Groups applaud Ottawa’s plans to protect island, but caution against public access

Groups applaud Ottawa’s plans to protect island, but caution against public access

January 26, 2010 (Ottawa) – Nature Canada is hopeful that yesterday’s joint announcement by the federal and Nova Scotia governments promising additional federal protection for Sable Island is positive news for conservation. Sable Island is a narrow stretch of globally important bird habitat located approximately 300 km offshore from Halifax.

Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice and Nova Scotia Minister of Natural Resources John MacDonell announced a cooperative effort between their governments to legally protect Sable Island as either a national park or national wildlife area in the next 12 months.

Nature Canada supports this joint government action to increase habitat protection for marine mammals, seabird colonies and species at risk, including the Ipswich Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis princeps) and the Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii). However, the group cautions that a national park or wildlife area could open the island to public access and may increase the risks of erosion and habitat degradation on the island’s fragile 23 square kilometre coastal dune ecosystems. Currently, the few human inhabitants of Sable Island conduct research or environmental monitoring.

A new national park or wildlife area would require strict site management, visitor education and enforcement guidelines to safeguard the island’s ecological integrity. Additional investment in federal protected areas programs would also be necessary to properly steward and manage the new park or wildlife area.

“Recreation, tourism and declining habitat quality have been identified as key concerns for the island through our cooperative important bird areas program with Bird Studies Canada and BirdLife International,” said Mara Kerry, Director of Conservation for Nature Canada. “While either protected area designation would significantly improve habitat protection on the island, the government must ensure it limits human impacts on the island’s ecosystems,” she added.

An existing migratory bird sanctuary protects birds and their nests on the island but affords little protection to bird habitat. Find out more about Sable Island and other important bird habitats like it by visiting the national Important Birds Areas website at www.ibacanada.ca.

For more information, contact

Mara Kerry, Director of Conservation
Nature Canada
613-562-3447 ext. 238
mkerry(at)naturecanada.ca

Chris Sutton, Director of Communications
Nature Canada
(613) 562-3447 ext. 248
(613) 323-3331 (cell)
csutton(at)naturecanada.ca

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About Nature Canada

Nature Canada is an Ottawa-based charity whose mandate is to protect and conserve wildlife and habitats in Canada by engaging people and advocating on behalf of nature. We are the Canadian co-partner, with Bird Studies Canada, in BirdLife International. Together we deliver the international Important Bird Areas (IBA) program in Canada, which aims to identify, conserve and monitor a network of sites that provides essential habitat for bird populations.