Confederation Forests

The Island has a strong history of tall trees. The original Acadian forest was awe-inspiring, economy driving and community building. Two hundred years ago the Island was almost completely covered in ancient hemlock, yellow birch, red spruce, beech and white pine. These forests shaped the land and lives of all Islanders.

A hemlock enjoying its new home.
A hemlock enjoying its new home.

For millennia it sustained the needs of the Mi’kmaq, and then provided timber for shipbuilding, fuelwood for heating homes and a myriad of other products for the European settlers.  These forests built the rich soils that started our agricultural expansion and sheltered a wide diversity of flora and fauna.

Forests repeatedly appear in our Island’s literature, art and songs.  Yet despite playing a central role in the development of our economy and culture, the true value and potential of these unique ecosystems seems to have mostly been forgotten.


The Confederation Forests will provide habitat for all species, making a place to live, learn, and enjoy for the islanders who are here now, and those still yet to come.

Confederation Forest Legacy Plantings

A enthusiastic group of young planters !
A enthusiastic group of young planters !

The Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project, with support from the PEI 2014 Fund, the Island Nature Trust, Upton Farm Trust Inc., City of Charlottetown and the Environment and Climate Change Canada EcoAction Community Fund, has created three new Acadian forests in each of the three provincial counties totalling more than 30 acres.

These sites will mature into future Acadian forest natural areas, accessible to the public with walking paths, various species of hardy native plants and wildlife habitat enhancement such as nesting boxes. These forests were planted by Macphail Woods staff, community members, watershed groups, schools, businesses, and many volunteers. Talks and presentations were held near each planting site to provide the public with an opportunity to rediscover the historical, cultural and environmental importance of our native Acadian forests.

Confederation Forest Sites

Island Wide Map
Upton Farmlands Confederation Forest (Queens County)

Beautiful old farmland along the North River in Charlottetown.

Bangor Confederation Forest (Kings County)

A diverse property with access to the Morrell River.

Fernwood Confederation Forest (Prince County)

Also known as Windswept, this site looks out over the Bedeque Bay.

Major Partners


Thanks to M&M Resources for trucking many of the larger trees to our three Confederation Forests!

We would also like to thank the many community volunteers who came out to plant all three sites. With the help of local businesses, schools, watershed groups and many many others, we’ve been able plant approximately 4500 hundred specimens, totally more than 60 native species, across all three sites.

As the years go by, we’ll be revisiting all sites for maintenance such as pruning, as well as adding additions species of native flora to continue enriching biodiversity, seed sources, and wildlife habitat.

Moving a very large red oak tree.
Moving a very large red oak tree.



Plantings of swamp milkweed will help to attract the Monarch butterfly.
Plantings of swamp milkweed will help to attract the Monarch butterfly.

While establishing each Confederation Forest, educational presentations were designed to provide Islanders with an opportunity to rediscover the historical, cultural and environmental importance of our native Acadian forests. These new woodlands provide a place for local schools, community groups, and citizens to engage with their forests and ecology. These green spaces will provide excellent environmental learning laboratories for Islanders of all ages.

The talks were an opportunity to begin a new conversation about the future of forests and forestry.  They showcased the good work that Islanders are already doing to restore the beauty and value of their woodlands, and provided a chance to discuss how positive action can dramatically improve the health of our communities and natural areas.

Members, organizations and students from each community were invited to learn about native forests and to work together in planting the three Confederation Forests. The multi-use planned trails on each site give the public an opportunity to continue visiting the properties as they develop and mature.


Old farm fields provide ample sites for ground nesting sparrows and other birds.
Old farm fields provide ample sites for ground nesting sparrows and other birds.

The plantings have been an opportunity for each community to come together and create forests that will be lasting legacies of our Province’s natural history and examples of positive environmental action. These forests have set out to be a continual source of civic pride and inspire further environmental action within each community.

As wildlife habitat improves through continued plantings, erecting more nest boxes, additions of brush piles and more, each site will provide great opportunities for people who are interested in both flora and fauna. Each site will continue to develop into beautiful green-spaces providing new places to experience the natural splendor of the Island.

Our native witch hazel flowering in the fall.
Our native witch hazel flowering in the fall.

Why Native Plants?

Native plants are usually very reliable – they have adapted to the climatic conditions of the area and serve a variety of functions within the ecosystem. More important they are proven performers – hardy, fitting into a wide variety of habitats, valuable to wildlife, useful for stabilizing streambanks and/or controlling soil erosion. Instead of looking for exotic species, many of which cause serious disturbances in our areas or need winter protection, look at the beauty of native plants all year long. Many native species have colourful twigs, buds and fruit, showy flowers and an exotic structure.

The Confederation plantings provide a wide variety of resources and accomplish several different goals:

  •  A learning laboratory: teaching opportunities including propagating medicinal plants traditionally used by Mi’kmaq peoples, grouping similar species to facilitate plant identification and adding nest boxes to improve wildlife habitat.
  • A place for active living: With a built in walking trail, these sites will provide year-round places to get out and enjoy nature. As the forest grows, these paths will be accessible during each stage of ecological succession providing great opportunities for exercise and education.
  • A windbreak: you are creating a small forest that will break the wind and create a more comfortable setting for your home.
  • Attracting wildlife: even small plantings can really change the dynamics for wildlife around homes. The food production, the nesting sites, the protection offered by a variety of trees and shrubs all serve to make the area more attractive to many species of birds, amphibians, insects and small mammals. It will obviously be a while before you get dead trees large enough to provide cavities for barred owls, but black-capped chickadees, robins and many other birds will come fairly quickly once the trees are established.
  • Building soil: the importance of good soil health is often underestimated in forest plantings. Especially since many fields are lacking in both organic matter and nutrients, the role of shrubs is very important. The litter of dead leaves and branches provides important soil nutrients. For example, alder leaves are rich in nitrogen and dogwood litter is high in calcium. As well, alders fix nitrogen in their roots and are one of our most important soil builders.
  • A living landscape planting: many of the native plants that are suitable for this type of planting are also very attractive. Instead of bare fields and drifting snow, imagine a mixed forest full of interesting trees and shrubs. Red maple and staghorn sumac give a colourful show in the fall, and many of the trees and shrubs have attractive flowers in late Spring. As the forest develops, it will become even more of an asset to your property, though it will be your children who will really benefit from this work.


If you are looking to explore one of the Confederation Forests, watch for the signs!
If you are looking to explore one of the Confederation Forests, watch for the signs!

The project has been designed so that once the plantings have been completed the need for maintenance will be minimal. The grass will be allowed to grow except in the path, which will need to be cut occasionally until the time when the trees are tall enough to shade the ground cover. This responsibility will belong to the municipalities or community organizations involved in the project, with our support.

On a regular basis, the Macphail Woods staff will return to prune, add mulch and look after the general well-being of the trees.  The sites will be places where we can continue our on-going work with schools and the public. We will continue adding rare plants to these spaces as the habitat changes, and use the areas for a variety of community workshops. Local watershed groups and teachers will be able to use these natural areas to expand their own educational efforts. Part of the design process for each site will be to maximize the educational potential for the whole community.  Each year we will return to take a photo of each site and add them to our website to create an on-going account of the restoration work.

Foxes were to help with the plantings!
Foxes were there to help with the plantings!
posticon owl

In 150 years, our descendents will be able to walk through truly remarkable testaments to our history and the best efforts of Islanders.