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The Chester Clipper
Presented on this web site with permission of The Chester Clipper

June 28, 2005
Partnership goal for conservation
by James Latter

MAHONE BAY -- Preserving Mahone Bay islands for public use may become easier to accomplish, if a unique partnership between a conservation group and the provincial government comes into being.

The Mahone Islands Conservation Association (MICA) is working on an agreement that could deliver government cost sharing for its purchase of Andrews Island, and possibly other islands in future, said Michael Ernst, the association's past chair.

"If this... comes through, it gives us a wonderful opportunity to acquire some of the Mahone Bay islands as Crown land," he said, adding that it would make MICA the first community-based organization in Nova Scotia that the government has signed this kind of partnership agreement with.

Currently, MICA is focusing on its bid to acquire Andrews Island, a forested landmass of about 20 acres, sitting just offshore, about halfway between the communities of Oakland and Indian Point, not far from the town of Mahone Bay.

The association, which wants to protect such islands from development, and return them to public use, has had its purchase offer of $620,000 accepted by Andrews Island's owners, Donnie and Myrtle Andrews, who are Oakland residents, said Ernst.

So far, MICA has raised more than $100,000 of that amount, in public donations and pledges, he said, adding that his group's negotiations with the province for a cost sharing agreement look very promising.

"We feel confident this will be approved," Ernst said, cautioning however that the financial partnership still requires endorsement from the provincial cabinet.

"This is something that is very beneficial for the Crown," said JoAnne Himmelman, executive-director of the lands branch of the Department of Natural Resources.

In Nova Scotia, she said, the Crown only owns about 24 percent of the province's land base, which is the second smallest proportion in all of Canada, after P.E.I.

"This agreement would help us increase that percentage," said Himmelman, who noted the particular importance of preserving public access to coastal areas, and the recreational opportunities such lands afford.

"Our target now is Andrews Island," she said. "MICA has come to us with dollars in hand. It's our desire to top that up for them."

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