06/14/2013 10:00 EDT | Updated 08/14/2013 05:12 EDT

Group protects large tract of Nova Scotia land that's home to Acadian forest

HALIFAX - A large tract of land in Nova Scotia is being protected in what the Nature Conservancy of Canada says is the largest private conservation project ever in Atlantic Canada.

The group announced today that it acquired 2,055 hectares, or about 21 square kilometres, of habitat in the Tusket River headwaters area of Digby County.

The partial land purchase and donation by J.D. Irving Ltd. includes stands of Acadian forest, three lake shorelines and sections of the Silver and Caribou rivers.

The conservancy says the Tusket River is globally significant for the number of rare plants found in downstream reaches within Yarmouth County.

Craig Smith, the conservancy's program manager in Nova Scotia, says the area provides habitat for the threatened snapping turtle and brook trout and protection of their shoreline will help maintain downstream water quality.

Surrounding forest lands are home to other species at risk, including the olive-sided flycatcher, Canada warbler, common nighthawk and chimney swift.