Sobey family protects land on St. Mary’s River NSNT conservation legacy grows

August 16 2017

SHERBROOKE – At a special public celebration in Sherbrooke on Saturday, David and Faye Sobey entrusted their 30-acre property on the St. Mary’s River to the care of the Nova Scotia Nature Trust. The property provides critical habitat for several endangered species but is also steeped in memories for the Sobey family who have been visiting this part of the river for over 80 years.

The property builds on long-time Nature Trust conservation work on the St. Mary’s River, one of Nova Scotia’s most ecologically rich and important rivers. The new property brings their conservation network to nine protected areas encompassing over 800 acres of important forests and wetlands on this river.

The Sobey property at Mitchell’s Pool, just north of Sherbrooke Village, includes 30 acres of beautiful floodplain forest, a rare ecosystem in Nova Scotia. Its large oaks, maples, and yellow birch provide cooling shade essential for the rivers aquatic life. The property’s stillwater, brooks, swamp and island provide important habitat for a diversity of wildlife, from ducks and forest birds to amphibians and reptiles including wood turtles, a species on Canada’s endangered species list.

The Nature Trust’s Executive Director, Bonnie Sutherland, noted, “David and Faye Sobeys’ generous gift of land on the St. Mary’s is a significant conservation achievement. It protects some of the last intact, mature floodplain forest in the province, and critical habitat for endangered birds and turtles.”

Over the years, the Sobeys took note as friends and neighbours on the river took action to protect their lands through the Nature Trust, including late Sandy and Shirley Cameron.

Wanting to ensure the Mitchell’s Pool lands were kept pristine, and recognizing the importance of intact forests for the river’s health, the Sobeys decided donate their land to the Nature Trust.

But their motivation went beyond conservation. Like so many Nova Scotians, the Sobeys have a deep connection to the land, steeped in precious family memories. David Sobey began visiting the river with his family as a young boy and the river grew to be a significant part of his life.

“In the late 1930s my father began taking my older brother Bill and I and my younger brother Donald, down to the St. Mary’s River,” Mr. Sobey noted. “As a youngster, at college, this was a great place for my buddies and me to come. And way back in 1953, Faye and I had even our honeymoon here at Mitchell’s Pool. And we’ve kept coming down here over the years with our family. So, the river has always been a part of my life.”

Sutherland noted that while the Nature Trust’s work is based on and driven by conservation science, “The real magic comes from the people we work with and their connection to these special places. It has been such a joy to work with Mr. Sobey to preserve this treasured place, so close to his heart.”

Many landowners who partner with the Nature Trust are concerned about the future of their land and inspired by the Nature Trust’s potential role as a steward of the lands they love.

Mr. Sobey noted, “It’s not just my time as the caretaker of the land that matters, or my son Paul’s time—it’s in perpetuity. And I feel that the property is in good hands with the Nature Trust. They are committed to looking after it, forever. And they’ve certainly shown they can look after these properties.”

At a community event celebrating the Sobeys’ conservation gift on the weekend, Sutherland noted, “What a wonderful contribution David and Faye Sobey have made to protecting Nova Scotia’s natural legacy and the legacy of the St. Mary’s River. They have preserved a special place where future generations can come to enjoy and experience that same wonder that captured David Sobeys heart when he was just a boy.”

The St. Mary’s River has a rich human history, once famous as an Atlantic Salmon river, and is loved by many, locals and visitors alike, as an iconic scenic, recreational and wilderness treasure. The local community has been actively working for years to restore and protect the watershed and its fish populations through the St. Mary’s River Association, and welcomed news of a new protected area on the river.

Asked about what he hopes for the property, Mr. Sobey replied, “The Mitchell’s Pool lands are going to be a part of Nova Scotia that keeps its natural beauty forever. I hope that my children and grandchildren and other people too, will enjoy visiting this land like I have since I was just a young fella.”

The Nature Trust’s conservation work on the St. Mary’s River, and protecting Nova Scotia’s freshwater and endangered species legacy, is generously supported by many individuals and organizations. Major supporters include the Nova Scotia Crown Share Land Legacy Trust, the David and Faye Sobey Foundation, Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Marguerite Hubbard Charitable Foundation. Donations to support conservation work on the river, and conservation efforts across the province, can be made at or by calling (902) 425-5263.