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Lily Pond in Halifax

Next Watershed Natural Assets Project Underway in Halifax

News from the East Coast: The Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), together with the Natural Assets Initiative (NAI), is embarking on a natural asset management strategy in the Nine Mile River Watershed!

Nine Mile River is one of a small but growing number of major watershed-level natural asset management projects for NAI, following Grindstone Creek in Southern Ontario and the Source to Sea project in BC. It builds directly on a natural asset inventory completed by HRM in 2021, illustrating how local governments can grow in an ecologically responsible way through natural asset management.

Through this project, NAI and HRM will work to enhance stormwater management services and reduce flood risk through the protection and management of natural assets found in the watershed. They will also determine how natural assets can support the sustainable delivery of co-benefits, including recreation and well-being, climate resilience and water quality.

The municipality’s climate mitigation and adaptation efforts are outlined in HalifACT 2050: Acting on Climate Together,the region’s ambitious climate action plan, which was adopted by Regional Council in 2020. HalifACT outlines a path to a net-zero economy for the region and sets targets for improving the management of natural assets and green infrastructure through naturalization and land planning initiatives.

“Climate change projections for our region show that we can expect weather that is wetter, wilder and warmer than ever. Understanding how our natural assets can help us adapt to these changing conditions is essential for building resilient communities,” said Emma Wattie, Manager of Environment at the Halifax Regional Municipality. “Access to pristine natural areas, like the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area, contributes to the magic of the municipality and attracts visitors, locals and new residents alike.

Watershed-Level Impact

Spanning 135 km2, the Nine Mile River Watershed contains parts of two provincially-owned and managed wilderness areas, including most of the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area. The site also reaches developing suburban areas, most notably Beechville and part of two early African Nova Scotian settlements in Hammonds Plains. The cultural importance of Nine Mile River, combined with its recreational opportunities and large, uninterrupted ecosystems, make Nine Mile River a priority natural area for the municipality, in alignment with the Halifax Green Network Plan.

On a broader scale, the work being carried out in the Halifax region is an opportunity to further develop watershed-level natural asset management strategies. Managing natural assets in a way that is inclusive of entire watersheds, which are made up of connected and complementary ecosystems, is generally more effective for maximizing service delivery and supporting healthy ecosystems than looking at smaller parcels by ownership and jurisdiction.

Parcelling out sections of a watershed makes restoration efforts ineffective because what is going on upstream will end up polluting and mismanaging waterways. By contrast, understanding the interconnectedness of an ecosystem across an entire watershed, and using that understanding to inform decisions at multiple scales, offers a truer picture of its health and value.

The Nine Mile River Watershed project is set to wrap up in spring, 2024. The municipality is currently engaging with land rights owners and building out priority data needs with the team at NAI.

Read more on how HRM is working to protect and understand nature on their website.

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