Mary Ellen Gaudet stands at her tree farm in Baltic, P.E.I. Gaudet took on the project in 2015 in memory of her cousin, John Edward Dalton. ContributedRafe Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 09, 2022 at 12:12

By Rafe Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

BALTIC, P.E.I. — For the past seven years, Mary Ellen Gaudet has been planting and maintaining trees on two former potato fields in Baltic and Stanley Bridge, creating conservation habitats while preserving the memory of her loved ones.

The Stanley Bridge lot was dedicated to her parents, who were killed in a car crash near the property in 1994. Gaudet purchased the 11-acre field in Baltic after her cousin, John Edward Dalton, died in 2015.

Dalton had purchased the lot in 2014 with a goal of planting 11,000 white spruce saplings and signing onto the P.E.I. Forest Enhancement Program.

“When he passed, I bought his estate and decided to expand it in his memory,” said Gaudet during an interview with Saltwire Network.

A sign on the Baltic tree farm showing Gaudet’s commitment to planting the white spruce trees. Contributed

Since then, staying committed to Dalton’s goal of planting the trees has always been a priority, said Gaudet.

“He was like the brother I never had.”

In Baltic, she has built new path systems and spent thousands of dollars on a parking lot for school buses to allow children to visit through the Island Nature Trust’s educational program.

The long-term goal is to turn the lots into Acadian forests, meaning both lots have bi-yearly planting schedules and maintenance to keep adding trees and shrubs native to P.E.I.

“I do all the planting. Every tree has a particular spot, and the shrubs aren’t just planted anywhere,” she said.

Gaudet visits the lots regularly. Some of her duties include placing slices of logs close to growing trees to give them nutrients and weeding out invasive plants.

“I generally take photos each time I go out there for documentation,” she added.

Gaudet has also been working with the provincial government to have the lots protected under the provincial Natural Area Protection Act, (NAPA).

Slices of logs are placed at the base of trees to provide them with the nutrients needed to grow. Contributed.

They are currently protected under the P.E.I. Lands Protection Act, meaning no new properties can be built on the property.

For the lots to be protected under NAPA, a forest-management plan outlining how the landowner wishes to sustainably manage their property into the future. This must be approved by a NAPA technician.

At a glance

  • The Forest Enhancement Program (FEP) offers forestry-related advice and financial assistance to private woodland owners who manage their land for recreation, forest products, wildlife habitat, forest health and many other reasons and values.
  • Owners must have at least one hectare of cleared woodland or be willing to convert existing fields to forest cover to achieve the minimum size requirements of the program.
  • All woodlots must have an approved forested management plan. Approximately 70 per cent of the plan development cost is funded through the FEP program incentives.

Mark Arsenault, habitat and wildlife technician for P.E.I. Forests, Fish and Wildlife, worked with Gaudet to see that her property would be protected with a Restrictive Covenant, in this case signed with Island Nature Trust.

“In essence, the primary goals of her management plan have been completed,” said Arsenault.

The site will need to be visited regularly to nurture the trees and develop the trail system. Planting of more trees may be required in the future to close in gaps or replace dead ones.

One of the paths Gaudet has built through the tree farm. Contributed

It will be completed when the trees are free to grow on their own into a mature forest. First, they need to outgrow the grasses and the hardwoods present on the site.

The work is important for many reasons, said Arsenault, including helping to maintain a forested landscape. It is also a carbon-capture tool.

“With climate change noticeably affecting us today, change has to happen. We are all in this together.” – Mary Ellen Gaudet

From his perspective, the more important benefit is the forest will provide wildlife habitat for a variety of species long into the future,” he added.

“The protection of these woodlots can help to ensure a landowners desire to see their piece of wilderness or legacy is free from development in the future.”

Landowners interested in protecting their land should contact Forests, Fish and Wildlife or land conservation partners at Island Nature Trust, Nature Conservancy of Canada or Ducks Unlimited Canada.

This item reprinted with permission from The Guardian, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island