Islanders & INT conservation partners team up to successfully raise $600K for natural area protection in PEI

Futures Protected: Island Nature Trust announces first major campaign fundraising success as conservation partners quadruple donations from Islanders

Isobel Ralston was just ten year sold when she first visited Prince Edward Island with her family from Ontario. Like many others experiencing the Island for the first time, she was struck by its beauty. While her family camped near the PEI coastline, memorable encounters with friendly Islanders and the rhythm of tumbling waves and a salty air, left a lasting impression.

Half a century later, Isobel is returning to the Island. This time she is accompanied by her husband Jan Oudenes. The couple met in Alberta in the 70’s and share a common interest in nature. In 2017, they formed the MapleCross Fund, which was launched to invest in Canadian land trusts on a mission to protect and steward land in perpetuity.

It’s August 2021. The couple are flying into PEI to visit the old growth forests in Lewes that they helped INT to secure earlier in the year. In PEI, these Acadian– Wapane’kati forests are championed by ecologists for their carbon storing properties in mitigating the effects of climate change and for the biodiversity under the canopy that provides habitat for a myriad of wildlife. It’s a dynamic world in a perpetual cycle that keeps giving to all.

The Lewes property, named the MapleCross Upland Hardwood Natural Area, is the perfect example of a rich ecosystem that provides services to wildlife and humans alike.

MapleCross Upland Hardwood Natural Area in Lewes

Drawing closer to the Island, Isobel is captivated by a surprising kaleidoscope of amber, green and yellow hues. Blanketed by rolling pastures, the patchwork sprawls in every direction to the edge of the Island’s magnificence – it’s beaches. But a dissonance is gnawing at Isobel. It dawns on her as she turns to speak to Jan: ‘Where are the forests?’

PEI is a heavily developed province. By 1900 about 70 percent of the natural land had been cleared and converted from wilderness to agriculture. For the most part, it is a landscape where the forests have been stripped away to be harnessed for food production.

“I’m not an ecologist but I understand that PEI is going to have to rely on the forests, wetlands and grasslands to counter balance the effects of climate change along the beautiful coastline that Islanders and tourists alike, love so much.”

Isobel Ralston, MapleCross

The eye-opening story of a fragmented Island – now familiar to MapleCross – was launched by INT with the SAVING our isLAND fundraising campaign in the Fall of 2021. In it, INT presented a tangible solution to fixing the patchworked landscape by asking Islanders for help. Donate to the campaign and INT will acquire native forests and ensure their protection in perpetuity. This would be the Trust’s first ever major fundraising campaign, bringing a new matching funds component to the table thanks to new alliances.

During their stay in PEI, MapleCross met with INT supporters, staff, and board firsthand. Inspired by campaign messaging and encounters with passionate and knowledgeable individuals, Isobel & Jan decided to get involved with the matching component. This new collaboration accompanied by the Province of PEI and an anonymous partner, meant that donations from Islanders could be quadrupled. Setting a target of $150,000, INT turned to Islanders to help raise the funds by March 1, 2022. If successful, the multipliers from matching partners would be triggered and the campaign total would hit $600,000.

Isobel Ralston & Jan Oudenes of MapleCross,
during their visit to PEI in August 2021

“We like to be a lead investor to open the door for collaboration and motivate the public to donate towards acquisition fundraising campaigns. We aim to tease other people and we like to inspire other people to do the same.”

Jan Oudenes, MapleCross

With their investment, MapleCross posed the question; “will Islanders respond and help protect what lies in their own backyards?”

“The locals really must get involved. It shows that a campaign is worthwhile, and our future investment will be also dependent on whether the community is engaged and contributing. So, we may get onboard with a project but if there’s a lack of support from locals, we then ask ourselves, is it really worth investing in this Trust again? Asks Jan.

At the end of February 2022, Islanders profoundly answered that question. The public fundraising target of $150,000 has now been reached thanks to incredibly generous donations from 302 individuals.

In reflection, Jan & Isobel had a good sense that Islanders would support the campaign:

“We were at the Island Nature Trust donor recognition dinner in August 2021 and had the opportunity to speak to the Trust’s honorary patron – the Lieutenant Governor of PEI, The Honourable Antoinette Perry, aswell as PEI’s Environment Minister, Steven Myers. Talking with these influential people and the land donors who are involved and engaged with INT – all in one room – convinced us that Islanders were committed.”

“When we donate or contribute, we consider ourselves to be part of the team. Starting with the Board of Directors, the management of our land conservancies, the many volunteers, the staff and then hopefully the community, all get behind the campaign and make it flourish.”

Jan Oudenes, MapleCross

With the provincial targets to protect 7% of PEI by 2030, (with a further target of 10%) and be the first province in Canada to reach Net Zero, successfully raising $600,000 will allow INT to double the yearly total number of recent acquisitions. INT has already secured 2,175 acres of natural area this year, which is the largest amount secured in a twelve-month period over the Trust’s 40-year history.

Corridors for nature: Securing forested wetland adajcent to Crown Point –Wji’kijek Natural Area was made possible thanks to funds raised by the SAVING our isLAND – Match A Patch campaign

An addition to Crown Point –Wji’kijek Natural Area in Alexandra, which expands a coastal migratory flyway for shore birds, and a rare 37-acre home to spawning Atlantic Salmon in Bangor, were both made possible because of the MapleCross investment. Both Natural Areas are due to be formally named by Isobel & Jan later in the year.

200 acres of riparian forest along the culturally significant Midgell River (Elm Road), and a 65-acre parcel of rare cedar and white ash forested wetland in Miscouche were also made possible due to the success of the matching campaign (see bottom of page).

Bianca McGregor, Executive Director for Island Nature Trust offers a positive but more sobering view on recent successes:

“It is truly remarkable to see the Trust’s first ever major fundraising campaign succeed on so many levels. We have new partners who are committed for the long term and the response from Islanders who have stood up in support is heartwarming. However, with natural areas estimated to cost on average of$1,000 per acre or more, and eight years left to save up to an additional 35,000+ acres to meet initial targets, all of Prince Edward Island’s conservation partners really need to ramp up annual acreage amounts put under protection.”

Over the years, Isobel & Jan haveen joyed travelling across Canada. Having visited multiple provinces, they have invested in numerous land trusts across the country. With MapleCross, they bring a unique perspective to the table. It’s a broad picture, motivated by a pan-Canadian vision that sees PEI as a significant player in the national agenda for conservation.

Like Isobel as a child and many others who appreciate the symmetry of rolling fields, flourishing pastures, and the abundant crops they provide, the story behind the complex ecosystems, vitality, and climate stability that PEI’s remaining natural forests sustain are often ignored or hidden from our awareness.

Match A Patch campaign donor and long-time supporter of INT, Judy Profitt helps us peer under this veil with a personal and intimate experience of the Island’s forests and wildlife. From generation to generation, she and her Island family have experienced a changing Island from the ground.

Judy Profitt is a 7th generation Islander. Her ancestors who first set foot on PEI from England two hundred years ago, would have seen a very different Island landscape. At the onset of European settlement in the early 1700s, forests covered some 98 percent of the Island’s surface with the remainder divided among ponds, wetlands, and sand dunes. By 1900, only about 30 per cent of the Island remained under forest cover.

“I gravitate to the shoreline, I love the beaches, but my dad Wendell was all about the woods. Dad had a very special relationship with the Island’s forests, and the decimation of woodland laid heavily on his mind. He was passionate about restoring a network of forests in PEI.”

Wendell Profitt was born in Margate, PEl and is a veteran of WWIl. He worked for the protection of natural sites through his employment for 33 years with the PEl Government as well as through his volunteer activity with the Island Nature Trust.

Mr. Profitt who passed away in 2017 at the age of 95, was one of the first two foresters hired by the Provincial Government after he graduated from UNB inforestry. He and Frank Gaudet started up the forestry division, planted trees throughout PEl and raised awareness of the importance of forests to the Island.

Under his guidance, the PEl Provincial Parks system grew from the three original parks (Strathgartney, Lord Selkirk and Brudenell) to a provincial-widesystem of parks.

Judy Profitt hugging an old hemlock tree in
South Pinette

“In my mind, dad stands as straight and tall as the majestic trees in the old growth forests that he loved so much, as I do. He would have been incredibly heartened to see the Province of PEI standing together with INT to protect these forests.”

Judy Profitt, campaign donor

Judy adds: “He impressed upon me how very special our native forests are. The life-giving element and protective qualities these ancient forests provide, especially to our coastline is profound. All the stuff we take for granted would not be possible without their existence. The wildlife, clean air, fresh water, and erosion protection – they help us and nature in so many ways.”

After Hurricane Juan hit the Island in September 2003, Judy recollects a poignant moment that exemplifies her father’s awe and respect for trees.

“We had a beautiful maple tree in our front yard, but lightning struck and split the 25 ft tree right down the middle. My mother was devastated – she loved that tree. Did my mum & dad concern themselves with other damage on their property? No, their priority was the maple, and nothing would stop my dad from saving it.”

He exclaimed, “I think I can fix that” scrambles up a ladder, at age 81, and with the help from our neighbor, raises the two sides and bolts them together. Nearly twenty years later the tree is still standing proud, thanks to my dad.”

Following a public appeal to raise the remaining $20,000 for the Match A Patch Campaign in early February of this year, Judy generously donated $5,000, knowing that a response from Islanders to help generate ‘seed’ money was vital for a successful campaign.

“The matching campaign was very attractive to me. Since the impact is amplified by major benefactors, I feel my donation isn’t stuck in a bubble. For someone who cares deeply about their Island, how often do opportunities – to make a real difference – like this present themselves?”

Judy like her father, is a staunch supporter of INT and its mission to protect a network of natural areas across PEI. Her message to Islanders is that everyone can support this cause.

“It really isn’t about the depths of one’s pockets – everyone can have an impact” Judy remarks.

“I’m very lucky that I have the means to contribute a large amount to the Match A Patch campaign. But my dad was a humble and modest person, he didn’t invest in Island conservation for personal gain or glory. It was for the betterment of the Island. The last thing he would’ve wanted is for Islanders to be scared off from contributing because they think their donation is insignificant. That’s simply not the case. Every donation is important, no matter how small and signifies a real and profound intention to protect our beautiful landscape.

Think about it. If every Islander donated just one dollar to this campaign today – tomorrow 600 acres of forest could be protected, forever!”

Spring 2022 Newsletter Available

Having just surpassed the 7,000-acre mark for INT protected Natural Areas – the Trust has no intention of slowing down on its mission to help secure thousands of acres more by the end of the decade.

“This campaign isn’t the end, it’s the beginning of a process. If we can raise $600,000 in five months, imagine what we can raise in eight years!” exclaims INT Executive Director, Bianca McGregor.

The takeaway according to Bianca: “This is a success hinged on the support from today’s Islanders that will resonate with future generations. Donations from Islanders such as Judy with a personal knowledge of the Island’s past are now being leveraged by growing alliances with investors and partners. This marriage will ensure the long-term survival of our Island and I speak on behalf of all of our matching partners in humbly thanking everyone that participated!”

Watch this space for the continuation of the Saving Our Island campaign in Summer 2022.
Become a member to be the first to hear of the relaunch what you can do to help INT and its partners protect 10% of our Island.

By Ben Russell
Communications Manager

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