Nature Reserve. Land owner James St. Clair was the first person in Nova Scotia to formally designate private land as a nature reserve, in 1988. He later offered more private land which was combined with adjacent properties purchased by the province and Nature Conservancy. This nature reserve now protects 132 hectares that include a rich old-growth forest and rare plants. The reception honouring these landowners included presentations describing the new natural areas. Photographer Len Wagg showed and discussed his images taken for a new book about Nova Scotia’s natural areas. After the reception, specialists from the Department of Environment and Labour gave a walking tour of the nearby Eigg Mountain–James River wilderness area in Antigonish County.