February 14, 2005
For immediate release
A New Model for Public Land Management
Environment, Energy & Forestry
Premier Pat Binns and Minister Jamie Ballem announced today that the Department of Environment, Energy and Forestry will enter into an agreement with the Environmental Coalition of Prince Edward Island to manage approximately 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of public forest land in the Orwell/Caledonia area. The Environmental Coalition is a sponsor of the Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project which has earned national and international recognition, as well as widespread support among both Islanders and visitors, for its work in demonstrating forest management, restoration and education on public land in Orwell.
“Our public lands are one of our most valuable natural assets in Prince Edward Island, yet they’ve been described as one of the best-kept secrets in the province. Government departments simply do not have the resources to use these lands to their fullest potential,” said Premier Binns. “At the same time, we have more and more requests from groups looking for financial support for community development projects. This is an opportunity to enter into a partnership that will benefit not only Government and community groups, but all Islanders who value the important role public lands play in everything from providing wildlife habitat to creating jobs and wealth.”
Minister Ballem said negotiations on the details of the agreement are just beginning. He emphasized the lands will remain in public ownership and public access will be maintained. Once the agreement is finalized and the project moves past the initial development stage, the Minister said Islanders can expect to see much more activity on the lands.
“As the project evolves, I believe we will see a wider range of forest management techniques, new opportunities for forest-based education and tourism, research in areas such as harvesting medicinal and edible plants... the potential is endless,” said Minister Ballem. “Ultimately, the goal is to maximize both the environmental and economic value of the woodland over the long term and return a wide variety of benefits to the community.”
With its work on the Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project, Minister Ballem said the Environmental Coalition was the logical choice to develop and pilot the project. Gary Schneider is the Manager of Macphail Woods.
“I’m very excited to be involved with this process and hope that it will help all Islanders develop a greater appreciation for the true values in our forests,” he said. “When I was a member of the Round Table on Resource Land Use and Stewardship, people wanted to see public land as the jewels in our landscape. This pilot project and other management agreements that could follow could help make those dreams a reality.”
Through the agreement to be negotiated, the Department of Environment, Energy and Forestry and the Environmental Coalition of Prince Edward Island will set certain standards for management. For example, it’s expected that harvesting would not be carried out during the most sensitive bird breeding season.
The agreement will also include an annual reporting requirement and identify measurable results that will be used to evaluate its success. Minister Ballem said that might be environmental indicators such as improved average tree quality, improved forest soils, increased biodiversity and increased numbers and sizes of wildlife trees; or economic indicators including number of jobs per hectare of forest, and increased range of returns to the province from public lands - that is income generated beyond just sale of wood products to new opportunities for research, education and tourism. Government will receive a share of the revenue generated once the pilot project moves from the initial research/restoration phase. That percentage has not yet been determined.
By announcing the pilot project now, at the earliest stage of negotiation and when the public consultations on a new Forest Policy are underway, Minister Ballem said Government is signalling its willingness to look at new ways of doing things and giving Islanders the chance to share their comments on a new model for public land management. The Public Forest Council is carrying out the public consultations on the Forest Policy. One of the critical issues Islanders are being asked to provide input on is public lands.
The Department of Environment, Energy and Forestry has responsibility to manage close to 31,000 hectares (76,000 acres) of land throughout the province including public forest lands, natural areas and wildlife management areas.