Nature Days, Happy Valley Forest, ON (Photo by HSBC Bank Canada)

Nature Days, Happy Valley Forest, ON (Photo by HSBC Bank Canada)

Taking time to celebrate our success and say thank you

Conservation Volunteers event, the Happy Valley Forest, Ontario (Photo by NCC)

Conservation Volunteers event, the Happy Valley Forest, Ontario (Photo by NCC)

Usually at this time of year, we would start calling on you, our dedicated volunteers, to don your gloves and boots and meet us out in the field to help remove garlic mustard, plant trees or count butterflies. But this year, we are asking you to stay home in light of COVID-19. In these troubling times, it is good to look at our past small (and not-so-small) victories. Thanks to your support over the years, NCC has been able to do great things for conservation. So let's celebrate our past success, as we look forward, with hope, to meeting each other out in nature again.

2019 was a great year for conservation, thanks to you

In 2019, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) in Ontario was able to restore more prairie, count more butterflies and build more fish apartments than ever before — because of you! The time you give us is precious, so thank you for coming out, year after year, to help NCC with our priority stewardship work.

Your impact on nature

Every year, volunteers just like you help us care for nature. Because of the time you so generously give us, we can care for our lands and the species that live there, ensuring they thrive. In Ontario in 2019, over the span of 59 events, 992 volunteers from 112 cities and towns across Ontario donated over 3,600 hours of important stewardship work. As a result, together we successfully:

  • Restored nearly 20 hectares (50 acres) of grassland and meadow habitat by plating native wildflowers and grasses;
  • Removed over 5 hectares (12 acres) of invasive plants, like garlic mustard and buckthorn;
  • Created over 3 kilometres of fish habitat along the Mad River;
  • Built 70 metres of boardwalk in Happy Valley Forest; and  
  • Planted 30 hectares (74 acres) with native trees to restore forest and wetland habitat.

For all your efforts, we say thank you!

"I love the area where we live and am happy that the Nature Conservancy of Canada is acquiring and preserving lands as natural spaces close to my home. When I heard of volunteer opportunities to help with habitat restoration projects, I was glad to help out. It was a great way to get outdoors and get my hands dirty and learn about the plants and animals that are native to this area. One of my favourite memories of 2019 was the sighting of a giant swallowtail butterfly at the end of our day of planting prairie plants at the Barr Property, Rice Lake Plains. That was our reward for the hard work we did that day!"  - Susanne Williams, Conservation Volunteer

With a little help from our friends

Conservation is a big job, and it’s thanks to these 14 partners that our 2019 Ontario Conservation Volunteers program was made possible. Thank you so much to these amazing organizations for their support of on-the-ground conservation in Ontario:

Volunteers removing garlic mustard (photo by Brent Sinclair)

Volunteers removing garlic mustard (photo by Brent Sinclair)

  • Alectra
  • CIBC Mellon
  • Cleaning Up Norfolk
  • Goderich District Collegiate Institute
  • Home Trust
  • Lion’s Club
  • Long Point Region Conservation Authority 
  • Lower Maitland Steward Group
  • Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority
  • Ontario Power Generation
  • ParkBus
  • Royal Bank of Canada
  • Telus
  • Valley Heights High School

Meet your fellow volunteers

In Ontario, we are lucky to have a dedicated group of individuals who return, event after event, to volunteer for the love of the province’s natural spaces. We asked a few of our dedicated volunteers to share some of their stories and tell us why they are lending a hand for nature.

Georgian Bay-Huronia

Bruce Gemmel – Carden Alvar and Minesing Wetlands

Photo Courtesy of Bruce Gemmel

Photo Courtesy of Bruce Gemmel

“I grew up in Port Credit, Ontario, at a time when it was still a small town on the outskirts of Toronto. My friends and I were "free-range" children. We would explore many places — my favourite being Rattray Marsh, on the shores of Lake Ontario, about a mile from our house. The atmosphere in the marsh was so eerie, and the plant life so lush and unusual, that we would pretend a dinosaur or two might be lurking nearby. I became a supporter [of NCC] in 1971, when this magical place was threatened by development and NCC was one of the organizations that worked successfully to save it.

"I started volunteering with NCC in 2009. I've done quite a few invasive species events, such as battling buckthorn, Scotch pine, garlic mustard, policeman's helmet, honeysuckle and, the arch-enemy of alvars, the plant I love to hate, dog-strangling vine.

"I also enjoy the butterfly and dragonfly counts, because they are great fun. Where else can you see apparently rational adults jumping up and down, waving nets and shouting and pointing as they run through mud and poison ivy in pursuit of an insect?

"Seeing a Hine's emerald, the rarest dragonfly in North America, on a cluster of showy lady's-slipper in bloom — these are the kinds of experiences that always make me look forward the next season of Conservation Volunteers.”

Southwestern Ontario

Sumiko Onishi – Western Lake Erie Islands

Photo courtesy of Sumiko Onishi

Photo courtesy of Sumiko Onishi

“I conduct research seven days a week for the Pelee Island Bird Observatory during the spring and fall bird migration seasons, so I know how hard field work can be. Because of my busy schedule, the end of season is the only time I can volunteer for other outdoor activities. For the last five years, sowing acorns with NCC staff has become a November tradition to wrap up the season. Sometimes we’ve worked under rainy and chilly conditions, but I enjoy feeling the autumn air and listening to birds flying over when we are planting.

"The best part is experiencing the changing seasons. I like planting, watching the sprouts emerge, seeing the plants growing and finding out how birds and other animals use the habitat.

"For the past 10 years, I have seen many dead ash trees on Pelee Island and old trees broken and falling down. I hope planting more trees will help future generations of forests and that the trees and grasses we plant will provide habitat for many different species, including islanders and visitors too.”

Southwestern Ontario – Norfolk

Inga Hinnerichsen – Southern Norfolk Sand Plain

Photo courtesy of Inga Hinnerchsen

Photo courtesy of Inga Hinnerchsen

“Back in Finland where I grew up, my dad used to take me along on his weekend outings, starting when I was two and a half years old. He was an avid naturalist and taught me the scientific names of plants and mushrooms we found. From there, my fascination for fungi grew.

"I immigrated to Canada in 1971, first to Toronto, then Calgary and now, in retirement, in lovely Norfolk County. I quickly discovered the amazing biodiversity in the Carolinian ecosystem, and the knowledge and passion passed on to me by my dad were rekindled. I began to learn about the species at risk in our area. Backus Woods was an introduction to NCC. What a fantastic idea to acquire important natural tracts of land and preserve them for future generations!

"I'm grateful for the opportunity to give back, even if just a little bit, to the conservation and restoration of our natural areas, which play such a big part in my life.”

Midwestern Ontario

Erik Van Den Kieboom – Northern Bruce Peninsula

Photo courtesy of Erik Van Den Kieboom

Photo courtesy of Erik Van Den Kieboom

“I met Esme Batten of NCC during a school field trip on the Bruce Peninsula that was set up through my science teacher, Tobin Day, in the spring of 2016. I volunteered to participate with Esme during the massasauga and queen snake surveys on the Bruce Peninsula in July of 2016.

"I became involved with NCC because it sounded like a great learning experience. I saw it as an opportunity to learn more about Ontario’s fascinating snakes, as well as to see a few new species. Most of all, however, I wanted to help gain a better understanding of our endangered snakes and learn how we can protect them and their habitat.

"What I liked best about being involved with NCC was that I was outside every day, all day, in a natural environment while I was learning about massasaugas and queen snakes. It was an amazing experience and I hope to volunteer with NCC again.”


Tanner Lang – Rice Lake Plains

Photo courtesy of Tanner Lang

Photo courtesy of Tanner Lang

“I grew up watching National Geographic and nature documentaries, which led to an interest and passion for environmental science, specifically in ecological restoration. With only three per cent of tall grass systems remaining in southern Ontario, they and the species that depend on them need our help. This led me to volunteer with NCC to restore tall grass systems by preparing sites for planting prairie species plugs. Working with NCC staff on the Rice Lake Plains gave me the opportunity to do my part in restoring an endangered community and to learn new things.”

Eastern Ontario

Anne Robertson – Frontenac Arch

Photo courtesy of Anne Robertson

Photo courtesy of Anne Robertson

“Since 1997, I have monitored a conservation agreement for NCC on behalf of the Kingston Field Naturalists. An annual trip to this wonderfully wild property on the Canadian Shield, with forest, wetlands and open rocky areas providing a rich variety of habitats, is a joy at any time of year.

"NCC is an excellent example of an organization that does a very good job of land protection across the country and is well known for being one of the most reliable groups protecting property nationally. NCC gives me an opportunity to visit wild lands and meet like-minded people. Knowing NCC is a reliable land protection organization reassures me that donations will be well spent.”

Whatever their background or reasons for getting involved, we are so grateful to all of our wonderful and dedicated volunteers.

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