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11th September 2020
Nature Conservancy protects Saint John area forest, city water supply

Fowler-Bell property has rare mature Acadian forest on it

CBC News Posted: Sep 08, 2020 3:59 PM AT Last Updated: September 8

The purchase of 80 hectares of a rare old-growth forest northeast of Saint John by the Nature Conservancy of Canada will not only save the forest, it will also help protect the city's drinking water, said Paula Noel, New Brunswick Program Director for NCC.

The property, located on the Beatty Road in Damascus, about 25 km northeast of the city centre, is within Saint John's Loch Lomond watershed.

"It is actually the drinking water supply for a large portion of the city and so keeping this forest from being cut, keeping it, you know, in a mature, healthy state is also good for the water quality and quantity," said Noel.

"The more healthy, mature forests we have in that Loch Lomond watershed, the better it is for that water supply."

Noel said the former property owners, Marshall and Bernadette Fowler, wanted to sell the land that had been in the Fowler family for generations, but did not want the mature Acadian forest on it clear cut.

With only five per cent of mature Acadian forest remaining in the Maritimes, Noel said they worked with the Fowlers to obtain it.

"A lot of people don't realize what we have is quite special," Noel said of the Acadian forest. "It's one of the most diverse forests at this latitude temperate climate in the world. It's characterized by a mix of hardwood and softwood species."

They include spruce, sugar maple, yellow birch, and hemlock.

"It can take hundreds of years to reach the mix of the true old growth forests."

Noel said while there are still mixed forests around today, there are very few sites with a mature stand that's in really good shape.

"What we found on this property is a great example of that. And it's a really special site for that reason."

"Usually when you're hiking through the woods, you can't see very far through through the younger trees. And on this property, you can just look from one end to the other through the forest. It's really a special place."

NCC biologists conducted an early inventory and were able to spot many wildlife species on the property, including moose, white-tailed deer, beaver, ruffed grouse, porcupine, wood frog, mink frog and eastern newt.

Noel said the landowners were offered the option to name the property and chose the name Fowler-Bell property to honour both sides of his family, who have been stewarding the land.

Now, with one property protected, Noel added if there is an opportunity to protect more forest within that water supply, it would be something NCC would be interested in doing.

Noel said while the property is protected, it is open for people to visit and enjoy as well.

"We usually will look for volunteers to help us keep an eye on it over time."