The Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project is marking 25 years of working to restore P.E.I. forests with a celebration this Saturday.

“It started really out of frustration with seeing what was being done to our forests on Prince Edward Island. It was difficult to keep going to meetings and debate people in rooms about good forest practices,” founder Gary Schneider told CBC Radio’s Island Morning.

“The idea came to me it would be much more fun to engage the public and see if we could have some kind of influence on them to look after their forest better.”

The project started in 1991 in southeastern P.E.I. with a wildlife garden, a native plant nursery, a few walking trails and some small demonstration projects.

Setting an example

It has since grown to having 800 hectares under its care, delivering education campaigns on a number of different P.E.I. ecosystems, and re-establishing a number of native species that were becoming rare on the Island.

“We, as a culture, don’t value forests very highly because we don’t have good examples of them here,” said Schneider.

“It’s not just the experience in the forest. It’s storing carbon, it’s cleaning water, it’s cleaning air, it’s providing great habitat for wildlife.”

Spreading native species

Schneider will never see the full results of his work over the last quarter century, because he is planting trees that will continue to grow for centuries.

But he has seen a significant change in the spread of some smaller woodland plants, such as witch hazel and dogwood. Schneider could find only two dogwood plants in the woods when he started. There are now 150.

There has been some visible progress with trees as well. Ironwood grown from seed is now producing its own seeds.

The celebration on Saturday, running from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.  will include bird walks, owl pellet dissection, bush craft micro-lessons and horse-drawn wagon rides.