Community Unites for Conservation at Asitu’lɨsk

(Illustration: Adele Nichols)

“We are giving medicine to the trees to heal them,” Leah Morris explains. 

Morris and I sat down for an interview in the century-old farm at Asitu’lɨsk (formerly Windhorse Farm). A pot of cedar tea boiled on the stove while the magnolia tree outside the window looked ready to blossom.

Morris is part of the team at Asitu’lɨsk working to save the Eastern hemlocks on the 200-acre property. 

Eastern hemlocks are vital carbon sinks that provide nesting sites, shade and ground cover, as well as streambank stabilisation. Since 2017, the presence of the hemlock woolly adelgid, an invasive insect sucking the trees’ sap, is threatening to nearly eradicate this tree species in southwestern Nova Scotia.

Since March 2023, volunteers have joined forces with Asitu’lɨsk and Community Forest International to inoculate the trees to protect them against this invasive species.

For five days in April, a team of around 20 volunteers went out every day on the land to measure, mark, drill and inject the trees with an insecticide.

Determining to go the route of chemical control was not done lightly, explains Morris. “[The decision] involved Elders, community members, a lot of discussion, wavering back and forth on what is to be done.” The current management plan includes a multi-faceted approach that will ensure a resilient forest in the long-term.

Despite the gravity of the situation, the atmosphere in the forest during the volunteer week was invigorating.

Greg Smith travelled from Fall River to participate in the entire five-day treatment. “I don’t want to say spiritual but there is just a good feeling with like-minded people… just good people who are willing to work for a good cause,” says Smith. “The people have really been the highlight.”

Similarly, Meghan Doucette, a resident of Martin’s River, relished the experience of being in the forest with a large group of volunteers.

“Just being in the forest all day. For me, coming from doing a desk job all day, it’s really nice to just move around, move my body and be outside. It’s been a good opportunity to get to know some new people which is great,” says Doucette. “It feels like a really nice sense of community.”

As we prepare to set out into the forest to watch the volunteers work, Morris shares what it has been like to see this new community of people come together, intent on saving the forest before it’s too late. 

“Everybody has been so helpful,” Morris says. “There’s so many people here that have been volunteering, partnering, making this work. It’s been fantastic. The Indigenous community, our Elders, ceremony here, it’s so important. We’ve, over the last couple of days, been bringing the culture into what we’re doing. We want to include everyone in it.”


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