Did you know that there are three types of water filter that can remove different contaminants from your drinking water? That you can get improvement work done on your woodlot at little or no cost to you? That bats sometimes hibernate in abandoned wells on PEI? How to get trees, and people to plant them for you? That by delaying hay cutting until July you could be saving rare birds? That there is a program to pay landowners to retire environmentally sensitive land while still allowing livestock on it? How to get nuisance beavers removed? How to get substantial Provincial and Federal rebates for heat pumps? That there is an app to report invasive plants? What you are allowed to do (and not do) in a buffer zone? That watershed groups employ dozens of students each summer? This guide contains a wealth of information on our environment and what you can do to help, and the programs and services out there to help you. It is a living document, so we will be updating it on a regular basis.
We gratefully acknowledge that much of the work on this guide was funded by the PEI Wildlife Conservation Fund.
River Environmental Committee
Island Watershed Groups
What is a watershed? Another name is ‘catchment basin’, or an area of land where all the rainfall drains into a particular river. The Island has 260 watersheds, most of which are managed by one of 25 watershed groups. These watershed groups are independent community run organizations which were started by people from the local community, all are non-profit, and some are charities.
What is a Watershed? © Trout River Environmental Committee
Trout River Environmental Committee (TREC) is one such watershed group, managing nine watersheds covering 35,000 acres from Stanley Bridge to Cavendish and down as far as Route 2. TREC has a board of seven, two full-time employees, and five or six summer students. Some watershed groups are larger, such as Bedeque Bay, and some smaller, such as Ellen’s Creek. Watershed groups employ one or more full-time staff, but in the summer they grow in size when they employ students to do tree planting, stream restoration, water quality monitoring, sediment mitigation projects, public trail maintenance, bat monitoring, invasive species removal, public education, and many other activities which benefit the local environment and give their students great work experience. Watershed groups work with local landowners and farmers to help them address soil loss and other environmental issues, and to implement government funded programs such as saltmarsh restoration, shoreline protection, forest diversification plantings, and bat protection.
Watershed Group students clearing public walking trails. © Trout River Environmental Committee
Funding for watershed groups comes from a number of sources. The provincial Watershed Management Fund provides core funding for one permanent staff member, and various provincial and federal programs provide funds for interns, students, and projects. The Wildlife Conservation Fund provides funds for projects in the summer and winter (including the development of this document) and this is where much of your fishing license and conservation license plate money ends up. Some groups receive funds from foundations, and donations and membership fees make up the remainder of a watershed group’s funding.
Watershed groups have volunteer boards, and provide opportunities for other volunteers to help with fieldwork. Watershed groups get a tremendous amount of work done with a relatively small budget, work that is essential to maintaining and restoring the environmental integrity of our Island. Becoming a member, for a small annual fee, helps your local watershed group immensely.
The PEI Watershed Alliance (peiwatershedalliance.org) is a loose cooperative of watershed groups, with its own staff. The Watershed Alliance supports the watershed groups by providing expertise and resources, by bringing in government funds for large projects and managing those projects, by sitting on various farming and environment committees, and by advocating for good environmental stewardship and practices on the Island.
To find out which watershed group is working in your area, visit peiwatershedalliance.org. All groups welcome new members, publish newsletters detailing local environmental events, and provide volunteer opportunities. Also, your local watershed group can help you to enhance your own property for wildlife, connect you with various government funding programs that protect and restore nature, and help you to learn about your local bats, birds, fish, and forests. All watershed groups welcome e-mails and calls whether you need advice or help, want to report a wildlife sighting, have a site for tree planting, or any environmental question.
If you know any returning students (15 and older) who are looking for a great summer job, all the watershed groups hire staff every summer. Visit peiwatershedalliance.org to find your local group contact information.
There are other organizations on the Island
that work in the environmental sphere, here is a list:
Island Nature Trust
Bianca McGregor, ED
Environmental Coalition of PEI (ECOPEI)
Gary Schneider, Dan MacRae
Sierra Club - PEI
Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project
Gary Schneider, ED
PEI Watershed Alliance
Heather Laiskonis, ED
Save Our Seas and Shores - PEI Chapter
Don't Frack PEI
Renewable Energy PEI
Council of Canadians
Pesticide Free PEI
Maureen Kerr, co-chair
Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water
Catherine O'Brien, chair
Coalition for the Protection of PEI Lands
Marie Burge, Ann Wheatley
Nature Conservancy of Canada
Nature PEI - Natural History Society
PEI Invasive Species Council
Green Economy Network - PEI
Citizens' Alliance of P.E.I.
LAMP (Latin American Mission Program)
National Farmers Union
Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network
PEI Federation of Agriculture
Donald Killorn, ED
East Prince Agri-Environment Association
PEI Food Security Network
Food Exchange PEI
Ducks Unlimited PEI
Institute for Bioregional Studies
PEI Certified Organic Producer's Coop
PEI Woodlot Owners Association
Sustainable Forest Alliance
UPEI Environmental Collective
Candian Wildlife Health Cooperative
Megan Jones, Regional Dir.
The Lung Association of NS and PEI
Trade Justice PEI
PEI Youth for Climate Change
Bats of Prince Edward Island
Little Brown Bat with White Nose Syndrome. Credit: Ryan von Linden/New York Department of Environmental Conservation
Bats are amazing creatures. They have adapted to live all over the world, and eat many different foods, but the bats you see on the Island are all insect eaters. Our most common bat is the little brown bat, or little brown myotis, and roosts can contain many hundreds of bats. They gather together for warmth, roosting an attic, barn, hole in a tree, or bat box, preferably in full sun, and coming out at dusk to hunt for insects. A pregnant female can eat her own weight in insects overnight! Some little brown bats overwinter on PEI in abandoned hand-dug wells, but it is believed that most migrate to mainland caves, where they like 100% humidity with a temperature just above zero.
Just before hibernating, bats congregate at swarming sites in the fall, which is when they mate. The females store the sperm over winter and fertilize their eggs in the spring.
White nose syndrome is a fungal disease in bats originating in Europe, quickly spreading from east to west in North America, arriving on PEI in 2012. It causes some bats to become irritated, to wake up and fly around during hibernation periods in the winter, causing them to use more energy and therefore not survive through the winter hibernation period where they should be mostly dormant and conserving energy. Keep in mind there is almost no food in the winter to sustain this increased energy use, so they usually die of starvation.
White nose syndrome is spread quickly during winter hibernation when bats are gathered together in groups. Some bats develop white fuzzy noses, hence the name, but the most common characteristic is lesions (tears and holes) on their wings. The disease does not affect humans or other species, but because bats may carry rabies and they can have an infectious fungus in their dung, it is recommended that people do not touch bats or enter their roosts. Bats reproduce very slowly, a female will usually only have one pup a year, so it may take 100 years to offset the impacts of white nose syndrome.
Losing bats could cost Canada billions of dollars. Bats are insect eaters, meaning losing bats means losing pest control in forests and agriculture. In addition, they help with seed dispersal and pollination of agricultural and wild plants.
Watershed groups are monitoring bat populations. We are recording bat calls at swarming sites and while driving around with a microphone connected to a GPS unit. This data is fed into a North American bat database (NABat). Bat surveys over the past few years have revealed that we have as many as six species - one of which, the Eastern Red, was only first detected in 2020. Many watershed groups are also building bat boxes, and we’d love to hear from you if you have seen bats.
Please report any bat sightings to help researchers monitor bat health issues and determine the size and health of local populations, on 1-833-434-2287. For more information, visit https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/environment-energy-and-climate-action/white-nose-syndrome-on-pei
Here are the bats that we find on PEI:
Little Brown Bat, or Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus)
Little Brown Bat or Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus) is our most common bat and is widespread throughout PEI in the summer months, but it is still endangered. They have been found overwintering on PEI in abandoned hand-dug wells, and we sometimes find a dead bat during the winter. Most spend their summers on PEI and their winters on the mainland where they hibernate. They have been found in summer roost sites of well over 100 individuals and, when they hibernate, one hibernaculum can contain thousands of bats.
Northern long-eared bat, or Northern myotis (Myotis septentrionalis)
Northern long eared bat, © Jordi Segers, Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative
The Northern long-eared bat or Northern myotis (Myotis septentrionalis) also spend their summers on the Island and their winters on the mainland, where they hibernate, but they have been found overwintering on PEI in abandoned hand-dug wells. Most likely only found in forest patches, their distribution is not as widespread as the Little Brown Myotis.
The next three migrate to warmer areas in the winter, and don’t hibernate:
Hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus)
Hoary bat, © Jordi Segers, Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative
One single Hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus) has been found on PEI, and they have been detected by acoustic monitoring as they have a distinct echolocation call. This is a migratory bat, which doesn’t hibernate.
Eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis)
Eastern red bat, © Jordi Segers, Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative
Eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis) was only discovered on PEI in 2020 by acoustic monitoring, as they have a distinct echolocation call. This is a migratory bat, which doesn’t hibernate.
Silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans)
Silver-haired bat, © Jordi Segers, Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative
Silver-haired bats (Lasionycteris noctivagans) may have been detected by acoustic monitoring, but we are unsure if they were Silver-Haired or Big Brown bats (see below) because their calls are so similar. This is a migratory bat, which doesn’t hibernate.
The last two are probably not on PEI, but they do hibernate:
Tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus)
Tri-colored bat, © Jordi Segers, Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative
Tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus) is probably not found on PEI, but they are found just south of here so we are looking out for them.
Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus)
Big brown bat, © Jordi Segers, Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative
Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) may have been detected by acoustic monitoring, but we are unsure if they were Big Brown or Silver-Haired bats because their calls are so similar.
Please do let your local watershed group know if you have an abandoned hand-dug well that might be used for bat hibernation. We may be able to provide a protective cover to let bats in while keeping people and wildlife out, and we may want to put acoustic monitors at the site, to record bat calls.
Bat cage over and abandoned well. © Trout River Environmental Committee
How to manage bats in buildings:
Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative –
More about White Nose Syndrome:
Two simple bat box designs you can build yourself:
Birds of PEI
There are several bird species classified as threatened on PEI. The main ones are bobolink, barn swallow, bank swallow, piping plover (endangered), eastern wood-pewee, Canadian warbler, and olive-sided flycatcher. These species are all migratory, and usually overwinter in warmer climate areas, so because of this we on the Island can only do so much to help. There are many other birds that need our help too, including American kestrel, tree swallow, and wood duck.
If you spot any of these species on or near your property, you can contact your local watershed group as some of these birds can be helped by installing a species-specific nesting box. If you want to build a nesting box yourself, there are many resources to help you at https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/
Some nest boxes, such as for tree swallows, are very simple to build. To make a tree swallow box, all you need is four feet of rough-sawn 1x6. It is very straightforward - cut it into pieces, drill a hole, and nail it together. If you aren’t able to make a box, contact your local watershed group – they may be able to provide you with one. Boxes can also be built for Barred Owls, Wood Ducks and American Kestrels, and nesting ledges for Barn Swallows too.
Here’s a bit of information about some birds on the Island which you can help by providing habitat and nest boxes for them:
Tree Swallow. Credit: Ron Arvidson
Tree Swallows are of low concern in conservation status, because they are common, but this does not take away from the fact that their global population has declined by 49% from 1966 to 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey (Cornell University, 2019). Nesting boxes do help, but what is even more important is to increase available habitat and natural nesting sites, as these are more commonly used than man-made nesting boxes. Natural nesting sites include nesting cavities in older or dead trees. Protecting forests on PEI is vital in increasing tree swallow populations. In addition, tree swallows have a high insect diet, which makes them very susceptible to the impacts of pesticides. If you are interested in building a tree swallow nesting box you can find the plans at https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses or you can contact your local watershed group for assistance.
Breeding Male. Credit: Ben Russell, Island Nature Trust
Female Bobolink. Credit: Nellie Haldane, Island Nature Trust
The conservation status of bobolinks is declining. Based on Breeding Bird Survey data, the Canadian population has been declining by 2.6% per year from 1970 to 2019, a total reduction of 73% from 1970 to 2019. Bobolinks breed in open areas such as large fields, with mixed grasses and broad-leaved plants, hayfields and meadows. Bobolinks also move to freshwater marshes and coastal areas to molt before migrating to warmer climates (Cornell University, 2019). As they nest in hayfields, not cutting hay until mid-July is a good strategy, one that is promoted by the Island Nature Trust, and financial compensation for late haying is available through ALUS (see the section on ALUS).
American Kestrel. Credit: Nellie Haldane, Island Nature Trust
Female American Kestrel. Credit: Ron Arvidson
American Kestrels are widespread and therefore are of low concern in conservation status, but their populations have been in steady decline over the past 50 years. It is estimated that the American kestrel had a population decline of 1.4% per year between 1966 and 2017 within North America, resulting in a cumulative decline of 51% over that period (Cornell University, 2019). This decline in population is due to continuous land clearing and removal of dead trees which provide nesting sites. The American kestrel is also losing its prey due to farming practices which remove hedgerows, trees, and bushes. If you want to help improve American kestrel populations, consider using farming practices that include hedgerows, trees and bushes. Pesticides impact populations by reducing hatching success as well as removing insects, spiders, and other prey that these birds depend upon (Cornell University, 2019). American kestrels are very good at finding and using nest boxes, even when sited near to houses and roads. They are a beautiful bird to watch as they raise their brood of around five chicks. Nest box plans can be found at https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses.
Female and Male Wood Duck. ©Ducks Unlimited Canada/Michel Blachas
To see nest box plans, visit https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/birds/wood-duck
For information on Endangered or At Risk birds (and other species) in the PEI National Park, see https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/pe/pei-ipe/nature/conservation/especes-species
To report unusual bird sightings, and to report your earliest and latest sightings of various birds, see https://diary.peiclimate.ca
Merlin is a great bird identification app: https://merlin.allaboutbirds.org
Government Rules and Regulations
Rivers, streams, ponds, buffers, and wetlands are protected by the Environmental Protection Act, which includes the Watercourse and Wetland Protection Regulations. PEI is committed to protecting its water resources, and one way it does this is through regulations. Landowners with properties that border streams, rivers, the sea, or wetlands should know the regulations, they are there to protect our fish and wildlife.
Firstly, what is a watercourse and what is a wetland?
PEI Wetland. Photo courtesy of Government of Prince Edward Island
A watercourse is any stream, creek, pond, river, bay or coastal body of water, whether it contains water or not. A wetland is any area with soils and water regimes that support water-tolerant vegetation including marshes, swamps, bogs, and meadows.
Watercourses and wetlands require anyone to have a permit to:
• alter any features or disturb the ground
• dump or remove any material or objects of any kind
• build, repair, or remove structures or obstructions of any kind
• operate vehicles or equipment – except for launching a boat or the legal harvesting of a fishery resource
• alter or destroy vegetation, including cutting live trees and shrubs – except in a wooded swamp
• carry out stream enhancement activities
You may be able to get a permit to work in a watercourse or wetland. Watershed groups have blanket permits to do certain work for a limited time from June to September. Over the rest of the year, no work is usually permitted because it is the fish spawning season. For information on how to apply for a permit yourself, see https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/service/apply-for-a-watercourse-wetland-and-buffer-zone-activity-permit
Buffer zones are adjacent to all watercourses and wetlands. They are 15 metres wide, but one must keep in mind that while this is the absolute minimum required, watershed groups would recommend larger buffer zones to ensure better watercourse and wetland protection. There are government funding programs to pay you to expand your buffers beyond 15 metres, they are detailed elsewhere in this document.
Image courtesy of Government of Prince Edward Island
In the 15 metre buffer zones you need a permit to:
• alter or disturb the ground or soil
• dump any material or objects of any kind
• remove soil or rocks
• build, repair, or remove structures or obstructions of any kind
• operate vehicles or non-agricultural equipment
• cut down live trees and shrubs.
You may not grow any agricultural crops or use any pesticides in a buffer zone, unless the buffer zone is next to wetlands that are completely shrub swamps, bogs, wooded swamps, seasonally flooded flats, meadows, or landlocked ponds, but it is still not recommended to ensure the health of the watershed.
You may prune trees and shrubs, remove dead wood, plant grass, plant trees and shrubs - as long as you only use hand tools. You may also cut the grass in a buffer zone, but uncut grass could reduce the chance of runoff into watercourses and wetlands, and it would be much better for wildlife. Agricultural equipment may turn in a buffer zone.
If you grow row crops, which includes potatoes but not corn, all rows that end within 200 metres of a watercourse or wetland must end in 10 metres of grass (a grassed headland) that was established before the year the row crop is grown, or the rows must end right at the edge of the buffer zone. A grassed headland is not needed where there is an approved management plan for the property. You can get funding to pay for expanded buffer zones and expanded grassed headlands – see the later section on incentives for more information.
If you have an intensive livestock operation, which is more than seven animals per acre, you must follow additional rules including not allowing any livestock waste to enter any watercourse or wetland, and not building or expanding an intensive livestock operation within 90 metres of any watercourse or wetland without authorization.
More information on buffer zones: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/sites/default/files/publications/buffer_zones_fact_sheet.pdf
Pesticide use is regulated by the Provincial and Federal governments. The federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency decides which pesticides can be used for what purposes, and how frequently they can be applied. For instance, spray application of agricultural pesticide cannot be done if the windspeed is over 20km/h and Chlorothalonil, a potato pesticide, can only be applied three times per year. The rules are constantly being updated, so here are some links to the relevant legislation.
Pesticide use for cosmetic purposes, i.e. lawns and gardens, is discouraged. Natural lawns and gardens provide a haven for many types of wildlife, and the proximity of humans makes cosmetic pesticide use very controversial. In the past, people used toxic chemicals such as DDT and Diazinon as domestic pesticides until it was discovered that they impact human health. Until we learn more about the pathways by which these chemicals affect humans, especially children, it is best to avoid their use altogether.
If you believe you have seen a violation of any of the above rules, you can call the Agricultural Outreach officer on 902-393-5285. They will identify and approach the landowner or producer and give them advice on how to come into compliance with the rules.
You can report incidents of poaching, illegal dumping, or tips on illegal activity related to wildlife and the environment, to a conservation officer. Leave a detailed message anytime at 902-368-4884 (see the web page below for local numbers) or use the online form on the web page below to provide as much detail as possible about the issue.
Conservation Officers patrol the Province of PEI to monitor, preserve and protect our Island’s wildlife and natural resources. They conduct investigations and respond to reports from the public about potential violations under many pieces of provincial and federal legislation. You could encounter a Conservation Officer anywhere on PEI, including highways, beaches, riverbanks, or trails.
To report marine pollution or a spill on land/water, a suspected fish kill, or any other environmental emergency, please call 1-800-565-1633
Fishing, hunting, and trapping, including nuisance wildlife
Brook Trout, Rainbow Trout, Atlantic Salmon, and Smelts are the main sport fish in PEI’s rivers and streams. Much of the restoration work done by watersheds, the work of PEI Forests, Fish and Wildlife, and the fish ladders that the Province maintains, are to support the populations of these fish. Fishing seasons are regulated in order to allow the populations to recover during their spawning season, and the recreational angling season usually begins mid-April. Because these fish lay their eggs on stream-bottoms, it is important to keep out of streams and rivers during spawning season. Watershed groups are only allowed to do stream work from June to September, to prevent eggs (redds) from being disturbed. Trout and Salmon are two of the Island’s anadromous fish, that is fish that breed in fresh water and spend their adult lives in salt water. Trout can spend their entire lives in fresh water if they can’t reach the sea because of a dam, and in that case they do not grow as large.
Brook Trout. Image courtesy of Government of Prince Edward Island
Angling season for all freshwater fish species opens on April 15th of each year (in most locations) but opening and closing dates may vary depending on location and species. There may also be an extended season for Rainbow Trout in certain rivers. Refer to the Angling Summary for all the details.
An angling license is needed by anyone over 16, and you also need to pay the Wildlife Conservation Fund fee. Fishing for Brook Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Atlantic Salmon is covered by an angling license, and you must follow the regulations for each fish – which cover the dates, places, and methods that you can use. Fishing for Smelts does not require a license, but there are still rules that need to be followed. The rules for saltwater fish, such as Mackerel and Striped Bass, are handled by the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
For all the angling regulations and information, and where to get an angling license:
Angling, hunting, and trapping licenses:
To report marine pollution or a spill on land/water, a suspected fish kill, or any other environmental emergency, please call 1-800-565-1633
Hunting for migratory birds or upland game has been an important activity for generations of Islanders. The Hunting Resources and Information Centre provides links on licensing, resident and non-resident hunting regulations, outfitting and guides and hunter education programs.
What do I need in order to hunt on PEI?
If you are a resident of PEI, you must be at least 18 years of age, or accompanied by a licensed adult hunter if you are 12 to 17 years old. You must also complete a Hunter Safety Course. If you use a firearm you will need to take a Firearms Safety Course, or for bow hunting a Bow Hunting Safety Course. You will also need to purchase a PEI Hunting License, which includes an annual Wildlife Conservation fee.
To hunt migratory birds such as duck or geese, you will also need a federal Migratory Bird Hunting Permit.
Each year, a Hunting and Trapping Summary is published, with season dates, regulations, safety tips, and other information.
Most of PEI is privately owned so you should have the owner's permission before crossing and/or hunting on private lands. Public lands are open to hunting unless otherwise posted.
Common game species on PEI include Snowshoe Hare, Ruffed Grouse, and Hungarian (Grey) Partridge. Common Migratory game bird species include Canada Goose, American Black Duck, and American Woodcock.
Do I need a license to become a fur trapper on PEI?
Yes. Trappers must also have the permission of the landowner before setting any traps or snares, must tag their traps and snares with their trapper registration number, and must conduct trapping operations in a humane and sustainable manner which includes checking traps on a regular basis.
In order to obtain a trapping licence, you must complete a Trapper Education Course. These courses are held at least once a year, usually in October. The course is free to those 12 to 15 years of age, and $20 for those 16 years of age and over. To register for an upcoming a trappers' course, contact the Forests, Fish and Wildlife Division at 1-866-368-4683.
Trapping licences are available from Access PEI offices or from the Forests, Fish and Wildlife office at 183 Upton Rd in Charlottetown. You must also have a current Wildlife Conservation Fund (WCF) licence of $20/year ($13/year for those 65 years of age and older). The WCF fee is payable when you buy your trapping licence and once paid, this fee can also be applied to your annual hunting or angling licence.
Trapping is permitted on many public land properties. However, some properties are restricted due to their importance for other activities such as dog walking, hiking, and snowshoeing. Learn more about pet safety in trapping areas by reading ‘Responsible Pet Owners, Wildlife and Traps’ which can be found on this page: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/environment-energy-and-climate-action/trapping-information-centre
Dealing with nuisance wildlife
Raccoons, beavers, coyotes, and foxes can sometimes cause problems for homeowners and farmers. Deterrence is the best solution – using scents that the animals don’t like, or buying a raccoon proof garbage bin. Trappers can catch nuisance animals during their regular trapping season, and your local watershed group may be able to put you in touch with a trapper. Beavers are trapped by Provincial trappers when they block culverts under road crossings. Outside their normal trapping season, trappers need a nuisance permit to trap a nuisance animal. Trapping outside the season is discouraged, because the pelt is usually of poor quality and cannot be sold. Unfortunately, nuisance animals usually have to be killed because relocating them only moves the problem. Please call PEI Forests, Fish and Wildlife for information and assistance. For more information on all aspects dealing with nuisance animals, see:
Woodlots and Forest Management
The Wabanaki-Acadian Forest
Acadian forest is the name given by settlers to the forests of eastern Canada. This forest is also known as the Wabanaki forest, and it covers the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaw and Wolastoqiyik people. The name “Wabanaki” can be roughly translated into “dawnland,” and refers to the abundant and bountiful forest of the east, and the relationship between the ecosystem and indigenous people that has been nurtured over time.
Photo by Dan McNeill
The Island was covered in forest before settlers arrived. By the 1900, we had hit a low point with only about 30% forest cover, recovering to 48% by 1990. Unfortunately, that figure is falling again, with conversion to agriculture, blueberries, and development. Almost all Island forest has been cut at some point, and the tree species have changed, leaving us with few old growth trees and way more white spruce than there was in the past.
American Beech, Yellow Birch, Sugar Maple, White Pine, Red Spruce, Eastern Hemlock, Red Oak, White Ash, Balsam Fir, and Red Maple characterize the inland Acadian forest. In poorly drained soils, coastal areas, and areas recovering from disturbance, White Spruce, Black Spruce, Eastern Larch, Poplar, and White Birch proliferate. Jack Pine, Red Pine, Eastern White Cedar, Ironwood and Black Ash and American Elm occur in specific areas of PEI.
The range of the Wabanaki-Acadian Forest. Image courtesy of Government of Prince Edward Island
The native trees in our Acadian forest support native wildlife, where introduced species may not. A healthy and diverse ecosystem of plants, animals and fungi exists in the Acadian forest, including the mycorrhizal fungi that live symbiotically among the tree roots; beetles that live in rotting wood; birds and bats and flying squirrels that make their homes in dead trees; amphibians that live in leaf litter and vernal pools; snowshoe hares that feed on plants, twigs and bark; and eagles that feed on the hares. Biodiversity is not about the number of species, but rather their interdependencies. A biodiverse forest is resilient in that it can survive many natural and man-made shocks by reorganizing itself. And we are a part of that system of course - because we drink water that is stored and filtered by the forest, breathe air that is cleaned and oxygenated by the forest, and our mental wellbeing is supported by a healthy natural environment.
The Acadian Forest is on the boundary between the boreal forest in the north, and the temperate forest to the south. On the positive side this gives us a wide range of tree species, and therefore a greater resilience to environmental changes, while on the negative side many of our trees are highly sensitive to climate change. Boreal species, such as white spruce, are increasingly stressed by rising temperatures and may have trouble surviving at all in the near future, while some temperate species, such as white birch, are stressed by the larger number of freeze-thaw cycles in our winters.
Pests and diseases attack specific types of trees. Some are introduced in imported wooden packing cases or by people moving campfire wood, some are brought in on live trees and shrubs and seeds, and some are moving north with climate change. Take a look at the various invasive insects and diseases that can affect our trees, at https://peiinvasives.com
There are many excellent foresters and ecologists around the world calling for significant changes in the way our woodlands are managed. Many say that we should be managing forests with timber production as a by-product of the forest’s primary function: sustaining biological diversity, maintaining long-term ecosystem health, and storing carbon. Wood is valued as a commodity, whereas we are ignoring the value of all the other forest products and services – including those that sustain our own physical and mental health.
Clear-cutting and replanting in softwood plantations is an example of where we only value the wood as a commodity. Although it might yield some income every fifty years or so, this is not guaranteed, and it is extremely damaging in so many ways. There are better management techniques, which involve a bit more planning, that can yield so much more in the long run. Here are some techniques to consider when managing your forest:
Regular patch cuts, generally under 20m in diameter, or strip cuts of generally less than 20m wide, will encompass a low percentage of the total stand and will provide ideal spaces for natural forest regeneration or for interplanting with shade-tolerant species that will themselves be of high value in the future.
Selective harvesting involves the removal of individual trees for a specific purpose, so they are usually a high-value product. This also frees up nearby trees, allowing them to reach their full potential.
Early forest enhancement – the careful removal of some of the trees that may be crowding or overtopping more desirable species in a young stand.
Thinning – The only reasons for any thinning should be to improve quality and enhance both the species and structural diversity within the forest.
Planting – Unlike plantations, these plantings will make best use of existing regeneration and rely on strategic placement and species choice rather than large numbers.
Pruning – much of the existing regeneration and some of the larger trees as well will benefit greatly from some judicious pruning to improve growth and increase future value.
Girdling - cutting a strip of bark right around a tree, creates snag trees which are essential to so many wildlife species. Most Island forests, at least until Fiona passed through, don’t have enough dead or dying (snag) trees. These trees are used by flying squirrels, bats, owls, as well as bugs, fungi, and lichens. You should also consider leaving existing snag trees in place, rather than harvesting them.
Increasing coarse woody debris – leaving piles of wood and branches - provides many benefits to wildlife. Mammals, amphibians, and pollinating insects hibernate in brush piles. Fungi and decomposing insects live in them, and they eventually return carbon and nutrients to the forest. A healthy forest floor is an amazing carbon store, which contributes to the fight against climate change.
Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project is
a great place to start learning about our native trees and shrubs. They also
hold informative nature walks, and offer courses in ecology, pruning, and
The reduction in forest cover on PEI is
concerning. Despite the programs aimed at improving, planting, and preserving
the Island’s forests, we are still losing forest at an alarming rate, as of
2023. The private ownership of forest on PEI (around 90%) and the relatively
low uptake of the government’s Forest Enhancement Program (around 10%)
contributes to the inability of the provincial government to influence forestry
Forest Enhancement Program
If you own at least one hectare of woodland on PEI, the Forest Enhancement Program (FEP) can provide you with forestry-related advice and substantial financial assistance. The program has helped thousands of Island woodlot owners manage their woodlands for forest products, wildlife habitat, forest restoration, recreation, and health. Work done under the FEP can provide income from thinning and selective harvesting, which can be used to offset the cost of trail clearing, tree planting, and other work. The landowner also has the option to do the work themselves and be paid by the FEP.
Note that special changes were made in the wake of Hurricane Fiona, to enable woodlot owners a faster way to sign up for the FEP so that you can get post-Fiona incentives this season.
To participate, you need to own at least 1 hectare of forest land on PEI. The first step is to complete and submit the FEP Forest Management Plan Funding application form and a Landowner Agreement Form. The Province has Private Forest Technicians who can guide you through the whole process – see below for phone numbers.
Once your FEP Forest Management Plan Funding application is approved, you need to have a Forest Management Plan (FMP) prepared for your woodland. Plans are prepared by private sector forest consultants who will meet with you and prepare a Forest Management Plan tailored to your interests and the potential of your forest lands. For instance, if you use Macphail Woods to create your FMP, it will be focussed on wildlife and biodiversity enhancement, other consultants may focus more on future harvest value, it’s up to you who you choose.
Once your Forest Management Plan is approved, you may start to work on the recommended treatments. You can do the work yourself or hire a qualified forest contractor but in either case, the work must be done to the required minimum standard in order to qualify for financial assistance under the FEP. Forest Silviculture Contractors and Forest Harvest Contractors are registered with the Forest Enhancement Program and offer a variety of forest management and harvest treatments to land owners.
The province will provide funding up to 70 percent of the estimated cost for many, but not all, recommended treatments. As the property owner you are responsible for the remainder as well as any cost over runs. Funding can be denied for work that does not meet the required standard.
Forest Enhancement Program contact information:
Eastern PEI: 902-961-7296
Central PEI: 902-368-4800
Western PEI: 902-854-7260
Carbon Capture Tree Planting Program
This program is aimed at reducing the amount of greenhouse gas present in the atmosphere through the planting of trees. The program uses trees as a tool for storing large amounts of carbon and is a crucial part of the province's plan to meet its climate targets. The goal of the program is to see 250 hectares of abandoned farmland and other marginal public and private properties reforested across PEI.
Program funding comes from the Low Carbon Economy Fund (LCEF) and covers all the costs of planting. In addition, this program also covers a one-time Alternate Land Use Services (ALUS) payment for the area planted (refer to ALUS section for more information on ALUS). Site plantings completed under the CCTPP are also eligible for the various services offered through the Forest Enhancement Program (FEP)
To keep the carbon permanently stored in the trees and the forest floor and in the ground, we should be doing more than simply planting white spruce and other conifers. We need a proper plan for these areas to mature into permanent Wabanaki-Acadian forest, and we should ask for more diverse plantings, and long-term management plans, when we plant these areas.
Permanently protecting your forest
Your forest can be designated under the Natural Areas Protection Act (NAPA) if you want to protect it permanently. Protection is provided through a restrictive covenant and management plan that is placed on the deed and follows with it, even when there are changes in land ownership. Property taxes are waived on NAPA protected land. Alternatively, you may want to donate your forest or leave the land in your will to a land trust, such as the Island Nature Trust, and you will then receive a tax receipt, and possibly avoid capital gains tax. You can speak to the Island Nature Trust or Nature Conservancy of Canada about the different ways to protect your land.
Click to see a larger version. Image courtesy of Government of Prince Edward Island
For more complete information about your options, see the website below.
Organizations that woodlot owners can join:
PEI Woodlot Owners Association
Woodlot owners might benefit from membership of the PEIWOA, which provides a voice for woodlot owners on Prince Edward Island. PEIWOA is a non-profit, volunteer-driven, province-wide organization which represents private woodlot owners to government and industry, seeking resources for them to manage and harvest woodlots sustainably. PEIWOA supports good stewardship, safety, woodlot management education and best practices, and continues to lobby our Provincial government to support forestry consultants, fund its acclaimed Forestry Enhancement Program (FEP) and lead further evolving initiatives.
Sustainable Forestry Alliance
A non-profit co-operative of PEI forest-owners, the goal of the SFA is to support PEI forest management that is ecologically sustainable, climate-smart, and economically viable. The SFA can help you to understand, plan, and coordinate all aspects of how you steward your forest to meet the variety of goals that you may have, and the SFA can help with your Forest Management Plan and with securing financial rewards for the carbon sequestration and storage that is provided by your forest.
Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project has an excellent tree guide on their website, www.macphailwoods.org
Excellent old guides to trees, shrubs, and forest plants: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/environment-water-and-climate-change/forestry-and-wildlife-education-publications
Choosing the right tree for a site, and where to buy them: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/environment-energy-and-climate-action/trees-and-shrubs
An invasive species is an organism that is not native, and which causes harm to the environment, the economy, or social health. Invasive plants outcompete native plants, and they often don’t support local wildlife because they are not part of the natural ecosystem. Many invasive plants were introduced as ornamental garden plants and have escaped. Some are still being sold in Canada. Invasive species can be any type of organism: plants, animals, insects or diseases. Watershed groups are particularly concerned with invasive species in riparian areas, but also with aquatic invasives, which can have a serious effect on our fishing and aquaculture industries, and invasive insects, which are increasingly affecting our native trees.
Some of the common invasive plants that watershed groups remove include wild cucumber, glossy buckthorn, bittersweet nightshade, and Japanese knotweed. Most of these can be cut or pulled up, but it is an annual task because it is virtually impossible to remove all plants and seeds from ubiquitous species. If you see an invasive plant, please report it to your local watershed group or to one of the organizations listed below.
And remember that removing invasive plants in a buffer zone (within 15 meters of a wetland or watercourse) requires a permit: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/service/apply-for-a-watercourse-wetland-and-buffer-zone-activity-permit
Wild cucumber is a vine that has distinctive leaves with 5 deep lobes and a heart-shaped base. Each leaf is paired with a long curly tendril. White lowers bloom from July to August and the vine produces prickly, oval-shaped fruit which release the plant's seeds with explosive force. This species requires moist soil and full sun and is often seen growing up high on trees and shrubs. Its bright green colour and prickly fruit make it easy to spot.
Wild Cucumber grows along trails, in fields, on the edges of forests, and in riparian zones across PEI. It grows on other shrubs and trees and can choke out smaller plants. If left unchecked it can totally smother native plants.
1. Pull by hand
The best way to control wild cucumber vines is to hoe or pull the plants as soon as you notice them in spring. If you don’t notice them early in the season, you can mow the vines repeatedly to keep them in check. The most important thing is to get rid of the vines before they go to seed. If you are removing them in mid to late August, when the seeds are present, double-bag the seeds in thick clear plastic bags, label them ‘invasive plant’ or ‘wild cucumber’ and put them in your black bin or take them to a waste-watch drop-off centre.
2. Defoliation via Mowing
Use on small infestations. You can repeatedly mow or cut down the leaves in a growing season to remove the plant’s ability to photosynthesize and therefore the roots will begin to die.
3. Inform your local watershed group
If you see a large infestation, please tell
your local watershed group. They will either report the infestation or remove
For more information, see https://peiinvasives.com/wild-cucumber
The bark is brown with markings (called lenticils) that look like white paint splatters. The branches emerge at 90 degrees from the main stem. The leaves are alternate and are elliptical to egg shaped. They have smooth edges that are often wavy, and the top side of the leaf is shiny. The veins on the glossy buckthorn leaves extend straight towards the edges of the leaf in a similar pattern to fish bones. Leaves emerge early in the spring and remain late into the fall, when they turn yellow. Red berries appear in June which turn to black and, like the leaves, remain on the plant late into the year.
Glossy Buckthorn (with wild cucumber) © Trout River Environmental Committee
This is a shrub that can grow to 20 feet tall, and can smother out all other plant life. It releases a chemical into the soil to suppress other plants. The berries remain on the plant over winter, and they contain a laxative which increases the spread of seeds by birds. The berries are of low nutritional value, which can weaken the energy reserves of native birds.
1. Pulling or digging
Pull up smaller plants, preferably early in the season, after a rain when the soil is moist. Dig up larger plants and consider planting a native species on the site. Either leave the plants high and dry so that their roots can’t reach the ground, or double-bag the plants in thick clear plastic bags, label them ‘invasive plant’ or ‘glossy buckthorn’ and put them in your black bin or take them to a waste-watch drop-off centre. Bagging is preferred if there are berries on the plants.
For larger plants, cut a two inch ring around the base of the trunk. Cut the bark and the green layer underneath, making sure not to cut into the trunk below the green layer – that will encourage it to sprout.
3. Inform your local watershed group
If you see a large infestation, please tell your local watershed group. They will either report the infestation or remove it themselves.
For more information, see https://peiinvasives.com/glossy-buckthorn
Invasive vine with dark green leaves and one or two small ear-like lobes near the base. The flowers are star-shaped and purple. It produces berries that are round or egg-shaped, green when immature and bright red when ripe. The main root grows horizontally just below the surface and suckers frequently.
Bittersweet nightshade can become the dominant weed along small creeks and crowd out native species, and can even disrupt water flow in streams due to thick mats of plants. It is also toxic to small animals.
1. Hand pulling
Use for small infestations where the soil is moist and loose. This method is therefore ideal for around streams or after rain. Hand pull and dig out the plant using extreme care to ensure the entire root system is removed. Root fragments that have been left in the soil will grow into a new plant.
Use for large infestations, but requires a time commitment. This strategy requires the species to be defoliated 5 or more times a year. Cutting 5 times or more each year, throughout the growing season, can reduce photosynthesis to the point that the roots are “starved out” and plants die. There is no need to dig out the roots as they will die without the photosynthesis of the leaves.
Use for large infestation or where the soil is dry. Start by cutting the plants to the ground then cover with a heavy-duty geotextile fabric (woven plastic fabric) or other sheet mulching material. Covering needs to be kept securely in place for at least two years and should be checked several times a year. This method of control will kill all plants so may not be appropriate if desirable plants are present on site.
Work first in least infested areas, moving
towards more heavily infested areas.
Dispose of weeds and do not leave on site as they may regrow. Re-check areas where the species was removed consistently to ensure any regrowth is removed. Replant areas with native plants or trees once removal is conducted.
Infested areas will require follow-up management lasting for several years to control plants re-growing from the seed bank or remaining roots.
Japanese Knotweed has thick but hollow stems, green and often with a purple/red colour too. The hairless leaves emerge in a zig-zag (alternate) pattern along the stem, and are heart or shield shaped, with smooth edges and a distinct tip.
Japanese Knotweed has very deep roots, which can crack concrete foundations. It grows aggressively and can smother native plants over large areas. Small pieces of stem or leaf can grow into new plants. It tolerates many environments and can take years to eradicate.
If you cut the stems, double-bag the plants in thick clear plastic bags, label them ‘invasive plant’ or ‘Japanese Knotweed’ and put them in your black bin or take them to a waste-watch drop-off centre. Make sure you cut the stems low down, as they can photosynthesize. Pick up every last piece of leaf and stem, and clean your tools and clothes afterwards. It will take years of cutting to eradicate a patch, but for a small patch this is a viable method.
Firstly, follow the ‘cutting’ method above. Then place tarp or heavy black plastic over the entire site, extending two metres past the edge of the site. Weight the tarp down with soil or shale, or rocks. This will prevent light from entering and create heat to kill re-growth. Regularly cut and dispose of any shoots that appear. Leave the tarp in place for five years after you see the last shoots appear.
Sites that require immediate remediation can be managed by using an excavator to dig up at least 2m of soil, then burying that soil in a pit at least 5m deep. Accounting for every last piece of plant, and long-term monitoring, is required.
Again, as with all invasives, report the location to your local watershed group so that they can keep checking the site in future years.
If you are interested in learning more about invasive species and how to identify them, visit https://peiinvasives.com
If you find invasive species, whether you remove it yourself or not, you can contact your local watershed group who may be able to help with removal and management, and will keep checking the site in future years.
The Invasive Species Council also has an app to help track invasive species on the Island. The app can be found at https://peiinvasives.com/report/
Water Quality (and air quality)
The quality of groundwater (which we drink) and surface water (in streams and estuaries) is affected by agricultural chemicals, effluent from septic systems, run-off during heavy rain events, and other pollution sources. There are ways that we can test for, and protect ourselves from, chemicals in our drinking water.
Drinking water quality
If your water comes from a residential well, it is a good idea to get it tested on a regular basis. Drinking water can be tested for several different contaminants. Pick up a bottle from an Access PEI site, fill it up, complete a form, and return it to Access PEI. The government now provides this service for no fee, to Islanders with a residential well. There are three main sources of contaminants in drinking water, and three different treatment systems for them, as described below.
Nitrates can easily be tested for in drinking water. Many Island wells have nitrate levels that are higher than the safe recommended level, which is 10mg/L nitrate-nitrogen, so it is worth getting your water tested. While getting your water tested for nitrates, you can also have coliform (bacteria) and general chemistry tests done at the same time. If nitrates are present at high levels, a reverse osmosis or ion exchange system can be installed in your home. UV light (for bacteria) and carbon block filters (for pesticides and heavy metals) will not reduce the nitrate levels.
Coliform bacteria can be easily tested for, and their presence is a reasonable indication of whether other pathogenic bacteria are there as well, bacteria that can cause harm to humans. A Coliform test can be done as part of your water test, and a UV light treatment system is often the best solution – killing the bacteria as they pass by the light.
With the heavy use of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides on PEI, we need to minimize their effect on our drinking water. Many Islanders have installed carbon block filters on their drinking water supplies, to remove any traces of chemicals, as it is likely that most wells have detectable levels of pesticides in the water. Filtering your drinking water is inexpensive, whereas testing for pesticides is very expensive. There are many good under-the-sink systems that are easy to install and the filters, which need replacing annually, only cost around $150. Note that carbon block filters will not reduce the nitrate or bacteria levels of your water – for nitrates you will need a reverse osmosis or ion exchange system, and for bacteria a UV light system.
Surface water quality (streams and estuaries)
Nitrates from fertilizer, manure, septic tanks, and natural sources, can cause Anoxia in our estuaries during hot weather. Anoxia is caused by green algae such as sea lettuce (Ulva) which thrives in hot, nutrient rich water. When the nutrients run out, the sea lettuce dies and rots, resulting in a milky green colour and a rotten egg smell. There is a drastic reduction in the oxygen content of the water because the rotting process consumes the oxygen, often until the oxygen level is zero. This will stress fish and other river-dwelling creatures, and is a problem that we must try to eradicate. The Provincial Government records and studies Anoxia, looking for ways to reduce its frequency. Many watershed groups keep diaries, records of anoxic events, to help with this process. If you have sight of an estuary from your home, or drive by an estuary every day, and would like to help, please contact your local watershed group for more information.
Anoxia in a PEI estuary. © Trout River Environmental Committee
Heavy rain events inevitably cause sediment to enter our streams and rivers. Much of the work that is done by watershed groups is to address this problem – by building and emptying sediment traps, by reconnecting streams to their flood-plain, by building brush-mats to trap sediment in the spring, by planting riparian areas with trees and shrubs, and by clearing blockages and identifying failing culverts. Sediment that is entering a stream through a channel, a blow-out, causes big problems in the stream. The Agri-Watershed Partnership and the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) provide funds and expertise to remedy run-off issues by either direct remedial work or by identifying and funding practices to prevent future run-off. See the section on Incentive Programs for more details.
Hot water causes stress to fish and other river life. Brook Trout experience negative effects when the water is above 16 degrees C or so, and stop growing when it is around 23 degrees C. Unfortunately, some of our shallow estuaries and ponds, many of which have been filled in by sediment, are within this temperature range. Planting trees in riparian zones (next to the water) for shade can help, as can narrowing our wider streams. Watershed groups use these techniques every year in their work.
Sediment, pesticides, and temperature
Fish and other river life can perhaps survive one, maybe two, of these stressors. Resolving one of them may be enough to save the population.
Open Data on Water
See the Government of PEI’s Open Data Portal for temperature, chemical, and pesticide measurements in many of our wells, streams, and rivers: https://data.princeedwardisland.ca – in fact this is a fascinating site to browse around for all kinds of environmental data and other information.
The government has created a Water Registry, which is a website where you can find water data, science reports on water, and water status reports. The data is presented in an easy-to-use dashboard type format with interactive maps and graphs. It includes everything from stream water analyses, stream flow, well locations, drinking water analyses to water table levels and water usage. It also includes summaries of water quality and water usage on a watershed basis. The Water Registry is at https://water.princeedwardisland.ca
Surface Water Data
Many watershed groups do regular temperature and chemical measurements in streams and estuaries. Usually a portable meter is used, and parameters measured include temperature, nitrates, pH, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen. Some watershed groups also take grab samples and perform lab testing for nitrates, and some have temperature loggers permanently located in the stream. This data is useful to many researchers, and it enables us to see where there are problem areas, and see the fluctuations during they year and over the long term. We upload this data to the web, and you can visualize this data on an interactive map using the Atlantic Datastream website at https://atlanticdatastream.ca
Radon gas issues on PEI
Island homes are susceptible to high levels of radon gas, especially in below-ground areas. The gas occurs naturally in the ground and can seep into houses, causing a lung cancer risk as radon is radioactive. It’s a good idea to get your home’s radon level tested. Radon test kits can be bought, or borrowed from libraries, or acquired through the Evict Radon program. If you do have a radon problem, there are businesses who can install systems to draw the gas out and disperse it harmlessly outside the house.
Climate change is upon us, so we have to both mitigate and adapt. Mitigation involves actions that we can all take to reduce our personal contribution to climate change. Adaptation involves taking measures to protect ourselves and our environment from the ill effects of climate change.
We can easily dismiss climate change as ‘too big a problem’ for us to get our heads around, something that is beyond our control. But we all need to do everything we can, no matter how small, and governments are starting to see that by offering financial incentives and rolling out programs and targets that work on a human scale.
We can also adapt to the effects of climate change, and on the Island we see the need to adapt when we are hit with unprecedented storm surges and hurricanes. Resilience in coastal areas is a large part of that adaptation, and watershed groups are on the forefront of those efforts. Increasing the resilience of our marshes and wetlands, planting diverse forest ecosystems on water frontage, restoring flow and fish passage in streams, working with farmers to reduce run-off from storms, monitoring water quality in estuaries and streams, helping find ways to make farming more resilient in our increasingly variable weather – these are some of the areas where watershed groups are making a difference.
What you can do
PEI has very generous incentives for electric vehicles, heat pumps, solar panels, insulation, and other energy saving equipment such as smart thermostats. The payback period for these is becoming shorter as the technology becomes cheaper, and they all result in an immediate reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
You may be eligible for a free heat pump. If you have an energy audit done on your home, you are then eligible for provincial and federal grants for heat pumps, insulation, and other work. There is a substantial federal grant towards heat pumps, if you install enough to heat your whole house. See the Net Zero Navigator page to see what incentives and rebates you can get, at https://netzeronavigatorpei.com/question_e.php and the Energy Efficient Equipment Rebates page at https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/environment-energy-and-climate-action/energy-efficient-equipment-rebates, or contact your MLA for more information.
The government plans to reach Net Zero emissions by 2040. Find out more at https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/environment-energy-and-climate-action/path-to-net-zero
Travel is a huge contributor to greenhouse gasses. 41% of PEI’s emissions are from transportation. So meet online, don’t fly as much, ride-share, don’t make that trip unless you have to, don’t idle your vehicle for more than 10 seconds.
Plant trees, or even just let that spare piece of land revert to forest on its own. There are several generous forest incentive programs listed elsewhere in this document. If you abandon a piece of land, and there is a forest nearby to provide a seed source, it will start capturing carbon and will eventually become a mature forest, and you can help it along with careful management. Reforesting the planet (and PEI) is an excellent way for a small landowner to do their bit.
Reduce, re-use, repair, recycle. Buy a new battery for your toothbrush or phone from an on-line retailer. We have found that Amazon, toothbrushbattery.com, osibatteries.com, and battdepot.com deliver what they promise. Also, local repair shops can install new iPhone batteries. Buy used kids toys and other items. Donate unwanted goods, or sell or give them away online, to prevent plastic waste.
Armouring your shoreline is not recommended, and you need a permit to place any structure within the 15 metre buffer zone. Rock armouring causes the neighbouring properties to erode even faster, and eventually the armouring may well cause worse erosion than if it wasn’t there.
Living Shorelines is a new shoreline protection method that is being tested out by the Watershed Alliance and other groups. The idea is to use rocks, logs, trees, shrubs, and shoreline vegetation to create a natural barrier to erosion. Some trials have been very successful, others have been washed away in the worst storms. You can see an example of a Living Shoreline along the shore-front trail by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Saltwater marshes provide an excellent defence against climate change. They remove energy from the waves during storms, prevent flooding by storing water during strong rainfall events, store carbon, and provide food and habitat for many species of fish, amphibians, birds and insects. PEI is surrounded by many small, and some large, saltwater marshes. Remember that a marsh or wetland is a protected area, and has a buffer zone of 15 metres just like any other waterfront area.
Retreating from the immediate area is often the only option to combat coastal erosion, and we will see more of that as the sea level rises.
CLIMAtlantic, which facilitates access to regionally relevant climate information, was created in partnership with Atlantic Canada’s Provincial governments. CLIMAtlantic has produced a Coastal Adaptation Toolkit which provides advice for property owners on how to best prepare for coastal climate impacts. The toolkit asks you a series of questions, then offers advice on a way forward. The toolkit can be found at https://climatlantic.ca/coastal-adaptation
ALUS and other incentive programs
Note that most of these programs are available to property owners, regardless of whether you are a farmer.
The Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) program pays landowners to provide ‘ecological goods and services’ by extending buffer zones, retiring high-slope land from row cropping, delaying hay cutting to allow birds to fledge, and erecting livestock fencing around streams. Annual payments are made to the landowner to compensate for lost farm revenue, and the land can still be used for low intensity livestock (less than 7 head per acre).
Any landowner can apply. You don’t have to be an active farmer, although the land must have been in annual crop production in the recent past. If successful, you will receive an annual payment. Look at the website to see what you might be eligible for, then contact the program officer and they will help you with your application.
Note that the ALUS program is currently being expanded, so check their website for updates.
Hedgerow Planting Program
This program provides funding towards the planting of trees or shrubs to protect soil from wind and rain erosion, prevent runoff from entering streams and rivers, and create windbreaks for buildings and livestock. The land must be at least 1 hectare, and you must commit to maintaining the plantings for 15 years.
Other programs for woodlands
See the section on Woodlots for information on forestry incentives and subsidies, including the Forest Enhancement Program and the Carbon Capture Tree Planting Program.
Buffer Zone Acquisition Program
Landowners with land within 50m of a watercourse who are interested in selling that land, can contact Forests, Fish and Wildlife on 902-368-6450 for further information. The Province will assess the property (or piece of property) and may offer a fair market value to acquire the land.
Perennial Crop Program (includes fruit trees and shrubs)
Designed to increase environmental sustainability in PEI’s agriculture sector under the Canadian Agriculture Partnership (CAP). This program supports high-value perennial crop production and production systems, with an emphasis on the establishment of new and expanding perennial crop enterprises. Additionally, they will support projects focused on technologies designed to improve efficiencies, reduce costs, add value, improve production value, and increase market access.
Up to 50% of eligible expenses to a maximum of $40,000 can be provided towards the establishment of perennial crops (tree fruit, shrub fruit, etc.) including, trellises, irrigation, weed control barriers, mulch, seed for orchard/vineyard ground cover, etc. Activities leading to more efficient or technologically advanced perennial crop production systems such as irrigation, weed control, and storage systems are also covered.
Note that this program is currently being expanded, so check their website for updates.
Other Programs for Farmers and non-profit groups
Greening Spaces Program: was developed for
communities, schools, and volunteer groups, and provides tree and shrub
seedlings. Delivered by the Province of Prince Edward Island.
CAP (Canadian Agricultural Partnership) Agriculture Stewardship Program, CAP was updated in 2023. Delivered by the Province of Prince Edward Island.
The Agriculture Stewardship Program, which is a part of CAP, provides incentives for Beneficial Management Practices. It is a suite of initiatives to help pay for BMPs that benefit the environment.
PEI Agri-Watershed Partnership: Funding and
advice for reducing the effects of agricultural run-off. Applications under
this program are made in conjunction with your local watershed group.
Small Marsh Program: Restore or construct
wetlands for biodiversity, livestock watering, and nutrient management.
Delivered by Ducks Unlimited Canada.
On Farm Climate Action Fund: incentivizes
adoption of beneficial management practices to reduce GHG emissions and
increase carbon sequestration by Improved grazing management, advanced grazing
management practices, and winter cover cropping. Delivered by the PEI Federation
Boating and Aquaculture
Aquaculture is breeding and raising fish and shellfish – essentially farming as opposed to wild harvesting. PEI has a large aquaculture industry consisting of mussel and oyster leases in our bays, plus finfish (salmon, trout, halibut) hatcheries on land and in sea pens.
Oysters are cultivated on the bottom or on the surface, in cages or bags. Mussels are cultivated in socks which hang from lines with floats to keep the lines at the surface. Aquaculture leases are granted to business by the government, and you will see these laid out in many bays.
There is also a licensed wild oyster harvesting season, where oysters can be lifted from the bottom using oyster tongs and a dory. Wild hard shelled and soft-shelled clams can also be harvested on PEI beaches, by anyone.
For information about oyster aquaculture on PEI, visit https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/fisheries-and-communities/oysters
For information about mussel aquaculture on PEI, visit https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/fisheries-and-communities/mussels
To operate a powered craft, you need to take an on-line boating safety course, and purchase a Pleasure Craft Operator Card. Visit https://www.boatnbob.com/pei-prince-edward-island-boating-license.aspx
For information on whether you need to register your boat, all the boating regulations, and boating safety information, visit https://tc.canada.ca/sites/default/files/migrated/tp_511e.pdf
To operate a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard, you must have an approved personal flotation device and a sound signalling device such as a whistle. If you are traveling at night or leaving the shore, additional safety equipment is needed – see the links above for more information. And remember that rules for impaired operation of any watercraft apply just like they do for driving a car.
If you plan to build a stairway or other beach access, or build a boat launch or dock, you will need a permit https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/service/apply-for-a-watercourse-wetland-and-buffer-zone-activity-permit
Clean Dry Drain – preventing the spread of invasive species
Aquatic invasive plants, animals, and
diseases can spread through water-based recreation when they cling to our
watercraft and gear. These species spread alarmingly fast and threaten Canada’s
waterways including recreational areas, aquatic habitat, native species,
drinking water supplies, and drainage infrastructure. Please follow the Clean
Drain Dry steps and best practices to protect water resources and stop the
spread of aquatic invasive species – every time you move your watercraft.
Bugs, Amphibians, and other interesting facts
Many of the flies that bother us in the summer and provide food for birds, spiders, and bats, spend the early part of their lives as larvae living under rocks in our streams. Some of them spend more than one winter there. If you lift a rock in a stream, you will see them crawling around on the rock. These larvae are essential food for fish and other aquatic organisms. They are also great indicators for stream health. Because some of them are not pollution tolerant, lack of these species can indicate that a pollution event occurred in the recent past.
PEI has ten species of amphibians – salamanders, frogs, toads, and newts. Ponds and wetlands are perfect habitat for amphibians, but many can be found in wet undisturbed areas anywhere on PEI, and salamander eggs are often seen in vernal pools and even in water filled ruts in fields. Amphibians are particularly susceptible to pesticides, because of their permeable skin, and fragmentation of their habitat is another source of stress for them.
Yellow-Spotted Salamander. Photo by Beth Hoar
No Mow May
No Mow May is a campaign to allow your lawn to grow and give pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and beetles better access to nectar early in the year when they need it the most. You should also not move piles of leaves and brush, or do any burning in the spring, until the temperature is consistently 10 degrees during the day. This is because pollinators, small mammals, and amphibians, will be hibernating in those areas, and by waiting a bit longer gives them a chance to emerge.
Leaving longer grass around your home, and avoiding chemical treatments for weeds and bugs, is something that we can all do to help provide a haven for pollinators and beneficial insects, as well as respecting the allergies and wellbeing of our neighbours.
Island Trails provides a good map of walking trails at https://islandtrails.ca/trails which includes the Devil’s Punchbowl trail, Bonshaw Hills trail, trails in Provincial and Federal parks, and demonstration woodlots. The Confederation Trail is designated for snowmobiles only from December to March. Remember that private land requires permission from the landowner if you want to walk, ATV or snowmobile on it.
There are a number of phone apps and websites that you can use to identify and report wildlife.
UPEI Climate Diary – report all kinds
of sightings and climate related events
Works on a web browser, including on a cellphone
PEI Climate Trackers – uses the UPEI
Climate Diary app, but also provides you with more resources
iNaturalist – nature reporting app
Invasive Species – Report invasive
species to the PEI Invasive Species Council
Merlin – bird identification app
Flora of Prince Edward Island
– step by step plant ID