First of its kind donation sees American family return forest and wetland back to Islanders

A game-changing cross-border partnership between Island Nature Trust and American Friends of Canadian Conservation – launched to help American landowners donate their land for conservation purposes – is celebrating its first win.

American ownership is approximately 3.5% of the total land on PEI, yet for many years, American landowners interested in donating land for conservation purposes have experienced disproportionate legal and financial barriers. However, thanks to INT and American Friends initiative forged in 2018, significant tax relief is now secured for American donors.

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Restricted dune area and nesting space for the endangered Piping Plover violated by individuals setting up beach campground in Anglo Rustico

Prominent signage for the species-at-risk was removed and abused for beach games at Barachois Beach – home to one of only five successful hatching sites on the Island

On Saturday July 17, provincial conservation officers and federal wildlife officers received calls from several concerned citizens reporting possible species-at-risk violations witnessed on Barachois Beach. Upon arrival, officers observed a group of people camping inside an area closed to protect the endangered Piping Plover and nesting Common Terns. A tent was erected upon a dune with a bonfire going. In addition, signs demarking the nesting area were removed and setup as goalposts for a ball game.

Barachois Beach is a pivotal site for Piping Plover on PEI. Over the last 15 years, it has supported 15% of all nest attempts on provincial beaches. While the beach is over 148 acres in size, the areas closed for nesting birds this year is less than 10 acres. With just a fraction of the beach restricted, INT relies on members of the community to pay attention to signage, take heed of restrictions and avoid actions that could compromise the survival of this endangered species.

“To say that we were disappointed and saddened by the choices that these individuals made is a vast understatement. We work to conserve species at risk on PEI and to ensure that we have a diversity of wildlife and wild spaces to enjoy. We are aided in this work by hundreds of volunteers and supporters. We know through over 40 years of experience, that protecting the animals and plants that we share this province with is vitally important to islanders and visitors alike.” 

– Shannon Mader, Species at Risk Manager, Island Nature Trust

Over the years, appeals to the public in helping the recovery of the Piping Plover population have been met with a positive collective effort from individuals, communities, conservation groups, industry and governments. Every year, signs are erected around Piping Plover nests. Trust volunteers and ‘Guardians’ join staff to update signage across PEI beaches that are known to host nesting Piping Plover.

Normally, INT staff and volunteers engage in outreach and education and are met with receptive citizens, eager to learn more about the wildlife of PEI. It is not common to receive reports of individuals flagrantly disregarding signage and setting up activity areas within restricted nesting areas. This type of violation has the potential to undo decades of conservation work towards the recovery of the species and the encompassing beach dune ecosystem – a natural protective barrier to the ongoing effects of erosion and climate change.

“I find this difficult to accept. It is an ongoing problem that those carrying out infringements always claim to have not seen the signs at the beach entrance even though they are prominent and impossible to miss. Most people on the beach are great but the minority are disheartening. Last year we had no successful hatching so this year’s chicks should be a cause for celebration but instead we have this.”

Mike Salter, volunteer for Island Nature Trust

At the time of this incident, this beach was home to two Piping Plover families – one with five-day old chicks and another with one day old chicks. The Piping Plover was listed under the federal Species at Risk Act in 2003. Designated as endangered, the species is at great risk of disappearing from our Island beaches. Now more than ever, the Piping Plover requires ongoing collaboration from our Island community to ensure their survival.

The incident on Saturday is under investigation by Provincial Conservation Officers.

“Provincial Conservation Officers at Department of Justice and Public Safety are concerned for the ongoing noncompliance at Barachois Beach. Penalties under the Species at Risk Act are severe and can carry fines up to $50,000 for a person and $1,000,000 for a corporation.”

Wade MacKinnon, Manager of Investigation and Enforcement, Justice and Public Safety

To report illegal activity on Island beaches please call 902-368-4884.              
Violations can be reported via the INT website


Piping Plover at Barachois Beach


Island Nature Trust is a membership-based, non-government, Canadian charity dedicated to land conservation in Prince Edward Island since 1979. We envision a future where P.E.I. has a network of protected, robust natural areas championed by knowledgeable, engaged Islanders.

We envision a network of protected natural areas across PEI sustained by the love and generosity of Islanders today for the enjoyment of Islanders and wildlife tomorrow.

Learn More

Visit our website:


Ben Russell
Communications Manager
902-892-7513 or 902-566-9150

An Introduction to Ecosystem Services

By Janell Smith

What are ecosystem services and why are they important?

Ecosystem services are the benefits that nature provides to humans and are often categorized into provisioning, regulating, supporting and cultural. You may be most familiar with provisioning ecosystem services – including food from forests, fields, and oceans; lumber for timber and firewood; drinking water; and even natural gas and oil. Other provisioning services include plants for clothing and materials, as well as natural medicines.

Regulating services provided by natural ecosystems include climate regulation, pollination, purification of water, erosion control, flood control, and carbon storage. Supporting services include the processes that often go unseen but are fundamental to human health, such as soil formation, nutrient cycling, and water cycling. Cultural services are the non-material benefits provided by nature through spiritual enrichment, inspiration, recreation, and aesthetic value (as you can see, ecosystem services are vital to our everyday lives!). As with all life, the categories of ecosystem services are interconnected. For example, fruit trees (provisioning service) rely on the soil (supporting service) and pollination (regulating service) to thrive.

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Island Nature Trust secures significant carbon sink in its largest single acquisition to date

136 hectare (337 acre) property in Forest Hill contributes to a sizeable unfragmented block of rich lowland forest in PEI and is home to C02 absorbing fen peatland – a natural combatant against global warming

Forest Hill is an ecological treasure trove, providing benefits to both Islanders and wildlife. Defined by the presence of lowland forest, fen peatland and riparian habitats in the St. Peters River watershed, the Hansen – MacIsaac Natural Area is a relatively untouched area of eastern Prince Edward Island. It is the single largest land parcel secured by the Trust in its forty-one-year history. Recognized for its high ecological value by the Minister of Environment & Climate Change Canada, the parcel, located several kilometers to the Southeast of St Peter’s Bay, will now be protected forever thanks to an Ecological Gift donation from Carl Hansen and Dan MacIsaac.

The peatlands that constitute nearly a half of the 337-acre property serve the Island community through continued carbon sequestration, groundwater and coldwater springs protection. Although they only occupy 3% of the global land area, peatlands contain about 25% of global soil carbon — twice as much as the world’s forests. Acting as a natural carbon sink, they absorb 150 to 250 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere each year worldwide. In a province that has experienced a loss of ­­­­almost 1,200 acres of peatland due to mining, protecting this vital ecosystem service area in perpetuity will mitigate the effects of climate change and directly benefit Islanders for generations to come.

Forest Hill is notable for its intact and contiguous lowland forest blocks, which are rare for PEI. Recognized as a Priority Place for biodiversity and species-at-risk in PEI, the forested wetland is home to migratory songbirds, such as the Ruby-crowned kinglet and palm warbler. Three species of frog (wood frog, northern leopard frog and spring peeper), beaver lodges, muskrat dens, coyote scat, and ruffed grouse have all been observed at the site.

In addition, Forest Hill has added ecological value because of its connectivity to other protected lands. Near to Greenwich, PEI National Park, it is also bounded to the south by the Forest Hill Natural Area and to the north by the River Wetlands Wildlife Management Area, both owned by the Province. To the north lies a property within the St. Peters River watershed that INT is in the process of securing as another Ecological Gift. Forest Hill’s proximity to protected natural spaces provides an important linkage in allowing dynamic ecosystems and ecological services to flourish.

To the south, the provincial Forest Hill Natural Area supports walking and horse-riding trails that help Islanders connect to their environmental heritage in an immersive way. INT will honour the donors’ wishes to see a loop trail addition to this network using the existing woods road that enters and exits onto MacSwain Rd. The woods road follows the highest elevations on the property where Islanders can experience the natural beauty of the forest without impacting on the natural spaces.


“Contiguous forests are important in minimizing some of the long-term risks to ecological integrity from threats like windthrow in high intensity storms, extended drought and invasive plant infestations. There are also many forest songbirds that require large blocks of intact habitat for nesting and foraging. It is so critically important for people and wildlife that we retain and protect these last remaining large natural landscapes.”
– Megan Hartris, Director of Conservation for Island Nature Trust

“Our experience with Island Nature Trust and the process of donating through the Ecological Gift program was seamless. From the start, Trust staff put us in the right direction and carried out all the work for the application. There was very little effort expected on our part. Also, we appreciate that Island Nature Trust agreed to provide access to horse riders and extend the existing trail to allow for Islanders to appreciate nature on the land.”
– Carl Hansen, Land Donor

“We love the Island, it’s a paradise. To know that Forest Hill’s natural legacy will continue forever under the protection of Island Nature Trust means a lot to us.”

– Dan MacIsaac, Land Donor

“The Abegweit Conservation Society is pleased to hear of the land donation and the establishment of the Hanson MacIsaac Natural Area in Forest Hill. All of the St Peters Bay watershed drainage has been inhabited by Indigenous peoples that include the present Mi’kmaq for over 10,000 years. Archaeology has well established the presence of the Mi’kmaq all along the bay area including Greenwich. Since the wetlands of Forest Hill contain the culturally significant, and threatened wisqoq (black ash), it is highly likely that many had ventured into the wetland forests of this location to harvest wisqoq for making baskets, axe handles and other implements for their daily use. A variety of medicinal plants also used by the Mi’qmaq can easily be found within all the habitats contained in this new Natural Area. It is reassuring to know that the habitats for plants and wildlife will be protected and accessible for generations to come.”

– Rebecca Hersom-Petersen, Natural Resource Projects Manager at Abegweit Conservation Society


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Quick Facts

  • Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. It is one method of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with the goal of addressing global climate change
  • The drainage of peatlands for agriculture and forestry has resulted in the emission of extensive greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, most notably carbon dioxide and methane
  • It is estimated that drained peatlands account for around 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and forestry, worldwide
  • More than a third of the world’s peatlands are in Canada, and they cover about 14 per cent of Canada’s land mass
  • Three main factors giving peatlands the ability to sequester and store carbon are the high biological productivity, high water table and slow decomposition rates
  • Ecosystem services are the many and varied benefits to humans provided by the natural environment and from healthy ecosystems. Such ecosystems include, for example, agroecosystems, forest ecosystems, grassland ecosystems and aquatic ecosystems. Healthy, functioning ecosystems offer services like natural pollination of crops, clean air, extreme weather mitigation, and human mental and physical well-being
  • Forest Hill is the 24th Ecological Gift donation received by Island Nature Trust. The Trust facilitates every step of the application process for donors. Process time averages six months
  • Ecological Gift – Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program provides a way for Canadians with ecologically sensitive land to protect nature and leave a legacy for future generations. It offers significant tax benefits to landowners who donate land or a partial interest in land to a qualified recipient, by providing exemption from capital gains tax
  • The Mi’kmaq name for St. Peters Bay is Puku’samkek – At the place where there are plenty of clams in the sand.


Island Nature Trust is a membership-based, non-government, Canadian charity dedicated to land conservation in Prince Edward Island since 1979.

We envision a network of protected natural areas across PEI sustained by the love and generosity of Islanders today for the enjoyment of Islanders and wildlife tomorrow.

Visit our website:


Ben Russell – Communications Manager
902-892-7513 or 902-566-9150

Trail Code of Care

Here at the Trust, we are ready to greet the long-awaited arrival of summer and we welcome you to venture out to one of natural areas. While we understand people’s need to immerse themselves in the natural environment, it is crucial to do so while being mindful of our responsibilities to Island wildlife.

Please read, download or print our Island Nature Trust – Trail Code of Care before venturing out to one of our natural area trails.

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