Dennis Edwards: Protecting our hemlocks, conservation lands and more
04 Oct 2023
During a Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) monitoring visit of our St. Croix conservation lands earlier this summer, one of the Nature Trust’s dedicated volunteer Property Guardians, Dennis Edwards, joined our Stewardship & Outreach Coordinator, Riki Kerbrat, to complete the assessment. Unfortunately, on this visit, they found evidence of the invasive species throughout the property’s forest.
To help reduce further spread of the adelgid, signage was created and installed at the property’s entrance points, informing visitors how best to reduce HWA spread. As it easily travels on clothing and footwear, some methods include using a lint roller or spray or brushing off one’s boots before leaving the area. The issue can be devastating, and we must be diligent, as hemlock mortality where HWA is present is over 95% and trees die within 2 to 10 years of the adelgids’ arrival.
But installing informative and important signage on our conservation lands isn’t all that Property Guardian Dennis has championed. He’s monitored and cared for many of our lands, some even spending a few days out at a time – walking property boundaries, assessing trails, observing and recording any changes or things that are not permitted on the property, and documenting and taking pictures of notable areas.
“I grew up in St. Croix, so I especially enjoy getting to monitor the different conservation lands there – there’s one 60-hectare property where I’ll spend a full day walking the perimeter and different trails, listening and looking for any species at risk, or identifying any birds I see or hear,” says Dennis. “After Hurricane Fiona last year, there were some blowdowns in an area of the St. Croix conservation lands that needed to be cleared up before a planned hike for a group of Nature Trust supporters, so a few of us went in through the hiking trails and cleared any fallen trees.”
Dennis had always known of the Nature Trust but became more invested when he saw one of our Facebook posts looking for a host for the Eastlink/Firefly Digital series “Wild Nova Scotia”. This prompted him to dive a little deeper into our work and he learned about our Property Guardian program, which he realized his skills matched perfectly, so he reached out and has been volunteering with us since spring 2021.
Dennis has loved the outdoors since his early childhood, back when he was in Cubs and Scouts, and when he would join his father at their family’s rustic lakeside camp where they would go as often as they could. His father was an avid hunter and fisherman, and taught Dennis to be confident and feel at home in the wilderness with skills like watching and respecting the wildlife, how to identify different flora, and how to navigate the landscape. Dennis developed a keen interest in mapping and compass work, and a passion for adventure and discovery.
Through a 20+ year career with the Department of National Defense (DND), Dennis has acquired many unique skills and expertise, beginning as a shipwright and eventually working his way up to a role in the project management division. When he was a shipwright, he was also building canoes and kayaks on his own and teaching others the craft, as well as operating an eco-tourism business in Bear River.
“I’m fortunate to say that I’ve visited nearly 10 different Nature Trust lands, so it’s hard to pick a favourite, especially as more and more lands are quickly being secured,” says Dennis. “But the St. Croix conservation lands are pretty special, as it’s home to me – in fact, the house I grew up in overlooks the cliffs along one of the properties.”
His wife, Sonia, joined him once, and a fishing buddy will sometimes join him in the spring, but he usually ventures out by himself, which the lifelong nature lover doesn’t mind.
Today, Dennis and Sonia reside in Brooklyn, Hants County, with their five rescue dogs: Osten, Daisy, Neena, Macey and Ruby. Dennis still loves doing “anything outside”, such as canoeing, hiking and gardening. They’ll often go camping – with all five dogs, too. “Anywhere we go, they come with us.”
We’re so thankful for Dennis’ generous contribution of time and talent as a volunteer Property Guardian. The next time you visit our St. Croix conservation lands, keep an eye out for the newly installed signage that Dennis helped install, and please follow the tips provided to help reduce the spread of HWA.
To learn more about any of our volunteer opportunities, please contact our volunteer & outreach coordinator Christina at firstname.lastname@example.org.