Land legacy

Na­ture con­ser­vancy ob­tains eco­log­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant Cape Bre­ton sites

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY GREG MC­NEIL

An image of an ice­berg in a Cana­dian con­sulate win­dow in New York City after an es­cape from a stuffy sub­way led David New­ton to pur­sue a fur­ther es­cape from city life.

“I said ‘God, that’s where I want to be.’ I went in and asked an im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cer what do I do can I get to Canada,” New­ton re­called.

“After nu­mer­ous ques­tions in which I only had vague an­swers even­tu­ally I was asked ‘how much money do you have? I said I don’t have any.”

A frus­trated im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cer told him he’d bet­ter go to Nova Sco­tia be­cause no­body there has any money ei­ther.

After two years of sav­ing, the New­tons would come to set­tle in Cape Bre­ton, near Cain’s Moun­tain west of Iona specif­i­cally, and in sight of ex­posed white cliffs, and rare and un­com­mon plants and wildlife.

Some 57 years after his ar­rival, New­ton and his wife Pam have do­nated a por­tion of their adopted home to the Na­ture Con­ser­vancy of Canada.

“From the house there is this great sheer white cliffs and it is beau­ti­ful there,” said New­ton. “Some peo­ple might con­sider it daunt­ing.” Craig Smith, Nova Sco­tia pro­gram direc­tor for the trust, called Cain’s Moun­tain eco­log­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant.

“These gyp­sum ecosys­tems pro­duce very, very rich in un­usual eco­log­i­cal con­di­tions,” he said.

“There are very steep ex­posed gyp­sum cliffs, deep cav­erns and tun­nels and cave sys­tems.”

Along with 162 hectares from the New­tons, the con­ser­vancy an­nounced Wednesday it had ob­tained a fur­ther 69 hectares of mainly Aca­dian forest near Mar­ble Moun­tain, as well as a 43-hectare site at West Lake Ainslie.

“We tell peo­ple what is sig­nif­i­cant about their site,” Smith said about land ac­qui­si­tions.

“Most times peo­ple are very un­aware of those, so they are very in­ter­ested in learn­ing more about their prop­erty. We then in­tro­duce them to the con­cept of con­ser­va­tion.”

De­spite their love of their neigh­bours, the dra­matic scenery and wildlife, the New­tons had long since moved away from Cain’s Moun­tain.

“Over the years we fre­quently con­sid­ered re­turn­ing to the moun­tain but grad­u­ally came to un­der­stand that age would pre­vent us from do­ing what youth would al­low,” said David.

Their chil­dren were a first con­sid­er­a­tion for new own­er­ship, but they’ve since moved on to other lo­ca­tions around North Amer­ica.

A so­lu­tion pre­sented it­self when New­ton saw an article in the Cape Bre­ton Post, where he once worked as an as­so­ci­ate editor, about the Na­ture Con­ser­vancy search for Cape Bre­ton sites.

“You don’t know what is going to hap­pen to it,” said Pam New­ton. “We’d been ap­proached by log­ging companies and we just didn’t want that to hap­pen.”

The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy is ac­tive in Cape Bre­ton after a 15-year ab­sence and look­ing to ac­quire even more sites over the next ten years.

Some land can be do­nated, while other sites are pur­chased. Tax in­cen­tives for par­tial pur­chases can also be of­fered.

In par­tic­u­lar, Smith said they are look­ing at ar­eas with qual­ity habi­tat, rare species, higher el­e­va­tion forests, and old growth forests.

“It’s a great way to rec­og­nize that most Nova Sco­tians … are not wealthy but we of­ten are hold­ing on to these in­cred­i­ble land as­sets that can en­able them to leave a legacy de­spite not be­ing wealthy.”


David and Pam New­ton, shown, do­nated a por­tion of their 162-hectare par­cel of land near Ottawa Brook, west of Iona, to the Na­ture Con­ser­vancy of Canada un­der the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s eco­log­i­cal gifts pro­gram.


The white gyp­sum cliffs are lo­cated in the Lit­tle Nar­rows area and fea­ture sink­holes, caves and ex­posed white cliffs. The area pro­vides habi­tat for many rare and un­com­mon plants such as yel­low lady’s slip­per and bo­real aster.


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