News release

Province, Mi’kmaq to Share Governance of Kluskap Wilderness Area

The Province and Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia are taking the first step toward shared governance of Kluskap Wilderness Area, which includes the sacred Mi’kmaw site Kluskap’s Cave.

Wagmatcook First Nation Chief Norman Bernard, Governance Co-Lead for the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs, and Environment and Climate Change Minister Timothy Halman made the joint announcement today, January 25, at a signing ceremony in Wagmatcook. The shared understanding agreement between the Province and the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources outlines the terms of the relationship for the long-term care of the nearly 2,800 hectares of land in Kluskap Wilderness Area.

“Nova Scotia is committed to reconciliation with the Mi’kmaq, who have been stewards of this area for thousands of years,” said Minister Halman. “They have significant experience and knowledge in safeguarding nature. Today, we are taking the first formal step in our journey to share governance of Kluskap Wilderness Area and continue our work, led by the Mi’kmaq, to create Indigenous protected and conserved areas in Nova Scotia.”

The agreement signed today marks a new working relationship and shared commitments to conserve, maintain and celebrate the ecological, cultural and spiritual significance of Kluskap Wilderness Area. The work is guided by key principles and values identified by Mi’kmaw communities for the creation and long-term care of Indigenous protected and conserved areas (IPCAs) in Unama’ki (Cape Breton). It is the first agreement of this type between Nova Scotia and the Mi’kmaq.

A working group with equal representation from the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources and the Province has been created to develop a governance arrangement and plan for long-term care of the area.


This Shared Understanding on Kluskap Wilderness Area is another step on the path towards reconciliation, where our communities can work together to not only preserve our shared history, but allow future generations to learn and benefit from our province’s rich culture, natural resources and beauty. Karla MacFarlane, Minister of L’nu Affairs

Kluskap Wilderness Area is a very special place for the Mi’kmaq. This agreement marks another step toward the Mi’kmaq having a voice in discussions on the very lands we have been stewards of since time immemorial. We look forward to collaborating with our provincial partners on how these lands will be cared for, protected, and understood for generations to come. IPCAs are crucial to our people and to all Nova Scotians. Chief Norman Bernard, Wagmatcook First Nation

The shared understanding between UINR and the Province of Nova Scotia is a new way forward. The document, developed collaboratively, provides the terms of our relationship that will see the wilderness area become part of the Kluskap’s Cave Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area. Kluskap’s Cave is a sacred place and holds such significance to Mi’kmaq. The IPCA will be an important place for our communities to reconnect with the land and water, a place to fulfill our responsibility to care for the land, and to share this knowledge for the betterment of all of Nova Scotia. Lisa Young, Executive Director, Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources

Kluskap’s Cave and all of the mountain is a sacred space. A commitment to Kluskap IPCA is a commitment to our shared relationship with and our responsibility to the Earth. It feels like Kluskap’s voice is being heard, and this will be good for everyone. Lawrence Wells, Mi’kmaw Elder, Membertou

Quick Facts:

  • Kluskap Wilderness Area was designated by the Province in 2016, through consultation with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia
  • it has a variety of land forms and habitats, including cobble beaches, coastal cliffs and caves, and barachois ponds that extend for almost six kilometres along St. Ann’s Bay
  • Kluskap’s Cave, or Nukmij’nawe’nuis, is one of the most sacred sites to the Mi’kmaq – it is considered the centre of the Universe and where the legendary figure Kluskap is said to return one day
  • the Environment Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act has a goal to protect 20 per cent of Nova Scotia’s land and water by 2030, including working with the Mi’kmaq to create Indigenous protected and conserved areas in the province

Additional Resources:

Kluskap Wilderness Area:

Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act:

Tan Telolti’k: How We Are Doing Now – 2020 report on developing a management framework for Indigenous protected and conserved areas: