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New Island Lake Wilderness Area Among 14,000 More Hectares Now Protected

Press Release

December 20, 2023

An area outside Halifax enjoyed and valued by generations of Nova Scotians for hiking, fishing, camping and enjoying the beauty and tranquility of nature is now protected forever.

The new Island Lake Wilderness Area protects 3,937 hectares of land, wetlands and water in the St. Margarets Bay area. It is one of 23 new designations that protect an additional 14,000 hectares of forest, water, wetlands, coastline and coastal habitats, bringing the total area of the province that is protected to 13.45 per cent.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Timothy Halman made the announcement today, December 20, in Upper Tantallon.

“Protecting nature benefits all of us today and ensures future generations of Nova Scotians can also enjoy these special places, as they will remain parts of our communities for perpetuity,” said Minister Halman. “Our government is protecting more of Nova Scotia’s land, wetlands and water for the many benefits they give us – helping us stay physically and mentally healthy, giving us clean air and drinking water, helping us fight climate change, strengthening biodiversity and preventing further biodiversity loss, providing habitat for wildlife and much more. Today is a great day for our province and our planet.”

The Island Lake Wilderness Area includes old-growth and conifer forest, lakes, wetlands and watercourses, including part of the lower Ingram River. It also includes the scenic Island Lake, a large lake with islands that is sheltered by coves and surrounding hills, making it a great place for canoeing, boating, hiking and camping. The Mi’kmaq also use Island Lake for fishing and other traditional activities. The new wilderness area is habitat for many species, such as the endangered mainland moose and other species at risk.

Minister Halman also released the Collaborative Protected Areas Strategy, which will guide the Province’s work in achieving the goal to protect 20 per cent of Nova Scotia’s land and water mass. More than 600 Nova Scotians provided input to inform the strategy, which includes guiding principles and 24 actions grouped under four solutions to protect more land, water and wetlands.


Nova Scotians care deeply about protecting and conserving the province’s unique landscapes. We’re committed to our protected areas goal, and we’re pleased to contribute to it through our provincial parks system and our careful management of Crown land. This strategy will help us preserve habitats for biodiversity and our wildlife, continue to provide natural spaces for recreation and create a sustainable future for generations to come. Tory Rushton, Minister of Natural Resources and Renewables

We are thrilled to see the designation of Island Lake Wilderness Area. This is a win for all Nova Scotians as this designation will protect habitat for species at risk and some of the oldest forests in the province. It will also help to fight climate change and reduce forest fire risk. Now, Nova Scotians will be able to enjoy and hunt, camp and fish within this incredible area for generations to come. Mike Lancaster, Executive Director, St. Margaret’s Bay Stewardship Association

Quick Facts:

  • the newly designated 14,000 hectares include 115 kilometres of coastline, 3,680 hectares of coastal ecosystems and 528 wetlands of special significance covering 3,000 hectares
  • the goal of protecting 20 per cent of Nova Scotia’s land and water by 2030 was legislated in the Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act
  • the Province’s climate change plan, Our Climate, Our Future: Nova Scotia’s Climate Change Plan for Clean Growth, has five actions to strengthen biodiversity, prevent further biodiversity loss and protect and restore more natural areas
  • Nova Scotia’s protected areas conserve the province’s biodiversity, unique habitats, coastlines, and natural landscapes and features while providing places for people to connect with nature, and they play an essential role in fighting climate change

Additional Resources:

Nova Scotia Collaborative Protected Areas Strategy:

More information about wilderness areas and nature reserves is available at:

Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act:

Our Climate, Our Future: Nova Scotia’s Climate Change Plan for Clean Growth:

Parks and protected areas plan:


List of designations:

New wilderness areas:

  • Island Lake Wilderness Area, 3,937 hectares; it includes the Ingram River area of Halifax Regional Municipality and a small amount of land in Hants County
  • Guysborough Headlands Wilderness Area, 3,012 hectares, Guysborough County
  • Big Plains Wilderness Area, 2,112 hectares, Guysborough County
  • Nine Mile Woods Wilderness Area, 1,031 hectares, Guysborough County
  • Douglas Meadow Brook Wilderness Area, 637 hectares, Cumberland and Colchester counties

Expanded wilderness areas:

  • South Panuke Wilderness Area, an additional 349 hectares, Halifax Regional Municipality
  • Fourchu Coast Wilderness Area, 191 hectares, Richmond and Cape Breton counties
  • Gully Lake Wilderness Area, 175 hectares, Pictou and Colchester counties
  • Liscomb River Wilderness Area, 144 hectares, Guysborough County
  • Ogden Round Lake Wilderness Area, 134 hectares, Guysborough County
  • Devils Jaw Wilderness Area, 40 hectares, Hants County
  • Trout Brook Wilderness Area, 38 hectares, Inverness County
  • Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area, 15 hectares, Halifax Regional Municipality

New nature reserves:

  • Long Lake Bog Nature Reserve, 714 hectares, Queens County
  • Harpers Lake Nature Reserve, 401 hectares, Shelburne County
  • Point Michaud Nature Reserve, 309 hectares, Richmond County
  • Mulgrave Hills Nature Reserve, 242 hectares, Guysborough County
  • Minard Brook Nature Reserve, 83 hectares, Queens County
  • Cap La Ronde Nature Reserve, 72 hectares, Richmond County
  • Sugar Harbour Islands Nature Reserve, 36 hectares, Guysborough County
  • Tobacco Island Nature Reserve, nine hectares, Guysborough County
  • East River St. Marys Nature Reserve, five hectares, Guysborough and Pictou counties

Expanded nature reserve:

  • Ponhook Lake Nature Reserve, an additional 162 hectares, Queens and Lunenburg counties


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