CHESTER, N.S. — If there’s any such thing as a 93-year-old busybody, it’s Rudy Haase.
From mowing his property by himself to stacking and retrieving firewood for the winter, Haase is remarkably active.
And, he’s as determined as ever, to keep the great outdoors great.
Born in Wisconsin, Haase started his advocacy work in the 1950s and 60s, with campaigns against the chemical compounds like dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and Agent Orange.
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He also pressured politicians — including then U.S. President John F. Kennedy — to preserve a dry tropical forest, in Costa Rica, as a nature reserve.
“The area is called Cabo Blanco Strict Nature Reserve” says Haase, seated on a hilltop lawn chair on a chilly November day.
“They allow tourists there, but there’s nothing but trails. No hotel developments [or] anything like that. They kept their word, they kept it as a strict natural area, and I think that’s one of my best achievements.”
After moving to Canada, he dedicated himself to protecting his own land.
“I acquired this at various times when stuff became available,” he tells Global News, scanning his more than 100 hectares of property on either side of Goat Lake, near Chester, Nova Scotia.
Haase became the first Nova Scotia landowner to give his property permanent protection, under a legally-binding easement with a land trust.
It means no-one can disturb his brilliant forest land — even after he’s gone.
“It maintains the water cycle and purifies the air,” he explains. “What most people don’t realize is that the most valuable asset of a forest land is its non-commercial attributes, what it does for the environment.”
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In recent years, Haase has been a driving force for preserving a group of tiny islands, known as the 100 Wild Islands wilderness, on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore.
He provided an interest-free loan to the Nova Scotia Nature Trust, to protect another precious locale from logging — a long stretch of water and old-growth forest, along the St. Mary’s River, home to endangered birds and turtles.
Haase has been called Canada’s “great unknown environmentalist.”
But, in his 10th decade, his work is increasingly being recognized.
This year, he was named to the order of Nova Scotia — an honour his colleagues say is long overdue.
“He’s someone who inspires so many other people because he just doesn’t stop,” says Bonnie Sutherland, Executive Director of the Nature Trust.
“You think, ‘That’s an incredible thing he’s done,’ then he does more and he does more.”
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Sutherland says most conservationists have a legacy of one property.
Haase has four.
“It’s huge,” she says, smiling with admiration.
“It’s a legacy that will last forever. These places that he’s helped to set aside are gonna be there for our kids and grandkids to enjoy, and for nature to thrive.”
Haase carries himself with a steady self-assurance. He doesn’t crave attention but doesn’t refuse it either.
His children left home a long time ago and his wife passed away recently.
But, Haase insists he’s not lonely.
On the day we visited, he’d just finished writing a letter to the new federal government, denouncing the controversial Mother Canada war memorial.
The letter asks the new government to “work to make sure the planned Mother Canada statue is not built at Green Cove or any place in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.”
With sources confirming to Global News the week the government doesn’t intend to let the memorial’s development go ahead as planned, at least in its’ current form, it seems Haase might be on the winning end again.
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