Chris Evans

Ontario

Number of projects: During this period, NCC also funded the relinquishment of 82,313 acres (33,311 hectares) of timber rights outside the new Birch River Wildland Park in Alberta. These rights were cancelled by the provincial government and will only be re-issued for ecological purposes. 14

Land value: Land value is the fair market value as determined by independent appraisal. $8,306,500

Acres conserved: 4,783

Stewardship volunteers: 791

Big Trout Bay bioblitz

Costal Productions

Last year, a number of Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) Regions participated in the Canada BioBlitz 150 program – a series 10 biological surveys to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday. In July 2017, a team of 25 botanists, zoologists, entomologists, ornithologists and other naturalists from NCC, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s Natural Heritage Information Centre conducted an intense, seven-day bioblitz on NCC’s Big Trout Bay property. The property is located along the north shore of Lake Superior, near Thunder Bay.

By week’s end, the group had logged well over 500 species of plants and animals. Follow-up lab work brought the total to more than 630.

Species at risk were of particular interest. New information on species that are assessed as at risk, including pygmy whitefish, will help in their conservation and allow us to better manage this unique property.

Big Trout Bay was chosen for Ontario’s Bioblitz Canada 150 program partly because NCC will use this new information to develop a property management plan.

Protecting a watery paradise

David Coulson

The Minesing Wetlands comprise approximately 15,000 acres (6,000 hectares) of wetlands and forests. The area is home to many at-risk species, such as least bittern and cerulean warbler.

In the spring of 2018, NCC celebrated the protection of a new addition to this watery paradise. The 107-acre (43-hectare) Patrick W. E. Hodgson Property, located just 12 kilometres outside of Barrie, Ontario, is home to the Hine’s emerald. This globally rare dragonfly is found only in the Minesing area in the Canadian portion of its range.

The area supports a wide variety of wetland birds and waterfowl, which flock to the area in the tens of thousands during spring migration, when most of the wetlands resemble a large lake.

These species-rich wetlands are also important to surrounding communities. They provide flood control, water filtration, fish habitat and recreational opportunities. Over 70 per cent of southern Ontario’s wetlands have been lost since European settlement. The remaining wetlands are threatened by non-native, invasive species, pollution and habitat fragmentation.

To date, NCC and our partners have protected 13,600 acres (5,500 hectares) here. Minesing Wetlands have been designated as a Provincially Significant Wetland and a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. This most recent addition was conserved thanks to the generous support of many donors, including the Government of Canada, through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, and The Patrick Hodgson Family Foundation.

Taking on phragmites

NCC

Phragmites (or European common reed) is a non-native, invasive plant from Eurasia. It is quickly spreading throughout North America. Found mostly in wetlands, this towering plant takes over wetlands and shores. It outcompetes native wetland plants, degrades wildlife habitat and can block shoreline views and access.

In 2017, NCC hired its first-ever program director for invasive species in Ontario. This positioned NCC to begin tackling the spread of invasive phragmites.

In a joint initiative with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, NCC has been fighting this alien invader in the wetlands of Lake Erie in Long Point, Turkey Point and Lower Big Creek in Norfolk County. These areas are important for waterfowl and provide habitat for many species at risk. Control of this aggressive plant involves a combination of tools including herbicides, cutting, burning and repeat treatments of any remaining plants.

Control efforts also involve extensive monitoring of plant, animal and insect populations, as well as water quality. This monitoring has confirmed that the environment and water supply remain safe. 

Last year phragmites was controlled on more than 1,230 acres (500 hectares). This was a monumental task, with equipment challenges, tough working conditions and significantly more phragmites to treat than anticipated. But there is good news. Early surveys already show marked improvement, with native plants returning and dramatically less phragmites.

In 2018–2019, NCC will continue battling phragmites — not just in the Lake Erie area but in the Minesing Wetlands near Barrie, Ontario, and Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron.

The Hine’s emerald dragonfly uses crayfish burrows as refuges during the winter and periods of low water, throughout their larval cycle, which can last up to five years. As crayfish are both a predator and competitor with the dragonfly, the Hine’s emerald relies on its exceptional hiding skills to remain undetectable to the crayfish. NCC is protecting habitat for this dragonfly, a species at risk in the Minesing Wetlands.