PORT JOLI, N.S. -- A conservation group has acquired a large, white sand beach on Nova Scotia's south shore that offers habitat for the endangered piping plover and other shorebirds.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada announced Monday that it spent over $530,000 to obtain the 69-hectare parcel of land known as Sandy Bay. Much of the money came from the federal and provincial governments, as well as two private donors.

The beach and adjacent wetlands and forest -- described by the group as a publicly accessible showcase property -- are at the tip of the Port Joli peninsula, south of Thomas Raddall Provincial Park.

Linda Stephenson, the group's Atlantic vice-president, said the beach is an ecological gem.

"Over that spectacularly white sand beach there are endangered piping plovers, and they are hatching their young there, and they're surrounded by other shorebirds," Stephenson said in an interview.

"Behind it there's a beautiful coast forest and everything is just amazingly green today."

The forest surrounds a network of ponds and wetlands that offer sanctuary to black ducks, red-breasted mergansers and long-tailed ducks.

As well, the Port Joli area was a gathering place in the summer for the Mi'kmaq people before Europeans arrived. Mi'kmaq artifacts have been found in the area.

Even though the conservation group is thrilled with its recent acquisition, Stephenson said coastal areas across Atlantic Canada remain at risk.

The problem is particularly acute in Nova Scotia, where about 24 per cent of the land mass is Crown land, but very little of it is located along the province's 9,000 kilometres of coastline.

Stephenson said it's difficult for conservation groups to acquire large tracts of land because ownership of the rugged coastline is often fractured by small, private plots and cottages.

As for Sandy Bay, it is now part of a much larger protected area that includes the provincial park and a nearby federal bird sanctuary.

The land was obtained from three families that donated portions of a property their parents purchased a generation ago to protect it from development.

"The site is beautiful, inspiring, accessible to the public and we are thrilled to now be the trusted stewards of this amazing piece of land," Craig Smith, the group's program manager for Nova Scotia, said in a statement.

The beach will remain open to the public, but it may be roped off at times to protect piping plover nests. Of the 6,000 piping plovers left in the world, only about 400 live in Atlantic Canada.