Watershed group hopes to become more visible in southeast P.E.I. communities

Published on March 20, 2017

Matthew McIver, a wildlife technician for the province, points to a mounted bald eagle while giving a family a close-up look at some of the wildlife found in P.E.I during the “Winter Frolic” hosted by the Southeast Environment Association.

©Mitch MacDonald/TC Media

MILLTOWN CROSS, P.E.I. - Jackie Bourgeois knows that southeast P.E.I. residents want to be active in preserving and protecting their environment.

George Koke helps his three-year-old grandson Ben Koke learn how to walk in snowshoes during the “Winter Frolic” event hosted by the Southeast Environment Association at the Harvey Moore Wildlife Sanctuary on Sunday. Snowshoeing, hiking and children’s games were just a few of the ways Islanders were encouraged to experience the nature at the registered P.E.I. historic site.
Mitch MacDonald/TC Media

And for many, there’s never been a better time to get involved.

Bourgeois, the executive director of the Southeast Environment Association (SEA), said the group is hoping to increase its community outreach and education, with a “Winter Frolic” at Harvey Moore Wildlife Sanctuary on Sunday being an example of the type of events the group hopes to hold in the future.

The final day of winter provided a perfect backdrop, with comfortable enough temperatures for a barbecue and just enough snow for snowshoeing.

It was also a way to increase awareness around the watershed, which is the largest in the province and just began receiving the provincial watershed management fund.

Bourgeois said the group previously received federal money that was restricted to activities like surveying and research. There was little participation by the greater community since those funds were not allowed for stream work.

“People want to see action, they don’t want to plan or monitor because that’s for us to do. They want to be part of fixing it,” said Bourgeois. “For so many years we couldn’t do (stream work) because we weren’t getting funded to. So we have a lot of time to make up.”

Education was in full force at the frolic as Island families were able to enjoy the nature through geocaching, hiking, scavenger hunts and presentations.

Matthew McIver, a wildlife technician for the province, brought a number of stuffed and mounted wild animals found in P.E.I.

Jamie Stride, owner of Island Falconry Services, holds one of his falcons while talking to Southeast Environment Association secretary Ian Petrie, centre, and Jim Aquilani, right, at the “Winter Frolic” event on Sunday. The bird Stride is holding is a seven-year-old mix between a gyr and peregrine falcon.
Mitch MacDonald/TC Media

“Kids love these mounts and as soon as we bring them out they just keep coming over. They love playing with them and getting that one-on-one experience,” he said. “To be able to get up close, you learn so much and appreciate them so much more.”

Jamie Stride, owner of Island Falconry services, was also at the event with a seven-year-old mix between a gyr and peregrine falcon.

The company has eight birds, a mix of falcons and hawks, used for pest control and educational presentations.

The falcon was quite an attraction, with Stride being peppered with questions about the bird for much of Sunday.

“People don’t usually expect to (see this) when they’re coming around the corner,” said Stride. “And where else are you going to have a the chance to be two feet away from a falcon, it’s rare.”
With the SEA covering an area that’s about 731 square km, from Boughton River to Murray Harbour and Wood Islands, the group is hoping to receive more provincial funding.

Currently, the group receives what amounts to about 79 cents per hectare, while other watersheds receive about $1.09 per hectare.

There is also $58,000 cap on funding through the watershed fund, with only 50 per cent of the fund being determined by size.

Bourgeois said while the group is happy to receive the fund, it’s continuing conversations with the province in hopes of receiving more.

Until then, she said the group also plans on continuing to raise awareness in the community.

“We want to get people out and let them know who we are and what we do,” she said. “We want the community to be involved because we want to provide opportunities for people be outside and learn about wildlife and nature.”