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McNabs and Lawlor Islands

prepared by Nova Scotia Natural Resources and Canadian Heritage, Parks Canada
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The Role of the Islands as Parkland

McNabs and Lawlor islands offer potential to fulfil the principle objectives of both the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Canadian Heritage, Parks Canada through the protection of outstanding natural and cultural heritage resources and the provision of high-quality recreational and outdoor educational opportunities. Perhaps the islands' most important quality is their geographical setting in the mouth of Halifax Harbour. Situated within just a few miles of Nova Scotia's largest population concentration, the natural character and isolation of the islands stands in sharp contrast to the surrounding urban development.

As parkland, the islands and their inherent resource values will be protected. Outdoor recreational and tourism attractions which are compatible with these resource values may be provided. Management of the islands as parkland provides a framework within which a balance can be achieved between the protection, interpretation and maintenance of significant and sensitive resources, and their use and enjoyment.

Island Land Use and Ownership

land ownerhip] In 1974, the Province of Nova Scotia acquired most of the northern half of McNabs Island. The following year, the Province designated McNabs and Lawlor islands as a regional park under the Halifax-Dartmouth Regional Development Plan. The intent of the regional park designation was "to protect areas of unique natural significance against adverse effects and to reserve sufficient open space for recreational purposes." In 1983, responsibility for the acquisition, management and development of the islands as parkland was assigned to the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources (then Lands and Forests) through the Provincial Parks Program and, in the same year, Devils Island was added to the regional park designation. Subsequently, the Province acquired the two remaining large private properties on McNabs Island--approximately 20 acres (8 hectares) in 1988 and 42 acres (17 hectares) in 1993.

In 1985, the Department of Natural Resources completed a preliminary management concept for McNabs, Lawlor and Devils islands. The concept was intended to provide a focus for discussion, review and decisions regarding the future management and development of the islands. In addition, the concept was to provide a rationale and basic direction for interim management decisions effecting the islands until a park management plan was completed. Following a policy review of Nova Scotia's provincial park system, McNabs Island was identified in 1988 as one of four priority park provincial park developments in Nova Scotia. However, in 1991, a planned public consultation process leading to the establishment of a provincial park on the islands was deferred, pending the outcome of an environmental assessment of the proposed siting of a regional sewage treatment plant on McNabs Island.

The federal government has been a major landowner on McNabs and Lawlor islands since the early 1900s. During much of this period the federal lands were administered by the Department of National Defence for military purposes.

Parks Canada's specific interest in these lands resulted from a 1965 Historic Sites and Monument Board recommendation that was based on their review of the military installations associated with the Halifax Defence Complex. At this time Fort McNab was designated of national historic significance. Shortly thereafter, most federal lands on McNabs Island and all federal lands on Lawlor Island were transferred to Parks Canada.

As part of ongoing provincial-federal discussions on the future management of the islands, Parks Canada completed a boundary delineation study for Fort McNab National Historic Site in 1985 to identify those lands required for the protection and management of Fort McNab National Historic Site. In 1992, a management plan was completed for the Halifax Defense Complex in which the proposed boundaries for Fort McNab National Historic Site were confirmed. Lands identified as surplus to Parks Canada's needs were to be transferred to the Province for park purposes. In 1995, decisions regarding the land transfer were deferred pending completion of a land use strategy for McNabs and Lawlor islands to ensure these decisions reflect conditions in the mid-1990's.

Today, ownership of the islands is split between the province, the federal government and private landowners. McNabs Island has a total area of approximately 975 acres (395 hectares), of which the province owns 63 percent, the federal government 36 percent, and 1 percent is privately owned. The federal government owns all of Lawlor Island, which encompasses 136 acres (55 hectares).

All provincial lands on McNabs Island are managed as park reserve, and most federally-owned lands on McNabs Island and all of Lawlor island are administered by Department of Canadian Heritage, Parks Canada.

McNabs and Lawlor Islands
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The tabloid McNabs and Lawlor Islands prepared by the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resouces and Parks Canada of Canadian Heritage in support of their Fall 1995 public consultation process.

This Internet version was prepared with permission by the Federation of Nova Scotia Naturalists (FNSN) and the Friends of McNabs Island Society (FOMIS).