Off the market

Land conservation group to buy big chunk on the Southwest Coast

One of the largest pieces of privately owned land in Newfoundland is about to be sold, but it won’t become the site of the next industrial mega project or provincial park.

The plan for the Grassy Place — nearly 4,000 acres (about 16 sq. km) in the Robinson’s River Valley on the Southwest Coast — is to leave it be.

Doug Ballam, Newfoundland and Labrador Program Manager for the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), said the area is well worth protecting. So much so, that the organization is about to spend nearly $800,000 to buy it from its three owners. The group just met its fundraising goal, and the deal is set to close on March 15.

“It’s a real ecological oasis.” —Doug Ballam

“There are a few more procedural things that have to happen,” Ballam said, adding that an official announcement will be later in the year if all goes well. The NCC has said it will be the largest private land conservation deal in Atlantic Canada.

Most of the money, Ballam explains, came from the government of Canada and the U.S., as well as from the public and businesses in this province.

The NCC, a registered charity,  already owns more than 8,300 acres of land in this province.

‘A haven’

The NCC considers the Grassy Place to be an area of ecological significance. In the late 80s and early 90s there was a government movement to establish a reserve there, but the deal fell through.

“In terms of its beauty, there’s really nothing like it,” he said. “In terms of it’s value for wildlife, it’s a haven for woodland caribou, Newfoundland marten have been in the area, black bear, uncounted ducks and geese. It’s a real ecological oasis.”

“You have to sort of picture what this property is like,” said Ballam, going on to describe the flat, barren mountains that give way to a lush green valley with rivers winding through tall grass.

Forestry roads come within a few kilometres of the area, but the location itself is family-owned and is not being used for industrial or residential purposes. Ballam said there is merit in protecting nearly pristine areas that are not under an immediate threat.

“I’d rather buy a brand new car than something that is old and beat up,” he said.

Land still usable

Ballam said the land will not become a park or reserve, but it will be protected through  the NCC’s landownership.

“We simply will not allow certain activities on that land,” he said. “We basically don’t put any new roads or buildings or let the trees be cut, these sorts of things.”

The area isn’t off-limits for hunters and hikers, however.

“In some cases we encourage people to go on these properties, as long as they do it in a gentle, sustainable manner,” he said.

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