Essex Forests and Wetlands Natural Area, ON (Photo by NCC)

Essex Forests and Wetlands Natural Area, ON (Photo by NCC)

The Nature Conservancy of Canada protects rare piece of Essex nature

August 14, 2019
Windsor, ON


The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has announced the protection of 41 hectares (102 acres) of rare wetlands, woods and meadows in the heart of Essex County, along Cedar Creek.

Located just northeast of the community of Harrow, the property has been named the Marianne Girling Nature Reserve. It is in honour of the late Marianne Featherstonhaugh Girling, whose generous gift in her Will was instrumental in helping NCC raise the money to conserve this property.

Girling, born and raised in Windsor, grew up exploring the fields and waters of Essex County with her family. She also cherished her time spent at the family’s Muskoka cottage, where she spent a lifetime of summers paddling and swimming. At an early age, she learned from her mother the importance of giving back. Girling spent decades as a professional volunteer — in her church, hospital and grassroots community organizations. Her lifelong love of nature and her commitment to community inspired her to leave a generous donation to NCC to support habitat conservation in Ontario.

In April, the national, non-profit land conservation organization announced its plans to ramp up efforts in the county, concentrating on several areas, including the Cedar Creek watershed. Over the last two months, generous individuals have stepped forward to help NCC protect this special place, many of them from the local community.

The nature reserve is part of a Provincially Significant Wetland that is home to species designated under the Species at Risk Act, such as barn swallow, eastern foxsnake, monarch, short-eared owl and yellow-breasted chat.

This project will add to an important connected stretch of habitat along Cedar Creek, which includes Marshfield Woods, a large forest and Area of Natural and Scientific Interest.

While much of the surrounding landscape has been used for farming for generations, the nature reserve is an uncommon natural gem. Protected natural areas like this are extremely rare in the county.

NCC, along with its partners, has conserved 344 hectares (855 acres) in the Essex County area since 2000.

This land conservation project was also made possible by funding from the Government of Canada, through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Legacy. These funds were matched by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and many additional generous donors, including the Essex County Field Naturalists.


“Part of Carolinian Canada, Essex County is one of the most ecologically important areas in the province. Home to more than 75 species at risk, it is no wonder that we are focusing our conservation efforts in this key area. Today’s announcement highlights our commitment to conserve more land, faster, in the places that need it most. And it is through the generosity of individuals like Marianne Featherstonhaugh Girling that make this work possible.” - Mike Hendren, NCC Regional Vice President, Ontario Region

“Mom loved spending time in nature and supported many causes that helped children to have the same experience. She would be pleased that this important natural habitat has been protected so close to her native Windsor.” - Karen Girling, daughter

“Nature is central to Canadian identity but recent scientific reports have shown that our biodiversity is under threat. With the help of partners like the Nature Conservancy of Canada along with the generosity of individuals like Marianne Featherstonhaugh Girling, we are making progress towards doubling the amount of protected nature. By taking the initiative now to establish places like the Marianne Girling Nature Reserve, we’re ensuring our kids and grandkids can connect to nature and experience its wonder.”  - Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada


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 more than 83,000 hectares (205,000 acres) in Ontario.

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, Duck Unlimited Canada and the country’s land trust community.

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Media Contact:

Nicole Senyi
Communications Manager
Ontario Region
C: 416-937-5079

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