Originally written by Michael Dillon (Trustee Emeritus) in 2009 and adapted for the web in 2015
Roots of the Nature Trust of New Brunswick
The seed that grew into today’s Nature Trust of New Brunswick was planted in 1985 by the late Harold (Hal) R. Hinds, then Curator of the Connell Memorial Herbarium at the University of New Brunswick (UNB). It was cultivated in the minds of a number of citizens, including Dr. C. Mary Young, Dr. Dorothy Farmer, Dr. Leo Dionne, Peter Pearce, Jane Tarn, Erica Gregg, Mary Pacey, Jim and Kay Bedell, Senator Muriel Fergusson, and Franklin Gilmour to name a few.
The founding group gathered information and published their first piece of literature in 1988 entitled Critical Natural Areas of New Brunswick. During the course of this work, it became increasingly obvious that the protection of some of these sites was the next step. With the assistance of Beverley G. Smith from the UNB Faculty of Law, a constitution was created, and, in September 1987, The Nature Trust of New Brunswick Inc. – La Fondation pour la protection des sites naturels du Nouveau-Brunswick Inc. was incorporated.
The purpose of the new organization was “to identify, classify, protect, and preserve for posterity natural areas and landscapes in the province deemed to be outstanding.” Hal Hinds became the first Executive Director of the organization, with Dr. Owen Washburn as President and Dr. Ellen MacGillivray as Secretary. The first Board of Directors included Dr. C. Mary Young, Beverley Smith, Hal Hinds, Dr. Leo Dionne, Dr. Dorothy Farmer, Peter Pearce, Jane Tarn, and Erica Gregg. Senator Muriel Fergusson was named an Honorary Trustee. In 1996, Margo Sheppard was hired as Executive Director and remained in that position for 14 years.
Prior to 1992, all Nature Trust work was done in private homes and offices until Hal Hinds was able to obtain office space in the old Muskeg Research Institute Building on the University of New Brunswick campus in Fredericton. This served as the office for over two years, until April 1994 when the building was torn down and the Nature Trust relocated to an office on Queen Street. By 2001, the Nature Trust had continued to grow and eventually moved down the hall to offices at 404 Queen Street, where it has remained since.
The first conservation successes
In 1988, the Nature Trust acquired its first property at Shea Lake Nature Preserve near Plaster Rock, through a lease from Fraser Inc. (now known as Acadian Timber) with the assistance of Irwin Landauer. It is composed of 151 hectares of old-growth forest, housing 17 species of orchid. It was soon followed by the first of what were to become multiple donations by Robert K. (Bob) Stewart, beginning with one small island in the Bay of Fundy (Little Mowat Island) and an easement on three other islands (Barnes, Mowat, and Nubble Islands), which are now referred to as the Western Isles Nature Preserve – A Stewart Family Preserve.
Projects, programs, and publications
The Nature Trust has undertaken a multitude of projects in the province since its inception. It began with funding from the province to complete inventories of rare and endangered species of plants and their habitats in various parts of the province, including the Upper St. John River and coastal Charlotte County. Further work has also been undertaken through the Appalachian Hardwood Forest Project to identify and conserve this forest type in Carleton and Victoria counties, the Long Island Conservation Project to protect land on the largest island in the St. John/Kennebecasis River system, and the Campaign for Coastal Lands to preserve significant coastal properties in the St. Andrews area.
In January 1991, the print newsletter Refuge was published for the first time with support from the Themadel Foundation of St. Andrews. In addition to Refuge, the Nature Trust has published a newsletter and report on the Appalachian Hardwood Forest of the St. John River valley, as well as booklets titled Conservation Options for New Brunswick Landowners (originally printed in 1997 and reprinted in 2015) and A Guide for Working Forest Conservation Easements in New Brunswick (2005). The Nature Trust joined the electronic age in 1998 with the development of a website that has grown and improved over the years.
The Nature Trust has worked with government through a number of avenues, which has resulted in important achievements in recognizing Environmentally Significant Areas (ESAs) in New Brunswick. Nature Trust members and staff have advised on the location of rare and endangered plants, particularly on or near proposed development sites. The Nature Trust has also assisted with the New Brunswick Protected Natural Areas Coalition and is a member of the Sustainable Forest CURA (Community-University Research Alliance).
Continuing and expanding across the province
The Nature Trust is grateful for generous donations and support it continues to receive from many members, landowners, businesses, and foundations. Over the years, the Nature Trust has hosted a number of events to raise funds and awareness such as the Sacred Earth Show in 1991, the New Brunswick Land Conservation Conference in 2003, workshops on rare plants, reptiles and amphibians, forests and geology, and fundraising events, including a “Climb-a-Thon” for the Peregrine Falcon conservation and the annual On the Rise fundraising event, which began in 2013. In May 2011, the Nature Trust led a Green Futures Challenge Dialogue, an event that clearly identified the need for New Brunswick citizens to become more aware of conservation. The Dialogue helped shape the Nature Trust’s most recent public engagement projects: New Brunswick Youth in Nature Campaign, the Nature of ART of Nature, and the Power of Nature. There have also been a number of receptions held at annual general meetings around the province and at the Old Government House, hosted by the Honorary Patron, the Lieutenant-Governor, to honour donors and volunteers who have made significant contributions to the Nature Trust. Numerous hikes, cleanups and stewardship visits to the many nature preserves across the province continue to take place, which are supported greatly by the Nature Trust’s dedicated volunteer base.
The Nature Trust continues to expand across the province, and, with each new nature preserve protected, there are increased opportunities to engage and educate communities in preserving the natural heritage of New Brunswick for the years to come.