Volunteers on Governors Island, PEI (photo by NCC)

Volunteers on Governors Island, PEI (photo by NCC)

Royal Canadian Navy volunteers help plant trees

Volunteers from the Royal Canadian Navy planting trees, Governors Island, PEI (Photo by NCC)

Volunteers from the Royal Canadian Navy planting trees, Governors Island, PEI (Photo by NCC)

Eight members of the Royal Canadian Navy are the latest group to show their support of the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) private land conservation efforts by helping plant 100 trees at Governors Island.

“We were grateful for the opportunity to help the Nature Conservancy of Canada transport and plant trees on an important ecological feature of Hillsborough Bay. The fact that we were able to get valuable training on our boats and get some exercise at the same time made this a definite win-win,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class David MacPherson.

In 2012, NCC purchased Governors Island from the Judson family, who had owned it for 117 years. The 34 hectares, just minutes from Charlottetown, are truly special as they featire a unique ecosystem, geology and fascinating history. 

Governors Island is a mostly wooded area with some wetland in Hillsborough Bay and has some of the oldest geological formations on Prince Edward Island. It was the site of the first off-shore oil well drilled in North America, and its waters became a refuge for many types of birds, such as numerous migrating ducks, including Canada geese. 

As Prince Edward Island is densely populated, off-shore islands like Governors Island are ideal habitats for colonial nesting birds and other animals.

The Island has been through a lot of ups and downs over generations. A history of off-shore oil drilling and the past operation of a lobster processing facility, plus the wear and tear from grazing sheep and cattle, have all left the forest in need of some love and care. In addition, the thousands of cormorant nests and the highly acidic guano present all around the Island put a lot of pressure on the existing trees.

Hannah Kienzle, NCC’S stewardship coordinator on PEI, says that NCC is fortunate that the Royal Canadian Navy approached them with the idea to volunteer.  

“These stewardship opportunities are great volunteering experiences for the Navy as the crew is often looking to contribute to the community and offer their services,” says Hannah. “After meeting with us and learning about the challenge we wanted to tackle, the Navy members were eager to roll up their sleeves and help. This collaboration is a first for us, and we hope to build this partnership further.”

NCC has a forest management plan in PEI to help jump-start the natural restoration of the forests while providing habitat for birds. NCC also wishes to thank the Government of Prince Edward Island’s Forests, Fish and Wildlife Division for their continued role in operating and maintaining the NCC boat to make this work possible.

“Getting from one point to another and transporting trees and other materials requires logistical support. These boat rides are often brief, but they are very important when working on complex projects,” added Hannah. 

From a personal perspective, Hannah says helping plant the trees is rewarding and gives her a sense of accomplishment.

“Knowing that someday, these trees will be nesting sites for the birds makes me feel like I am a piece of the big conservation puzzle,” she says. “However, restoration management takes many years to progress, and immediate results are often not achievable. Therefore, patience and persistence are essential.”

The Governors Island Nature Reserve was established by the Nature Conservancy of Canada with the help of many generous Prince Edward Island residents and businesses. They include Fred and Shirley Hyndman, Tim Banks and Carrie McNabb, and Dr. Regis and Joan Duffy, Amalgamated Dairies Ltd., Maritime Electric and P.E.I. Mutual Insurance along with Environment and Climate Change Canada. On-going support is critical for its care and management. The planting project was supported with funding from the Government of Canada’s 2 Billion Trees program.

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