The Cascumpec Sandhills, Prince Edward Island (Photo by Mike Dembeck)

The Cascumpec Sandhills, Prince Edward Island (Photo by Mike Dembeck)

Land donor helps NCC conserve one third of Cascumpec Sandhills

August 25, 2017
Alberton, PEI


One of Island’s last wild beaches protected for shorebirds

Thanks to the generosity of a land donor with PEI roots, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has conserved an exceptional 61-hectare (150-acre) shorebird habitat on the Cascumpec Sandhills, part of a chain of near-shore islands often considered Prince Edward Island’s last true wilderness. Located on the southern third of the Cascumpec Sandhills, the property was donated to NCC by Ian Oulton, who is originally from the Alberton area. The land had been in the Oulton family since 1911.
NCC’s Cascumpec Sandhills property and its neighbouring Conway Sandhills property are part of a system of island barrier beaches on the northwest shore of PEI. The Cascumpec Sandhills are characterized by a sand dune ecosystem that separates Cascumpec Bay and Alberton Harbour from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Located in an internationally recognized Important Bird Area (IBA), the Cascumpec Sandhills are a critical nesting site for the piping plover, listed as endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act.   

Notable shorebird species in the area include yellowlegs, semipalmated plover, semipalmated sandpiper, sanderling, ruddy turnstone and black-bellied plover. According to The State of North America's Birds 2016 report, many North American populations of shorebirds are declining due to habitat loss and other threats, a concerning trend that highlights the need to protect remaining wild beach habitats. The Cascumpec Sandhills are also a vital feeding area for many species of waterfowl, including Canada goose, green-winged teal and American black duck. 

At one time, the Sandhills between Cascumpec and Malpeque Bay were important to PEI’s lobster canning industry; however, the islands are no longer used for fishing and are mainly uninhabited. The only building remaining on the Cascumpec Sandhills is a lighthouse, which has been converted to a summer cottage.

Conservation of this property was made possible through the Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program. In addition, a portion of this project was donated to the NCC under the Canadian government’s Ecological Gifts Program, which provides enhanced tax incentives for individuals or corporations donating ecologically significant land. American Friends of Nature Conservancy of Canada also contributed generously to this project.


“The Nature Conservancy of Canada wishes to thank Ian Oulton for his generous donation and for working with NCC to conserve the southern half of the Cascumpec Sandhills. This is one of the most wild and undisturbed habitats on PEI, and we are thrilled to be able to protect this critical nesting area for endangered shorebirds. We would also like to thank American Friends of NCC for their support, and the Government of Canada for its contribution to this project through the Natural Areas Conservation Program and the Ecological Gifts Program.”
 Julie Vasseur,  PEI Program Director, Nature Conservancy of Canada

“On behalf of my colleague, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, I would like to congratulate the Nature Conservancy of Canada and its partners for their work to conserve and protect over 60 hectares of pristine shorebird habitat, located in an Important Bird Area in PEI. The Government of Canada is proud to support this significant conservation achievement through the Natural Areas Conservation Program and the Ecological Gifts Program. This initiative shows what a difference we can make for wildlife such as the endangered piping plover when we work together on habitat conservation.”
Bobby Morrissey, Member of Parliament for Egmont, Prince Edward Island


• The most comprehensive report of its kind, the State of North America’s Birds 2016 report sounded the alarm that a full one-third of bird species in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, including shorebirds, are now of “major conservation concern.” Loss of habitat is one of key reasons for the decline in bird populations. For more information and to read the full report, visit

• More than half of the global breeding population of piping plovers is found in Canada. Piping plover nests are made by males; piping plover eggs are incubated by both parents, and both parents tend the chicks.


The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the nation's leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect more than 1.1 million hectares (2.8 million acres) from coast to coast. The Nature Conservancy of Canada has conserved more than 73,000 acres (29,500 hectares) in the Atlantic provinces. 

The Government of Canada's Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) is a unique public-private partnership to accelerate the pace of land conservation across southern Canada. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) manages the program. Federal funds are matched by contributions raised by NCC and its partners. Habitat conserved under the NACP enhances natural corridors and other protected areas.

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Kathryn Morse
Director of Communications - Atlantic Provinces

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