Southwestern Ontario farmers asked to donate portions of land for wetland conservation
ST. THOMAS, ONT. -- Ontario is investing $30 million over five years to restore 60 wetlands in the province, in partnership with Ducks Unlimited (DU) Canada.
Environment Minister Jeff Yurek made the announcement in St. Thomas, Ont. on Wednesday morning, telling those in attendance the new projects will help improve water quality, preserve habitat and help with impact of climate change.
The funding will help create wetland projects like two wetlands in Elgin County, under the auspices of the Kettle Creek Conservation Authority, while others in the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority are underway, with the goal of "capturing and filtering surface water before it enters Lake Erie."
"These types of wetlands excavated wetlands they capture surface water so as surface water comes across the land comes into the wetland, it stays here and that's their purpose," says Lynnette Mader, manager of provincial operations in Ontario for Ducks Unlimited Canada.
"They provide flood, flood attenuation properties as well so they slow that water it comes across the land they trap it. This wetland will vegetate so you'll see bull rushes. It will take some more rainfall to fill it up, but even as it is right now it's already attracting wildlife. There are tons of deer print there and if you put water on the landscape creatures will find it".
The Kettle Creek watershed has less than 2 per cent wetland cover, and studies show that should be around 8 per cent.
Wetland at Kettle Creek Conservation Authority north of St. Thomas, Ont. on June 16, 2021. (Brent Lale/CTV London)
The Elgin Stewardship Council (ESC) says not all land is created equally. They're encouraging local farmers to donate some of their property to create local wetlands.
'People are very generous in contributing for the good of the country and the county here in promoting better habitat for wildlife, water recharge areas through the wetlands and helping control erosion," says Ron Casier, of the ESC.
That's exactly what private land owners Scott and Linda Dunn did by working with partners partners Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority, ALUS Elgin and Elgin Stewardship Council to create a small wetland at their family farm near the shores of Lake Erie.
“The new wetland name, Lake Antonuk, comes from Linda's parents who grew tobacco and cash crops here for more than 50 years,” said Scott Dunn, in a statement though DU.
“Our plan to change our property to a more natural area happened after we watched many landowners remove trees and fill in or tile wetlands on their property. It only made sense to add a pond to support wildlife and help with the watershed.”
The Dunn’s new wetland is among the first to be completed by DU and its partners this spring.
Casier says with help from conservation authorities and Ducks Unlimited they can secure funding for those wishing to get on board.
"It's the old saying , if you build it they will come," says Casier.
"Mother nature abhors a vacuum and she'll fill this space with life and by the end of the summer."
The Stewardship Council is working on 18 projects, and with more proposals put forth by landowners, they can get complete funding from conservation authorities and DU.
"We'll probably be funding through our program through Ducks Unlimited around six or seven of them in Elgin County and Middlesex County over this next year," says Yurek.
"Every year I said 'get your applications in because we have a lot of money to spend' to create these wetlands, protect these wetlands and grow our wetlands in Ontario."