MacKay Family Donates 268 Acre Lowland Forest and Wetland to Add a Patch

Last year, five parcels were donated to the Add a Patch campaign to be protected in perpetuity. The largest of these properties was donated by the MacKay family in 2021 – sitting next to Strang Road in Haliburton, Prince County – it features a sizeable area of carbon absorbing peatland and bog. The habitat is known to support Canada warbler, while housing several uncommon, tracked flora such as royal fern, Vermont blackberry, white fringed orchid and rose pogonia.

The 268-acre property was donated to the Island Nature Trust under the Government of Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program, which provides enhanced tax incentives for individuals or corporations who donate ecologically significant land.

Gordon MacKay – also the President of Island Nature Trust – says that while the tax incentives offered by the Ecological gift program were appealing, his family was ‘incredibly grateful to see their land protected for the benefits of both people and nature.’

Considering the impact of increased development and looming effects of climate change, Gordon believes that it was just the right time to donate his family’s land to the Trust.

He adds, ‘knowing that our donation of land will continue to provide benefits to the Island community in the face of global biodiversity loss and trusting that the land will be preserved in its natural state forever is comforting to our family.’

The ecologically diverse property was named the Jean and Stewart MacKay Natural Area after Gordon’s parents and features undisturbed peatlands within the eastern parcel. This area allows for continued carbon sequestration in an area of western Prince Edward Island experiencing dramatic loss of stored carbon through forest conversion to agriculture.

The natural area features a bog bordered with a rare stand of jack pine dominating the eastern parcel, while the western parcel supports red maple and black spruce lowland mixed wood forest and feeds groundwater through seeps to Dalton’s Brook. This property forms a large block proximate to protected public land in the Haliburton Ironwood Natural Area and Locke Rd Jack Pine Woodland Natural Area.

‘It was nice to receive a tax receipt but that wasn’t our main motivation for the donation.’ says Gordon.

‘Two of my sisters are avid bird watchers and have enjoyed experiences of observing birds within their natural habitats. I once accompanied them on a guided tour into the Amazon wilderness of Peru and that really helped to open my eyes to the rich lives that birds have in ecologically diverse environments.’

The MacKay family named the Jean and Stewart MacKay Natural Area after their parents

Gordon understands the importance of sharing knowledge and engaging with the public on the topic of protecting wild spaces. He feels that the Trust has helped him recognize the far-reaching beneficial consequences of acquiring and protecting land on PEI. ‘I see that the interactions between conservation staff, board volunteers, supporters and the wider public through outreach projects like the Trust’s Passport to Nature, provides a continual learning environment. It’s one we must nurture and develop to inspire people to contribute to protecting our Island in any way they can.’

Top: The bog habitat at the Joyce and Stewart MacKay Natural Area is known to support Canada Warbler.
Left: Creeping Snowberry grows in the wetland and its fruits reportedly are edible.
Right: Pale Bog Laurel is an evergreen shrub that grows in the bog.

In a province where 90% of land is privately owned, the Trust relies on land donors – such as the MacKay family – to ensure that ecologically important land is protected in its current state for future generations.

‘The importance of what the Trust is trying to achieve cannot be overstated. It’s protecting the future for ourselves and nature. If you can imagine for one second a world where our children don’t see or feel nature – it’s not pretty. We need to make sure that doesn’t happen.’

‘It’s so good for the soul to walk through the woods and nature. This donation is our family’s gift to future generations. In the knowledge that our grandchildren will have children of their own, it is our hope that they can experience the benefits of engaging with theses spaces.’

Ways To Protect Your Land

Private Stewardship

You can retain ownership of the land and still place it under NAPA protection. Our resource guide “Protecting Natural Places in Prince Edward Island”’ provides more detail on this option.

Donate or Sell Your Land

For those who are able, the act of giving land to a land trust so that it may be protected is the ultimate in generosity. Island Nature Trust profoundly appreciates anyone who considers such a gift. 

We all share a unique connection to nature, and our supporters express it in diverse ways.
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Are you passionate about hands-on conservation efforts or getting directly involved in nature protection?

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