Lower Big Creek Block, Norfolk, ON (Photo by NCC)

Lower Big Creek Block, Norfolk, ON (Photo by NCC)

Nature Conservancy of Canada expands Norfolk County protected wetlands

January 12, 2022
Simcoe, ON


Protected habitat supports diverse forest and wetland habitat in one of Canada's most biologically diverse areas

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is announcing the protection of 20 hectares of wetland and forest habitat in the Big Creek watershed in Norfolk County. This new property supports swamp forest and sand plain forest habitats, which define the Carolinian Life Zone in Canada, and it has open agricultural fields that will be restored to native habitat. Though this zone only makes up one per cent of Canada’s landmass, its ecosystems support more plant and animal species than anywhere else in Canada.

This property borders other NCC-owned conservation lands. This area was identified as a priority for conservation due to its proximity to existing protected lands, its high-quality natural habitat, the presence of rare and endangered species and its potential for ecosystem restoration. NCC staff in Norfolk have extensive experience developing, implementing and managing restoration projects and will draw on past work and partner input to create a plan for this site.

This area in Norfolk County is important for migrating waterfowl seeking food to fuel their journeys and safe places to rest. NCC will enhance the wetland retention on the property by breaking up drainage tile and re-creating topography by moving soil and creating depressions and mounds to mimic a natural inland wetland.

Before restoring habitats across the landscape, staff will consult historical aerial photographs to see where water settled on the land. Increasing the property’s water retention capacity will contribute to a better natural management of spring thaw and rain events. Slowing the water’s flow toward Lake Erie will also allow it to cool and leave behind nutrients that could otherwise contribute to declining water quality in the Great Lakes.

“This property provides an excellent opportunity for targeted restoration to aid in the global biodiversity crisis, while also helping to improve water quality flowing into Lake Erie,” said Kristen Bernard, NCC program director for southwestern Ontario. “We have lost over 70 per cent of wetland habitat in southern Ontario, so we are excited to get to work on restoring this property to its natural state so that vulnerable species can thrive.”

Half of all bird species in Canada as well as one-quarter of the species listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act occur in the Carolinian Life Zone. Reptiles including eastern foxsnake (endangered), eastern hog-nosed snake (threatened), snapping turtle (special concern), Blanding’s turtle (endangered), midland painted turtle (special concern) and birds such as Canada warbler (special concern), wood thrush (threatened), Louisiana waterthrush (threatened), cerulean warbler (endangered) and golden-winged warbler (threatened) have been documented in the immediate area.

NCC is grateful for the support from the federal government’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program, as well as for funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and SC Johnson.


“Restoration of the agricultural lands provides an excellent opportunity to create important inland wetland habitat, which will directly benefit waterfowl by providing breeding, staging and feeding habitat. We’re looking forward to working with our partners in Norfolk Country to restore this land.” - Kristen Bernard, NCC program director for southwestern Ontario

The twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss are two sides of the same coin, and we must tackle both crises together. By working with partners like the Nature Conservancy of Canada, we are protecting our natural environment in Ontario and across the country and building a healthier and more resilient future for our children and grandchildren. Programs like the Canada Nature Fund’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program are helping us progress toward conserving a quarter of Canada’s land and a quarter of its oceans by 2025.” – The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change


The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the nation's leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect 14 million hectares, coast to coast to coast.

The Government of Canada’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program (NHCP) is a unique public-private partnership to support new protected and conserved areas by securing private lands and private interests in lands. The program is managed by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). Federal funds invested in the program are matched with contributions raised by NCC and its partners, Ducks Unlimited Canada and the country’s land trust community.


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Media Contact:

Tara King
Communications Director, Ontario
C: 416-937-5079

Jensen Edwards
National Media Relations Manager
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