The province has designated 27 parcels of public land, totalling 636.7 hectares (1,573 acres), under the Natural Areas Protection Act.
© Submitted photo
Aaron Brown, left, and Morgan Rhynes, centre, summer employees at the J. Frank Gaudet Tree Nursery, met Environment, Energy and Forestry Minister Richard Brown for a tour of the hardwood stand at Beach Grove in Charlottetown which is included in the lands
Environment, Energy and Forestry Minister Richard Brown says the province set a goal to have 12,750 hectares (31,500 acres) of land designated under the Natural Areas Protection Act and they are now over the halfway mark with 7,148 hectares protected under legislation.
Together with other designated areas, including wildlife management areas and P.E.I. National Park, the total protected area is 17,679 hectares or 3.1% of the Island.
“Government’s commitment to protecting and enhancing the environment includes designating key areas that represent wetlands, forests, sand dunes and wildlife areas,” said Brown. “We are very pleased to partner with the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Ducks Unlimited Canada to assist us in our efforts to pro tect ecologically significant sites.”
The areas protected lie from Basin Head to Bear River to Richmond and include riparian zones, freshwater ponds, mature tolerant hardwoods and sand dunes.
Mature hardwoods representative of the original Acadian forest make up less than three per cent of the hardwood forest and are under-represented in protected areas. The addition of six forested properties at Bear River helps address this deficit.
A small stand of hardwoods at Beach Grove includes a memorial forest and a section of Charlottetown’s Routes for Nature and Health. Other hardwood designations include parcels in St. Charles, Brookvale and Richmond.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada played a key role in the acquisition and designation of Boughton Island and two parcels of land at Basin Head Sand Dunes.
Basin Head is recognized for its rare dune heath communities, while Boughton Island is home to a great blue heron colony and endangered piping plovers.
Riparian zones at Naufrage have been acquired with the assistance of Ducks Unlimited Canada.
Brown says it’s important that government leads by example.
“We intend to designate more properties under the Natural Areas Protection Act to meet our goal of having seven per cent of the province under protection, and I encourage private landowners to help us meet that goal.”
Brown said that during the International Year of Biodiversity, it is especially appropriate to increase the number of protected areas to conserve biodiversity. Natural areas capture and retain carbon, contribute to a reduction of greenhouse gases, and protect sensitive habitats for wildlife and native plant species.
Hardwood Forested Natural Areas
Adding 258 hectares of mainly tolerant hardwood has greatly expanded the amount of Acadian forest that is protected. Most (98%) of the significant block of 137 hectares in six properties in the Bear River area has never been put to the plough, and soil organism s are undisturbed. Consequently, many rare plants are present. The stands have heights ranging from 10 to 18 or more metres.
Two properties at Brookvale totalling 77.7 hectares and a 13.7 hectare property at St. Charles are similarly undisturbed forests with cradle hills (pit and mound topography). A rich wet hardwood forest at Richmond features old growth white ash and associated rare plants. Approximately 90% of the forest on the two Richmond properties has never been ploughed. This type of forest cover and the associated plants are part of the Acadian Forest Region.
A small stand of hardwoods at Beach Grove is the second designated within Charlottetown with acquiescence of the City, the first being Royalty Oaks. The designated 6.4-hectare portion of the property is one of the last standing areas of tolerant hardwood forest left in Charlottetown. The core area is older red maple, sugar maple, yellow birch, American beech, and white birch. A few red oak are a lso present. Most of it has never been ploughed, although slit trenches were dug in part of the area during military training at the Beach Grove Training Centre. A portion of this property includes the Beach Grove Memorial Forest, which was dedicated on June 11, 1995 to the memory of all Islanders who died in the service of Canada during the Second World War while serving in the Navy, Army, Air Force, and Merchant Navy. The property also includes a section of Charlottetown’s Routes for Nature and Health recreational trails.
Acquired in 2006, 158.4 hectares adds to the previously designated 73.3 hectares, completing the protection of the island and its great blue heron and piping plover habitats. Nature Conservancy of Canada raised the bulk of the $2.2 million purchase price in partnership with the Province and Environment Canada. Approval of a subdivision on the island was rescinded in December, 2007. Management of the Island is to retain the nes ting sites while permitting hunting and continued beach use which respects piping plover management programs (follow directions on the signs). Land title lies with the province under a landholding agreement with NCC.
Basin Head Sand Dunes
Three properties (93.1 hectares) were designated in the Basin Head Sand Dunes roughly doubling the protected area to 189 hectares. It is a relatively undisturbed sand dune system bordered by a saltwater estuary which is a Marine Protected Area. Two of the properties were acquired with monetary assistance from the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) to help ensure preservation of the sand dune communities while still ensuring beach use at the Basin Head run.
The Dune is carpeted in part with the low heath plant Corema conradi, and is one of only seven such coastal dunes communities in the world. The very stable dunes were deposited about 3000 years ago and are of outstanding scientific and conservational interest.
The Basin Head sand dune is also nesting habitat for 1-2 of the approximately 55 pairs of endangered piping plovers that live on PEI. More bald eagles than piping plovers live on PEI.
Riparian zones at Morell (16 hectares) and Naufrage rivers (72.1 hectares) include 60 metre buffers along the river and significant back up lands. In total, there are 510 hectares designated along the Morell including private, public and donated lands. The total for Naufrage River is 338 hectares. Both rivers still support Atlantic salmon. Two of six designated properties on the Naufrage were acquired for conservation purposes through Ducks Unlimited Canada and the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.
Larkins Pond on the Naufrage River forms a continuum with the riparian zone properties. It is a freshwater wetland developed and maintained by a water control structure. The area is jointly managed with Ducks Unlimited Canada and was purchased for conservation purposes with US federal m onies through the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. It is designated for educational uses.