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The Guardian
July 2, 2007

PEI gets Canada day gift

The future protection of the Watterworth property at Basin Head is the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s 2007 Gift to Canadians in Prince Edward Island.

The stunning 142-acre (57-hectare) property was the last piece of privately owned land on the Basin Head dune coastline. A significant coastal site, it  is now a well-protected natural area thanks to the efforts of the federal and provincial governments and  the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC).

Picture of Sand Dunes

"Prince Edward Island coasts are dynamic yet fragile ecosystems," says John Foley, director of Land Conservation for NCC in the Atlantic region.

"NCC's Ecoregional Plan, which pinpoints the most ecologically significant areas in need of protection in the region, has identified the Basin Head Natural Area as a priority conservation location in need of attention. The fact that the whole area is now protected is indeed something to celebrate."

Watterworth is situated in Kings County, at the eastern tip of P.E.I., approximately 100 kilometres east of Charlottetown, 40 km from the Greenwich Dunes section of P.E.I. National Park, between the town of Souris and East Point. An ecologically essential piece of land, the site encompasses several distinct habitats -  wetlands, woodlands, salt marsh and extensive dunes - each offering opportunities for scientific and educational study at many levels.

Final acquisition of Watterworth could not have been possible without financial assistance from Wildlife Habitat Canada, Eastern Habitat Joint Venture, Tim Banks and Carrie MacNabb, and other private donors.

"Basin Head is an important and beautiful natural area for Prince Edward Island," says Tim Banks. "Carrie and I are very pleased that we are able to help NCC secure this final piece of the site as a legacy gift to Islanders, and Canadians, forever."

NCC-Atlantic has now handed over the Watterworth property to the province of P.E.I. so that it can be added to the rest of the protected area on the Basin Head dune coastline.
"Basin Head was designated as a Marine Protected Area by the federal government in 2005, in recognition of its rich and diverse habitat," says John Foley. "The addition of this final piece means that all the land adjacent to the MPA is now protected, as well, which is great news for P.E.I.'s, and Canada's, natural heritage."

The beach at Basin Head is well known for its whitish-coloured "singing sands," a phenomenon not fully understood where the fine quarts and sand makes a distinctive sound in wind or when stepped on. The sand dunes along the beach are a nationally rare, fragile, yet dynamic habitat. Many specially adapted maritime shrubs, such as Bayberry, and herbs, including Beach Pea, grow through the sand. Also not to be forgotten is the protective Marram Grass, which grows in the shifting sands of the beach. Marram Grass is essential to the protection of the dunes from erosion caused by wind and weather. The dune peninsula is also geologically interesting because of its spectacular series of old beach ridges parallel to the Northumberland Strait shore.

On the marine front, the Basin Head lagoon contains a unique strain of the commercially important seaweed, Irish Moss, found nowhere else in the world. As well, the salt marsh along the lagoon edge of the property is home to many migrant waterfowl, shorebirds, seabirds and landbirds.

This announcement is part of NCC's sixth annual Gifts to Canadians program, a component of the organization's ongoing efforts to celebrate and conserve Canada's biodiversity from coast to coast and leave a lasting natural legacy for Canadians. In the lead-up to Canada Day, NCC is announcing 10 Gifts to Canadians across the country, one for each province.

Each of the Gifts to Canadians provides habitat for rare or endangered species

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