Margo Holt (Photo by Couchiching Conservancy).
Margo Holt: Leaving a legacy
October is a time to remember what we are thankful for. It is also a time to appreciate nature’s bounty and recognize the people who help and support us. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) wouldn’t be where we are today without the support of our donors. Our Ontario Region staff offer their thanks to those who help us make conservation happen.
We are thankful for Margo Holt, a generous NCC donor who helped us achieve conservation through her charitable bequest. Margo was an expert naturalist, lover of plants and wildlife and Carden Alvar enthusiast. Through Margo’s gift from her estate, she provided NCC with a wonderful opportunity to conserve an additional 45 hectares (113 acres) of land in the Carden Alvar Natural Area.
The Carden Alvar
The Carden Alvar Natural Area is located east of Orillia and northwest of Lindsay. It's located in a flat limestone landscape called the Carden Plain, which has rare habitats known as alvars. Alvars occur only on limestone or dolostone bedrock with little or no soil, where spring floods and summer droughts create harsh conditions. Many of the wildflowers, native grasses and invertebrate species found on alvars are rare.
Alvars represent only a small percentage of the Earth's ecosystems by area. They are globally threatened, and most alvars in North America are found in the Great Lakes basin. Although there are about 120 in the Great Lakes region, their combined total area now measures only about 112 km2.
Remembering Margo Holt
On a spectacularly sunny September afternoon, 60 people including NCC staff, Couchiching Conservancy staff, the Holt family, and friends and colleagues from across the province gathered to remember Margo at the property dedication of the Margo Holt Nature Reserve. The property features multiple habitats, a stretch of the meandering McGee Creek and a managed hayfield that is home to multiple at-risk bird species, including several families of bobolink.
The Margo Holt Nature Reserve completes an important piece of a larger landscape puzzle that includes NCC’s McGee Creek, Cranberry Wetlands and Prairie Smoke Nature Reserve properties and the newly regulated Carden Alvar Provincial Park. Together they total 2,630 hectares (6,500 acres) of protected land.
Carden Alvar Natural Area (Photo by NCC)
Kristyn Ferguson, NCC's program director for Georgian Bay–Huronia, welcomed the crowd at the day’s festivities and spoke about the significance of the Carden Alvar area and the Margo Holt Nature Reserve.
“Margo was an incredible naturalist and devoted much of her time to inventories and studies in Ontario’s alvars, including Manitoulin Island, the Northern Bruce Peninsula and especially the Carden Alvar. Margo was incredibly generous and supportive of conservation, as demonstrated by her generous gift, which allowed NCC to acquire this property,” says Kristyn.
Jennifer Sunnerton, Margo’s grandniece, shared reflections about Margo, her life, her love of the outdoors and unique relationship with nature.
It has been said that Margo could teach anyone about nature, from novices to experts. She enjoyed sharing her knowledge and imparting interesting tidbits to help you remember just exactly what that bird call was, or why that plant’s flower looked the way it did.
Canada darner (Photo by Gary Yankech)
The event continued with a tour of the property, starting through a field full of butterflies and dragonflies (including one Canada darner that was netted for examination by the group) and ending at the gorgeous McGee Creek, which was a deep blue, in contrast to the changing red leaves, light azure sky and brilliant sunshine.
NCC’s purpose is to conserve natural areas for the benefit of nature and for all Canadians. Conserved natural areas signify NCC’s and our donors’ commitment to ensuring a natural legacy for our children and grandchildren.
NCC aims to help people value and experience nature through our work, events and public properties such as the Margo Holt Nature Reserve. It is through the support of our partners and donors, such as Margo Holt, that NCC is producing tangible results we can walk on.