Volunteers plant trees at NCC's Wise property. (Photo by NCC)

Volunteers plant trees at NCC's Wise property. (Photo by NCC)

NCC’s neighbour passionate about helping forest restoration

Giles Lalonde helps NCC staff plant trees at the Wise property. (Photo by NCC)

Giles Lalonde helps NCC staff plant trees at the Wise property. (Photo by NCC)

When Giles Lalonde is at home near Spiritwood, Saskatchewan, he spends his days walking through the forests of the province's boreal transition. Lalonde’s remote property borders the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Wise property. The site is undergoing forest restoration. Lalonde will take a walk to monitor the health of the trees, and note what animals are moving through.

“That’s what we did as kids,” he said. “We just got out and we just walked and explored. That was our life.”

Lalonde grew up in the area; his family had a farm there.

Even as a kid he remembers seeing the rapid transformation of natural forests to land developed for various purposes.

“You’d have a haunt that you’d go to and then one day you’d go there and it’d be dozed down.”

Lalonde finally bought his own remote property, the one adjacent to the current NCC property, in 1984.

There came a time when his neighbour expressed interest in selling his own property. With Giles' encouragement, the neighbour decided to sell it to NCC.

In 2010, NCC purchased the area next to his. Lalonde has successfully restored the forest in his own area, and has been integral in helping NCC restore Wise. Among the challenges are increasing the diversity of the forest. Lalonde’s years of tree planting as both a contractor and on his own property gives him a strong sense of where to plant trees, and at what density, for the most success.

Take a walk through the forest with him and he’ll explain how he plants spruce trees in a way that allows room for aspen trees. He’ll point out which recently planted trees were eaten by deer, and which have managed to survive the past year.

It’s this passion for the forest that inspired Lalonde to make a conservation agreement with NCC for his own land. Conservation agreements are legal agreements that allow the landowner to retain that ownership, while NCC lays out management plans that ensure the land is protected for the long-term.

Entering the agreement was Lalonde’s way of seeing what he loves remain as important habitat for all the animals who use it, even if he ends up selling the land.

“There’s no guarantee really that it was ever going to end up in my family,” he said. “I was a little worried that even if I would express my concerns, like who’s to say.”

Thanks to Lalonde’s partnership with the NCC, his wishes will be granted and his land, and the Wise property next to it, will be protected natural spaces for the long-term.

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