Restored wetland, Pelee Island, ON (photo by NCC)

Restored wetland, Pelee Island, ON (photo by NCC)

Massive wetland creation project announced

February 2, 2019
Windsor, ON


The Nature Conservancy of Canada to create a 62-acre wetland on Pelee Island – their largest wetland restoration project in Ontario

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is looking to undertake a large-scale, multi-year restoration project on Pelee Island in Lake Erie. Over the next few years, the national land conservation organization will create a substantial 62-acre (25-hectare) wetland, restore 20 acres (8 hectares) of native meadow, tackle invasive phragmites, and create new trails and signage to welcome island visitors and the local community.

Drained in the late 1800s, this former marsh once sheltered migratory songbirds and waterfowl. When complete, the wetland will also support migratory shorebirds, such as semipalmated plover and spotted sandpiper, turtle, salamander and a multitude of other species. The wetland will also provide critically important water retention, filtration and flood mitigation.

“Wetlands play an important role in the health of our country and our communities. They play a critical role in absorbing and storing carbon pollution,” says Julie Vasseur, acting program director, southwestern Ontario, for NCC. They also remove sediments, excess nutrients and even bacteria from our drinking water. Like a giant sponge, they absorb and hold water to buffer our cities and farms from floods and droughts, both of which are growing more common and extreme in recent years.”

Almost 10 years ago, NCC began to transform former agricultural fields into thriving native meadows and small wetlands. In many places these marginal agricultural lands were already quite wet — a clear sign to conservation staff that they were once wetlands. Now restored, they are teeming with wildlife, including species at risk, such as monarch and snapping turtle.

“This project is a huge undertaking, but an important one,” says Vasseur. “Creating the wetland is on top of our annual management, native seed collections and invasive species removal. We urgently need to raise $450,000 to be able to start this spring.”

The most southerly inhabited part of Canada, Pelee Island supports a high density of rare and at-risk species, including monarch, gray fox, yellow-breasted chat, blue ash, Lake Erie watersnake and blue racer snake. Some of these species are at the northern edge of their range, meaning that in Canada they are only found on Pelee Island.

To date, NCC has conserved over 1,000 acres (390 hectares) of globally rare shoreline, alvar and forest habitat, representing more than 10 per cent of the island.


  • Pelee Island is the largest of the Canadian Western Lake Erie Islands, an archipelago of 22 islands spanning the border of Ohio and Ontario. The nine Canadian islands form two globally significant Important Bird Areas.
  • Canada is home to 25 per cent of the world’s wetlands, which are important for the health of our planet. However, these ecosystems are disappearing very quickly due to residential and commercial development, invasive species and pollution. Every day, important wetlands are being lost across Canada.
  • It’s estimated that 64 per cent of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900. In the last 50 years, our planet’s inland and coastal wetlands have declined by over one-third, where data is available — a rate three times greater than the loss of forests.
  • Wetlands in southern Canada reflect the fate of wetlands around the world. It’s estimated that by 1990, more than 49 million acres (20 million hectares) of Canada’s wetlands had been lost. Wetlands associated with urban areas are particularly threatened, with 80 to 98 per cent converted to other uses. 
  • From providing ecological services such as flood control and carbon storage to food production, wetlands play a vital role in our day-to-day lives. 
  • Almost 35 per cent of all rare, threatened and endangered species are dependent on wetlands
  • Wetlands are vital nesting and feeding grounds for waterfowl. They provide nursery habitat for fishes and are one of Canada’s most diverse ecosystems. At least half of our wildlife species rely on wetlands for at least part of their lifecycle.


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 2.8 million acres (more than 1.1 million hectares), coast to coast, with 200,000 acres (more than 82,000 hectares) in Ontario. To learn more, visit natureconservancy.ca.

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Media Contact:

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

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