Land Management


A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

There are two schools of wildlife (and forest) management. The most common is to decide what species to manage for (usually consumptive uses, products we consume in some way) and ensure proper habitat is available. A good example would be waterfowl management areas, where the focus is on production of ducks and geese. Often when we manage for one narrow purpose, we can do great damage to the other `purposes’ in the ecosystem.

The other school of thought is allow more natural habitat development to ensure a stable, mixed population of all the plants and animals that have evolved to become part of that ecosystem. An example of this would be preserving dune systems and protecting the habitat for the animals that would normally live there. This method reflects the shift in the 1990’s from endangered `species’ to endangered `spaces’, since habitat loss is considered to be the greatest cause of species extinction. It is estimated that by the year 2000, habitat loss will result in the extinction of 50,000 species annually worldwide.

Hemlock trunkWe need wood products from the forest, whether paper or building supplies or firewood. Yet we are only beginning to realize the value of other forest `products’ – clean water, storage of carbon, wildlife, food, aesthetics, erosion control, etc. This is not an issue of wildlife conservation versus industrial use – creation or restoration of healthy forests will supply us with far more benefits, including wood, than tree farms.

Restore an Acre

In an effort to improve the health of our forests and create a model for environmental stewardship, Macphail Woods is launching the Restore an Acre initiative.

You can mail a cheque (payable to Macphail Woods) to Gary Schneider, Box 11, Belfast, PEI C0A 1A0, or donate online through CanadaHelps.

All donations will be used in the restoration of a 220-acre Public Forest on the Selkirk Road (Route #23) in Valley, part of the 2,000 acres we are managing for the provincial government.

Click here to find out more about how you can restore Island forests!

Ecosystem management is the essence of natural selection forestry – treating the forest as a community of interdependent plants and animals. Fortunately, we still have remnants of Acadian forest left on which to build, although it will take vision, hard work and creativity to put things in order. Our choices are clear – we can focus on clear cuts and softwood plantations, trying to maintain unresilient, simple tree farms; we can let nature take its own course and, on most sites, progress naturally into mixed forests, a process that will take 100-200 years; or we can work with nature, using practices that help speed up natural succession.

What you can do:

  • Stands of old field white spruce are dying prematurely and need to be restructured into uneven-aged forests with more variety. Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions. Large clear cuts and softwood plantations have potential for severe impact and by allowing increased exposure to sunlight and wind, leave fewer management options. A more gentle approach might be to make narrow strip cuts, about 15 m (50 feet or 3/4 chain) wide and perhaps twice that length. Ideally, the strips would run east-west to reduce wind damage and be no longer than twice the width. The timetable would be something like this:
  • Most mixed wood stands contain a high percentage of short-lived species: poplar, pin cherry, red maple, and balsam fir. Much restructuring can be accomplished using what is already growing on the site. In some cases a few light thinnings will be all the help a forest needs. Be aware of what species are naturally regenerating and favour the shade-tolerant, longer-lived species. In areas lacking naturally-occurring species such as eastern hemlockred spruce or yellow birch, consider underplanting. Make small patch cuts, .1 to .4 hectares (1/4 to 1 acre), or narrow strip cuts and planted with Acadian forest species.
  • Late successional forests should be handled using natural selection forestry and can be a source of valuable products. Tree planting should not be necessary, except to add species that naturally would occur on the site.