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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. 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.
These two properties share a very complicated border, resulting from past gravel exploration and extraction. Together, they form a long, narrow block of woodland that runs from the Selkirk Road eastward along the Klondyke Road.
As with other public lands that border each other, it makes sense to manage the two properties under one operational plan. Like most of Prince Edward Island’s forest, this is a patchwork of stand types with a mixture of origins. There are unploughed areas and forests growing on old fields. The gravel extraction makes it challenging for restoration, as much of the topsoil was moved and the resulting digs are so damaged that they are actually back in the lichen stage, building soil by catching dust and depositing organic matter. While the lichens are beautiful and very interesting, the area demonstrates once more that ecological damage takes a long time to heal.
Approximately 3 ha of the property are in a stage dominated by lichens, with very little other growth. The soil is obviously lacking in organic matter and nitrogen.
Much of the property, especially towards the western end, was cut over in the 1970’s when Islanders were allowed to cut firewood on public forest land in response to the oil crisis. The regeneration has been mixed, with some areas developing high quality yellow birch and sugar maple while others are dominated by poor quality, early succesional species such as pin cherry and trembling aspen. Unploughed woodland towards the eastern end of the property contains large hemlock and white pine that is regenerating very well, while an area towards the northeast boundary is full of mixed hardwoods. Some sections of these properties have reverted into low-value balsam fir and several areas are dominated by this species, coming in either after a clearcut or when some of the overstory started to die from natural causes.
There is an excellent riparian area running off the Klondyke Road and across the woodland. The banks are predominantly blanketed conifers, which appears to be a result of the work of beavers over a long period of time. Two old dams are still visible and gnawed hardwood stumps remain up to 50m above the stream. are still quite visible in sections. The most likely scenario is that the beavers built the dam, removed the hardwoods and the existing conifer understory took advantage of the increased sunlight. This has obviously been going on for a long time and will likely continue if hardwoods once again begin to dominate the stream banks. A dry streambank that runs in the spring joins this riparian zone and two other dry streambanks along the roadway also carry water in the spring.
While parts of this woodland are healthy and show the potential of the area, these properties clearly demonstrate the lack of regard that many people hold for Island woodlands. There is garbage all along the roadway, including several tires in a waterway. A fairly-new cabin was discovered straddling the stream, equipped with a woodstove. Trees had been cut and ground hemlock in the area had been illegally harvested. Large amounts of silt enter the waterways from the clay road, a result of poorly-maintained silt traps and was probably compounded when the road was kept open over several recent winters. Riparian zones are among the most productive habitats on Prince Edward Island for both plants and animals and much better stewardship should be displayed in these areas.
This site is part of a large, glacial deposit that runs along the Klondyke Road. Trees that blow over show roots entwined with a variety of rounded rocks, uncommon in most of Prince Edward Island. Without doing extensive soil work, it can be assumed that the soil has lots of minerals and is very well-drained. Access is poor throughout the stand, given the many gravel pits, slopes and streambeds. There is evidence of many woods roads throughout the property but these will have to be cleared and in many instances, re-located to improve efficiency.
The Klondyke Road is one of the province’s designated Scenic Heritage Roads. Though the buffer zone recommendations have been largely ignored by landowners in the area, the woods along the road will be maintained and improved in support of the designation. The roadway also offers a great opportunity to add large numbers of native plants that are especially-attractive for wildlife. The edge has more sunlight over a longer period and allows greater fruiting and flowering of plants such as American mountain ash, serviceberry, highbush cranberry, beaked hazelnut, hawthorn and the elderberries.
The eastern half of the woodland comprises a key part of the territory of a pair of barred owls, which are regularly seen in the area. There are some excellent wildlife trees in this area and care should be taken to ensure that the stand structure is maintained. Several large wildlife trees indicate the presence of pileated woodpeckers, a bird once thought to be extirpated from the province. A northern goshawk was sited in the main riparian zone, which should be surveyed more extensively for both flora and fauna. Hobblebush, one of our rarest native shrubs, has also been found growing in this area.
These two properties could become part of an extensive trail system with excellent educational opportunities. There is a wide variety of habitats – everything from the lichen-covered gravel pits to the older woodlands – and almost everything in between. There are rare plants, some big trees and lots of raptors. This trail could showcase the restoration work being carried out throughout the areas.