Thomas Island is a key habitat for great blue heron nesting birds
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has announced it has successfully acquired Thomas Island, completing a campaign to save a key conservation site in eastern Prince Edward Island.
It was the lone off shore Island remaining in Murray Harbour to be protected. The 30 acre (12 hectares) project was a partial land purchase and land donation. The site provides habitat for colonial nesting birds and helps maintain Prince Edward Island’s breeding population of great blue herons. These birds will only nest where they can find mature spruce trees growing undisturbed.
“The five islands in Murray Harbour were identified as a conservation priority in 1972 by the International Biological Program,” says Julie Vasseur, Nature Conservancy of Canada Program Director of NCC in PEI. “Since that time, conservation groups and the province have been working towards protecting the islands in perpetuity for the wildlife habitat they provide. Thomas Island was also on the target list in the PEI Significant Environmental Areas Plan, which has been prepared by the PEI Government’s staff to guide their work in the selection and acquisition of sites to protect”.
The property contains mature white spruce forest, red maple, yellow birch, balsam fir and black spruce trees. There are also salt marshes and some low dunes. A sand bar links Thomas Island to Herring Island, which makes it accessible by foot at low tide.
Harbour seals frequent the area around Thomas Island, lounging on the sand spit and curiously following kayakers taking advantage of the harbour’s scenery. Waterfowl feed in the shallow waters of the salt marsh. Herring gulls, great black-backed gulls all nest within Murray Harbour.
“This project marks another achievement under the Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program and Environment Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program. Our Government is committed to preserving Canada's long-term prosperity by conserving and restoring our lands and waters, and connecting Canadians to our natural and unique spaces,” said The Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. “This important investment highlights our commitments announced in the National Conservation Plan.”
This means the archipelago of five islands (Cherry, Thomas, Gordon, Herring and Reynolds) are now all conserved. It is the second project in the area by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which acquired Reynolds Island in 2012, and later transferred to the provincial government.
A portion of this project was donated to the Nature Conservancy of Canada under the Government of Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program. This program provides enhanced tax incentives for individuals or corporations who donate ecologically significant land.
“Taking a stand on places that matter to Canadians is a defining principle of MEC’s community contributions program. Enabling our members’ adventures is another. Together, it’s why we commit one percent of sales to conservation and outdoor recreation projects across Canada, more than $3 million last year alone,” said Mountain Equipment Co-op CEO David Labistour. “The Nature Conservancy of Canada is an important ally in our efforts, identifying some of Canada’s most precious places and collaborating with others to protect them. For our part, that’s 56,000 hectares and counting ‒ places like the Darkwood lands in BC, the Tadenac property on Georgian Bay’s eastern shores, and now Thomas Island on PEI”.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada wishes to acknowledge the following organizations who made this project possible: the Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Veseys Seeds, Amalgamated Dairies Limited, United States Fish and Wildlife Service through the North American Wildlife Conservation Act along with other individual donors who wish to remain anonymous.
• Thomas Island is now registered under Prince Edward Island’s Natural Areas Protection Act of the Department of Environment. The Act is legislation that safeguards against future development or subdivision.
• Since the beginning of the Ecological Gifts Program in 1995, the Nature Conservancy of Canada has received more than 272 gifts of land through the program across Canada, including 3 in Prince Edward Island. For further information about the Ecological Gifts Program, please visit http://www.ec.gc.ca/pde-egp/.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the nation's leading land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962 NCC and its partners have helped to protect more than 2.7 million acres (over 1.1 million hectares), coast to coast The Nature Conservancy of Canada has conserved 4,717 acres (1,909 hectares) in PEI. For further information visit www.natureconservancy.ca/pe.
This project was funded as part of the Government of Canada’s National Conservation Plan. The Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) is a unique public-private partnership led and managed by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). To date, $345 million has been invested in the NACP by the Government of Canada, with more than $400 million in matching contributions raised by NCC and its partners to secure our natural heritage. This includes $100 million announced in May 2014 under the National Conservation Plan to continue this program.
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