Tree planting, Conservation Volunteers event, Goulding West property, ON (Photo by Neil Ever Osborne)

Tree planting, Conservation Volunteers event, Goulding West property, ON (Photo by Neil Ever Osborne)

2019 was a great year in Ontario

Winter at the Hazel Bird Nature Reserve, ON (Photo by NCC)

Winter at the Hazel Bird Nature Reserve, ON (Photo by NCC)

As the birds fly south, wetlands freeze and alvars become covered with snow, Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) stewardship and conservation staff in Ontario have hung up their hats and put away their hiking boots for another season to take stock of what was accomplished. 2019 was a great year in Ontario. We conserved more land, connected more Canadians to nature and inspired some of the best and brightest of the next generation of conservation scientists.

Conserving Ontario

Brighton Wetland, Eastern Lake Ontario Coast (Photo by David Coulson)

Brighton Wetland, Eastern Lake Ontario Coast (Photo by David Coulson)

From Pelee Island in the south, to Lake Superior in the north, to the Frontenac Arch in the east, NCC successfully completed 18 acquisition projects in Ontario this past year, securing 1,388 hectares (3,429 acres) of conservation land valued at $6.3 million!

These newly protected areas include 2.5 kilometres of undeveloped Lake Ontario shoreline and coastal wetland near Brighton, buffer habitat to oldgrowth Carolinian forest in Norfolk County, globally rare alvar near Napanee, the headwaters of Cockburn Island, and rare wetlands, woods and meadows in the heart of Essex County.

Old homestead on the Hudgin-Rose property. (Photo by David Coulson)

Old homestead on the Hudgin-Rose property. (Photo by David Coulson)

This past spring, NCC celebrated the protection of the Hudgin-Rose Property, 31 hectares (76 acres) of key migratory bird habitat on Prince Edward County’s south shore. This collection of alvar, grassland and wetland provides habitat for species such as Blanding’s turtle, monarch and eastern whip-poor-will. Originally settled by the Moses Hudgin family, the property is home to a historic log home that dates back to 1865. The Rose family later cared for the land and the building, and their stewardship led to the heritage designation for the home.

Caring for our lands

Helicopter over phragmites, Long Point, ON (Photo by NCC)

Helicopter over phragmites, Long Point, ON (Photo by NCC)

This summer, NCC staff were busy restoring native habitat, controlling invasive species, installing signs and fencing, maintaining trails and monitoring at-risk and rare plants and animals on our properties.

Managing invasive species is key to ensuring that protected habitats continue to provide native species with the resources they need to survive. NCC is a leader in invasive species management in the province especially in dealing with phragmites, an invasive perennial grass that has been called Canada’s worst invasive plant. Since 2016, NCC has partnered with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to eradicate this aquatic invader from the coastal marshes of Lake Erie near Long Point. Now in the program’s fourth year, we have been able to control phragmites in over half of Long Point’s coastal wetlands, totaling over 1,133 hectares (2,800 acres).

Connecting people to nature

Conservation volunteers enjoyed three days canoeing the Minesing Wetlands and building fish habitat (Photo by NCC)

Conservation volunteers enjoyed three days canoeing the Minesing Wetlands and building fish habitat (Photo by NCC)

In honour of World Migratory Bird Day, NCC hosted over 100 guests at the second annual Hazel Bird Day, a family-friendly event with hikes, talks, bird-banding demonstrations and a BBQ lunch at the Hazel Bird Nature Reserve on the Rice Lake Plains. Named after a local naturalist and bird enthusiast, this property is home to species at risk, including many grassland birds and eastern hog-nosed snake.

NCC hosted our regional NatureTalks event series in Prince Edward County, Kingston and Windsor. This year, participants learned how technology is changing the way we protect Ontario’s natural spaces and how to get involved in hands-on conservation in their communities.

Volunteers, Hazel Bird Nature Reserve, ON (Photo by NCC)

Volunteers, Hazel Bird Nature Reserve, ON (Photo by NCC)

The Big Trout Bay Nature Reserve joined North Bear Alvar, Backus Woods and Hazel Bird Nature Reserve as our fourth Nature Destination in Ontario. This fall we celebrated the official opening of the James Duncan Nature Trail, a 9.8-kilometre hike through the rugged forests, shorelines and cliffs of Big Trout Bay Nature Reserve.

Through our Conservation Volunteers program, we continued to engage Ontarians of all ages in our work inviting people out on to our properties and getting their hands dirty. From counting butterflies, to pulling invasive garlic mustard, 722 volunteers donated almost 4,000 hours of important stewardship work at 44 events across the province since the start of 2019. Here are a few of the events that volunteers took part in this year:

  • NCC partnered with Parkbus ActiveDays to bring out a bus full of 34 volunteers from downtown Toronto to the Hazel Bird Nature Reserve in the Rice Lake Plains. They planted 300 wildflowers and 1,440 grass plugs and cut down invasive Scotch pine trees.
  • Seventy members and friends of the Lion’s Club came out to plant 10,000 trees on a former agricultural field in the Backus Block in Norfolk County on a cold and windy day at the end of April.
  • Together with the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority, we held four volunteer events along the Mad River in the Minesing Wetlands to stabilize the streambank and create fish habitat by anchoring woody debris.

“The installation of fish habitat event was a wonderful experience to improve the well-being of our watershed. I feel it is critical for local communities to connect to nature through volunteering in conservation events. The passion and knowledge of NCC staff never ceases to amaze me.” — Jacob Ke, Conservation Volunteer

Inspiring tomorrow's conservation leaders

NCC works to invest in the next generation of conservation professionals through the Conservation Internship Program. This year, 22 conservation technicians and interns were posted across Ontario. They grew their skills through removing invasive species and restoring habitat, monitoring properties, conducting biological inventories of NCC’s lands and assisting with volunteer, community and media events. Our interns are vital to our stewardship efforts. They help ensure we can continue to care for our lands and act as ambassadors in the communities where we live and work.

“NCC’s Conservation Internship Program was a life-changing experience for me. The professional mentorship I received by all NCC staff was extremely enriching, in addition to the valuable, hands-on fieldwork I completed using internationally recognized, science-led conservation and restoration practices. This opportunity will help me stand out to future employers. I am truly grateful for this opportunity and would highly recommend the NCC Conservation Internship Program to anyone with a desire to have a career in conservation fieldwork.” — Katie Van Den Berg, Midwest Ontario, Conservation Intern

Looking ahead to 2020

Staley Point, Wolfe Island, ON (Photo by Spencer Wynn)

Staley Point, Wolfe Island, ON (Photo by Spencer Wynn)

This coming year we plan to do big things! We are currently fundraising to create a massive 25-hectare (62-acre) wetland on Pelee Island our biggest restoration project ever. We are also looking to expand our work on Lake Ontario’s eastern coast with several high priority acquisition projects, including Staley Point on Wolfe Island and expanding our conservation lands on Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County.

We will continue to need your support to ensure the stewardship of our conservation lands from expanding our invasive species management program, to ensuring that we can offer a number of high-quality conservation internships to train the leaders of tomorrow.

Through Conservation Volunteers events, NatureTalks Speaker Series and our Nature Destinations program we will keep engaging Ontarians in the work we do and provide the chance to experience nature first-hand.

As our lives become increasingly urban, digital and stressful, nature has never been more important. NCC has a proven track record of conserving land near the places we live, work and play. Our vision is to create a world where our most important natural treasures are protected forever. We hope you will continue to share this vision with us, and join us in making it a reality.

From all of us at NCC in Ontario, we wish you a very Happy Holidays and all of the best for the new year. See you in 2020!

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