Prince Edward Island conservationist and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada collaborator recognized with national award

Fred Cheverie
Award-winner, Fred Cheverie has collaborated with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) to help farmers conserve the environment and wildlife.

Since the 1970s, Fred Cheverie has been a mainstay for eastern Prince Edward Island (PEI) conservation. Growing up on a farm gave Fred an appreciation for animals, plants and nature. When he began his teaching career, his true passion for conservation blossomed.

From teacher to conservationist

While teaching science at the Souris Consolidated Junior High School, Fred developed an ecology course for grade 7 and 8 students about the relationships between plants, animals and forestry. It became a favourite for students and parents.

Word of Fred’s teachings soon reached the Souris and Area Branch of the Prince Edward Island Wildlife Federation (Souris Wildlife) and they asked him to volunteer with the organization.

“I always had an interest in nature, so volunteering to conserve it seemed natural to me,” explains Fred.

What started as a few hours here and there turned into a second career as the Watershed Coordinator once Fred retired from teaching. Working with Prince Edward Island farmers with Souris Wildlife, Fred understands the importance of a strong partnership between agriculture and environmental conservation.

“It’s vital to have farmers involved in conservation. They own lots of land on PEI, so their impact is enormous. To get farmers and scientists involved in any environment program is key to the sustainability of their farm and the environment down the road.”

Collaborating with AAFC and farmers

Since 2009, Fred has been collaborating with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and farmers. In 2009, the ecological goods and services program encouraged farmers to adopt environmentally friendly farm management practices. In 2017, the willow tree program supported the planting of hundreds of trees between farm fields and water sources to reduce harmful nitrates from entering waterways and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Since 2018, Souris Wildlife has been a key collaborator with AAFC for Living Lab – Atlantic, a new approach to agricultural innovation in Canada, which brings together farmers, scientists, and other collaborators to develop innovative practices and technologies. Launched in 2019, Living Lab addresses areas affecting farmers and lands on Prince Edward Island, including climate change, crop productivity and biodiversity.

Fred has been instrumental in developing Living Lab research activities. In addition to gathering data and conducting research on farms, he and his team constructed two new wetlands on Prince Edward Island farmland. They plan to develop two more over the next two years. These wetlands naturally filter water from farm fields before it enters watercourses, and provide natural habitats for plants, insects, amphibians, birds, and other wildlife species.

“Working with AAFC scientists and farmers has been incredible to advancing conservation efforts on PEI,” explains Fred.

Unexpected recognition

Fred’s four decades with Souris Wildlife has not gone unnoticed by Islanders and the Canadian Wildlife Federation. In June 2021, he was recognized with a prestigious national Roland Michener Conservation Award - granted yearly to an individual demonstrating a commitment to conserving Canada’s natural resources.

This award would be a fitting finale for anyone’s career, and while Fred officially passed the torch to new coordinators for good in 2020, he continues to play a significant advisory role for Souris Wildlife.

Always humble, Fred is quick to downplay his influence and lasting legacy on Prince Edward Island conservation and agriculture.

“This award is impossible without help from my colleagues, volunteers, farmers, AAFC, and Islanders. The whole community is environmentally aware and that’s a great thing for the future,” says Fred.

Visit Living Lab – Atlantic for more information about this AAFC initiative.

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