Canadian island famed for wild horses made a reserve

October 18, 2011

» Sable Island's horses date back 250 years

A windswept sandy island in Canada renowned for its wild horses has become a national park reserve.

Sable Island horses. © Parks Canada

Satellite image of Sable Island.North is at the top left corner. © NASA

The landmark deal to formally protect Sable Island was signed on Monday by Canada's environment minister Peter Kent, regional minister for Nova Scotia Peter MacKay and Nova Scotia's premier, Darrell Dexter.

Sable Island is 290 kilometres offshore from Halifax.

It is a crescent-shaped sandbar 42 kilometres long that emerges from the Atlantic Ocean near the edge of the Continental Shelf.

The island's sand dunes and fresh water ponds are home to more than 400 wild horses and numerous migrant and breeding birds, including the rare Ipswich Savannah sparrow.

Called the "Graveyard of the Atlantic", there were over 350 shipwrecks recorded there since 1583 due to the fog and storms that set siege to Sable Island.

"Today's historic agreement will ensure that this iconic and valued Canadian landscape fabled for its wild horses, shipwrecks and one of the largest dune systems in Eastern Canada, will be protected as a national park reserve for the benefit of Canadians for all time," Kent said.

MacKay said the deal was the culmination of 50 years of conservation efforts.

"For half a century Nova Scotians, as well as Canadians across the country, have voiced their support for protecting this iconic landscape and its wild horses, and no higher level of protection can be bestowed on this famed island than to make it a national park reserve."

Dexter said Sable Island holds a special place in the hearts of Nova Scotians and Canadians across the country.

"We are pleased that the island's natural and cultural values will be forever protected through its status as a national park reserve."

Under the park deal, the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia have agreed to take the necessary steps to protect Sable Island under the Canada National Parks Act and to prohibit drilling from the surface of Sable Island and out to one nautical mile.

To give effect to the prohibition on drilling, government and the offshore regulator are working with industry to amend significant discovery licenses.

Sable Island. © Parks Canada