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Macphail Woods Visit

by Community Forests International on June 20, 2009

Gavin and Daimen Hardie and Jeff Schnurr of CFI visited Macphail Woods in PEI to stock up on plants for the native plants portion of their Community Forest Garden. Gary Schneider, the steward of the woods, led the group through a Landscaping with Native Plants workshop and offered many sudgestions to the project. In a commendable partnership between local government and a truly sustainable operation, Macphail Woods signed a 10-year lease for the managment of 800 crown land acres.

 

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Daimen Hardie walks behind Gary Schnieder of Macphail Woods

Excerpt from Macphail Woods:

CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI -- Minister of Environment, Energy and Forestry Jamie Ballem announced today that the Province has reached an agreement with the Environmental Coalition of Prince Edward Island to manage 800 hectares of public land in southeastern PEI. Under the 10-year lease agreement, the Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project in Orwell will use the lands to demonstrate sustainable forest management and restoration of our native Acadian woodlands.

Minister Ballem said the partnership offers a unique opportunity to explore ways to give Islanders a greater voice in managing public lands.

“These lands are a community resource. They belong to Islanders and they are valued for a wide variety of uses from wildlife habitat and recreation to creating jobs and wealth. It’s important that Government protect these lands and keep them firmly in public ownership,” said Minister Ballem.

“But if public lands are to truly reflect local community values, we have to invite communities to help manage these lands. This lease agreement is one way to do that. The Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project has earned national and international recognition, and widespread community support, for its work. Building on that strong foundation, the lessons learned from this project will benefit other public lands throughout the province.”

Under the lease agreement, the Environmental Coalition will assume management responsibility for 26 forested properties in southeastern Kings and Queens Counties. All leased lands will remain in public hands and the Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project will manage the forest according to strict criteria and standards that have been developed jointly with the Department of Environment, Energy and Forestry. The lease is not transferable, but in recognition of the long-term nature of forest restoration and management, it is open to renewal after the initial 10-year term if conditions have been met and the two partners agree.

Gary Schneider, manager of the Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project, expressed his enthusiasm that the agreement has been reached.

“While we have been very excited about this initiative since the Minister approached us last winter, we had several concerns such as payment of taxes which had to be addressed first in order to enable us to manage these lands effectively,” he said. “Now that these issues are out of the way, we can begin to expand our efforts to demonstrate and encourage ecologically-sound and socially-responsible forest management.”

Managing such a large forest will take time, skill, and money. Aside from some property tax relief, Minister Ballem said Government is not offering any direct financial support. However, the Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project can sell timber or non-timber products from these lands, as long as they are harvested in a sustainable manner and offered for sale through public tender. This will help ensure that these lands continue to play a role in the local economy, the Minister added.

Representatives of the Department of Environment, Energy and Forestry and the Environmental Coalition of Prince Edward Island will meet on a regular basis to ensure that work is completed according to the agreed-upon schedules and standards. They will also release updates to the public outlining the progress on various forestry projects and host an annual event where the public can see how their land is being managed.

If this partnership is successful, the Province may enter into similar public land management agreements with other non-profit groups in future years. The Province currently owns some 50,000 hectares, making it the Island’s largest landowner. This land is managed for parks, timber, recreation, education, wildlife habitat, and many other uses.

If you would like more information, please contact Gary Schneider at gary@macphailwoods.org

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The Rose of the Tamarack

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