Thursday, September 27, 2012

Could Essex County Have Some of its Natural Areas Restored? v2

Wow, I read this short blog entry from the Windsor Star today, along with an excellent comment from Pelee Wings. I will simply re-post both comments in this blog posting.

Long story short, birding has brought to light something that I never realized about Southwestern Ontario. There is no significant forested area for at least a two or three hour drive. Every last acre  of land was converted to farmland and most of the swamps drained.

One of my best blog postings describes how Point Pelee was dyked and drained around the year 1895. Check it out here if you care to:  Nerdy for Birdy: Pondering the Origins of Point Pelee's Onion Fields

This Windsor star blog posting does not give much information, but would be incredible news if there is some truth and some real action and dedication to get things done. Here goes:

Canada’s first priority natural area is in Essex County

About half of Essex County has become the first priority natural area in Canada.
“It is historic,” Essex MP Jeff Watson said after he made the announcement on Fighting Island Thursday.
The Western Lake Erie Watersheds priority natural area is a defined area for protection that includes land in western and southern Essex County. It stretches from Tecumseh, Windsor and LaSalle east to Leamington and includes areas that drain into the Detroit River and Lake Erie.
Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Essex Region Conservation Authority have agreed to work together and focus on this area.
“Our region is important because we have the most species at risk of both plant and animal anywhere in Canada and we have the most fragmented habitat here,” Watson said.
It may involve land acquisition projects and it is hoped the new focus will encourage landowners to voluntarily agree to continue to keep their lands in a natural state, Watson said.
About three per cent of the area is protected as a national park or conservation lands which is the lowest amount of protected areas in any region in Ontario.
Richard Wyma, general manager of the Essex Region Conservation Authority, said the agreement recognizes the importance of the Carolinian habitat and expresses a sense of urgency in improving and protecting it. The agreement is a model that could be used elsewhere.
Wyma said the agreement will focus existing grants and he hopes it will attract more funding. He said there is a lot of work to do.
“It is more about how do we do more tree planting. How do we do more of our water quality improvement projects?”
On Facebook, Pelee Wings commented on this article:

Pelee Wings Natureoptics Paddlesports commented on
Sounds like the impetus we need to get on with restoring the drained wetlands in South-east Leamington adjacent Point Pelee National Park so Hillman Marsh would once again connect with the Point Pelee National Park marshes after it was drained on a big scale 140 years ago. It appears all of the big players are on side - Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Essex Region Conservation Authority..... now if we could just get the Municipality of Leamington and its narrow-minded agribusiness barons to pull their head out of the sand and recognize the national significance of our region we may make some progress in restoring habitat in this area which sadly hosts the largest list of species at risk in all of Canada. Imagine our up-and-coming wine region coupled with one of Canada’s very best ecotourism destinations which includes Point Pelee, the Big Creek marshes at Holiday Beach and wetlands of Cedar Creek then add in our warm climate making south Essex County a unique 3 season recreational haven ….. or imagine that we continue to turn every last square foot of our rich natural heritage into more corn and soybean fields. I applaud the vision our federal, provincial and County agencies have laid out today for restoring south Essex; now let’s get on with it.

This image highlights some natural areas that could be targeted with respect to southern Essex County. Imagine hearing a Pileated Woodpecker, or seeing Cerulean Warblers and Acadian Flycatchers in Essex! I can't help but think of Chief Seattle's famous quote: "What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected."

Jeff Watson just went up a few notches in my books. I think its cool to hear a politician use the term 'Fragmented Habitat' in a speech... I'm blown away really. Any actions that government and NGOs take to restore some of our natural history is worth celebrating. Is this just another empty headline? Only time will tell.

Good Birding!
 PS: Nashville & Tennessee Warblers, along with more Red-breasted Nuthatches at Ojibway tonight. 

PSS: Recent recognition of Holiday Beach causing some media stir:

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