The Nature Trust of New Brunswick is celebrating the conservation of 4,047 hectares of land (10,000 acres) in the province, a new milestone in the land trust's 34-year history.
Nature Trust CEO Renata Woodward said it couldn't have achieved the landmark without the support of its board members, staff and over 400 volunteers.
"It feels absolutely amazing, I am just thrilled where the organization is right now," said Woodward.
The Nature Trust conserves and stewards a network of 69 nature preserves throughout the province.
Jessie Davis, past president and current land steward to Pagan Point Nature Preserve in St. Andrews, said the achievement is a joy to witness, especially since many expected the pandemic to hamper contributions.
"I think a lot of people looked at their lives and their values and realized that one of the wonderful things about New Brunswick is that we do have all of these beautiful natural areas ... that people in many places in the world would just be thrilled to have," she said. "Maybe we just appreciate it more now."
Fitting in with provincial and national goals
Davies said the Nature Trust's work, on top of the province's goal, is much needed to help conserve the province's ecologically sensitive areas.
"It helps New Brunswick," said Davies. "[It] isn't at the top of the list of provinces that have put aside protected areas, but I think there is provincial interest in doing more, so it's really wonderful to be able to be part of that."
Although it's usually the government that is able to conserve large amounts of land, Woodward said land conservation organizations like the Nature Trust do their part by acquiring and conserving private property, especially in areas where species at risk are present, said Woodward.
"Private land ends up usually in areas which are very highly sensitive," she said. "That's how private land considerations play that role here, kind of filling the gaps and protecting maybe smaller, but important environmental or ecological gems."
In the grand scheme of things, Woodward said the Nature Trust's goals align with other land trusts, Indigenous governments and provincial governments across the country that are trying to fill gaps in the federal government's goal to protect 30 per cent of Canadian land and waters by 2030.
According to Woodward, it can take decades for land negotiations to take place.
In its biggest and more recent conservation project yet, the Nature Trust raised $1.4 million to protect 372 hectares on Ross Island at Grand Manan. According to the land trust, it's deemed an ecologically significant area.
It took just three years to acquire the property.
In July 2020, the land trust launched a new campaign to raise $10 million to surpass 6,070 hectares conserved by 2030. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the charity has already raised $4 million, and Woodward is confident the land trust will reach its goal well before its deadline.
After 12 years as Nature Trust's CEO, Woodward is stepping down. Having moved to Quebec, Woodward is hoping to spend her time on a farm, do some consulting work on the side and get a chance to rest.
"I really don't feel sad," she said. "I feel so happy that I'm leaving the organization in such good hands and good shape."