National Heritage Conservation Program Provides New Protection for Canada’s Wetlands

Courtesy of Ducks Unlimited Canada
April 23, 2019

Oak Hammock Marsh, Man. – A new $100-million program announced today by the Government of Canada is poised to provide new protection for some of the country’s most valuable—and vulnerable—wetland habitat. Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is a key partner that will put these funds to work in ways that will benefit our land and water, species at risk and all Canadians.

Canada’s wetlands are some of the most productive and valuable ecosystems in the country. In addition to providing essential habitat for waterfowl and hundreds of other wildlife species, they naturally filter pollutants from water. They mitigate floods and droughts and protect communities from sea level rise. However, many wetlands are located within privately held or settled landscapes that can make them more vulnerable to degradation and loss. The Natural Heritage Conservation Program is a four-year federal government commitment that will focus on securing intact ecosystems on privately owned or managed lands. This is also where most of Canada’s species at risk are found.

The Hon. Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, made the announcement today in Toronto. The program is expected to conserve 200,000 hectares (more than 490,000 acres) across the country over the next four years.

Karla Guyn, DUC’s chief executive officer, joined Minister McKenna in Toronto and says the Natural Heritage Conservation Program is a significant investment that will positively impact generations to come.

“Ducks Unlimited Canada has a long and successful history of working with landowners and families as well as community groups, businesses and public agencies to deliver conservation that benefits them and the environment,” says Guyn. “Funding from the Natural Heritage Conservation Program will allow us to engage with more partners who have a shared interest in private lands. Working together to establish new protected areas will deliver more important environmental benefits to all Canadians.”

DUC will work closely with the Nature Conservancy of Canada who is overseeing the allocation of Natural Heritage Conservation Program funding. DUC will also be responsible for matching every federal dollar it receives with at least two dollars of non-federal contributions.

“The matching component of the program is powerful,” says Guyn. “We will be working with our supporters and conservation-minded Canadians from coast to coast to identify the lands and raise the funds that will not only triple the investment but triple the conservation impact.”

The Natural Heritage Conservation Program will contribute to achieving Canada’s Target 1 goal of protecting at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and freshwater habitats by 2020. It is funded through the federal government’s Canada Nature Fund.

Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is the leader in wetland conservation. A registered charity, DUC partners with government, industry, non-profit organizations and landowners to conserve wetlands that are critical to waterfowl, wildlife and the environment.

Contact Information

Ashley Lewis
Senior Communication Specialist
Ducks Unlimited Canada
(204) 467-3252

Jim Brennan
Director of Government Affairs
Ducks Unlimited Canada
(613) 612-4469

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More Protected Land in the Forillon Peninsula to Help the Movement of Wildlife

January 14, 2019

Courtesy of the Nature Conservancy of Canada

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has announced the expansion of an important wilderness area in eastern Quebec. The not-for-profit land conservation organization has acquired two new forested sites, further protecting another 26 hectares (64 acres) in the Saint-Majorique section of the Gaspé Peninsula. This expands the NCC-conserved lands here to 170 hectares (over 420 acres) along Route 197.  

This area is very important for animals, as it is the only land link that allows wildlife to move between Forillon National Park and the large public forest lands located further west. Located about 15 kilometres from downtown Gaspé and 5 kilometres from Rivière-au-Renard, these two properties provide a continuous forest cover dominated by balsam fir, white spruce and red maple. These wooded areas and waterways are home to a wide variety of animals, such as Canada lynx, moose, black bear, white-tailed deer, marten and red fox.

“The protection of these two new properties, located on both sides of Route 197, makes it possible to consolidate a forest corridor more than 500 metres wide, making it the most important protected ecological corridor on the Forillon Peninsula,” said Camille Bolduc, NCC project manager for Gaspésie. She added that the maintenance of ecological corridors is intended to ensure wildlife diversity both at the local level of the Forillon Peninsula and on the continental level.

Mobilizing local partners around the issue of ecological connectivity

In addition to private land protection initiatives, NCC is working with various local partners to address the issue of habitat fragmentation for wildlife. For example, a forum on the need for ecological connectivity in the Forillon Peninsula was held last September in Gaspé. Participants from the public and private land-use planning sector, Forillon National Park and NCC discussed the various ecological, land-use planning and road safety issues related to ecological connectivity along Route 197, and to work on the implementation of an action plan. This forum is part of the major project “Ecological corridors: a climate change adaptation strategy” coordinated by NCC in Quebec and its many partners.


These two new conservation projects were made possible by the financial support of the Ensemble pour la nature project of the Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques du Québec and the Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program.

We also wish to thank the private landowners who have contributed to the protection of wildlife corridors on their property.

The Ecological corridors: a climate change adaptation strategy project is made possible thanks to the Action-Climat Québec program. The Fondation de la faune du Québec is also a project funding partner.   

“In addition to providing many services to humanity, particularly by storing carbon, plants form groups that constitute the habitats of several animal species, as is the case in the Gaspé Peninsula. Keeping forests intact is therefore a key role in the fight against climate change and the preservation biodiversity in Quebec and around the world. I am proud that, through the Ensemble pour la nature project, we can collectively contribute to preserving part of this important natural heritage from which we benefit, both for ourselves and for the generations to come.” – Benoit Charette, Minister of Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change

“With the help of partners like the Nature Conservancy of Canada in Quebec and its many partners including those in and around Gaspé, our government is making progress toward doubling the amount of protected nature across Canada’s lands and oceans. Nature is central to our Canadian identity, and by taking the initiative now to establish a wildlife corridor near Forillon National Park, we’re protecting wildlife and ensuring our kids and grandkids can connect to nature and experience its wonder.” -Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.


•    For more than 15 years, NCC has been ensuring the long-term protection of exceptional natural environments in the Gaspé Peninsula. To date, these efforts, in collaboration with local and regional partners, have protected more than 886 hectares (2,189 acres of important habitat for 28 at-risk species.
•    Ecological corridors are natural passages through which wildlife move from one habitat to another. It is essential to protect and restore these corridors in areas fragmented by human infrastructure such as roads and cities.


The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is Canada’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 has helped to protect more than 1.1 million hectares (2.8 million acres) across the country, including 45,000 hectares (111,197 acres) in Quebec. To learn more, visit

The Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP), administered by NCC, is a unique public-private partnership to accelerate land conservation in southern Canada. Through matching contributions, NCC and its partners enhance federal funding. The habitats conserved through the NACP help strengthen the protection of natural corridors and other protected areas.

The Ensemble pour la nature project (PEPN) is a three-year, $15 million grant to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) from Quebec’s Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MDDELCC). It aims to establish financial partnerships and acquire scientific knowledge to ensure the conservation and protection of natural environments on private lands in Quebec between now and March 31, 2020. It thus promotes solidarity with respect to protected areas by involving Quebec communities in conservation actions.

Media Contact:
Elizabeth Sbaglia
Communications Manager, Quebec Region
Nature Conservancy of Canada
514-876-1606 x6240

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The Government of Canada is protecting nature through investments in Canada’s natural heritage

Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada

OTTAWA, Nov. 19, 2018 – Canadians love nature and the diverse wildlife that depends on it. That’s why the Government of Canada has committed to doubling the amount of nature protected, on land and in our oceans, from coast to coast to coast.

Today, Environment and Climate Change Canada is launching a call for proposals for the Natural Heritage Conservation Program. Proposals will be sought from organizations that can develop, coordinate, and deliver a national program aimed at assisting local, provincial, territorial, and national conservation organizations in securing ecologically sensitive private lands across Canada.

As part of the Budget 2018 Nature Legacy initiative, the Government of Canada has made a $500 million investment in the new Canada Nature Fund to support the protection and conservation of Canada’s ecosystems, landscapes, and biodiversity, including species at risk. Canada Nature Fund contributions will be matched by partners, raising a total of $1 billion for conservation action, and will help Canada work towards its 2020 target of protecting 17% of Canada’s lands and in-land waters, protecting and recovering species at risk, and improving biodiversity for all.

The $100 million Natural Heritage Conservation Program is one of three Canada Nature Fund call for proposals to be launched this year. Calls for proposals will also be opening in the coming weeks for the Canada Nature Fund’s Challenge component as well as for funding to protect species at risk. Application information and details are available at Nature Legacy.
By working with partners across the country, the Government of Canada will continue to protect our natural heritage and ensure a healthy and prosperous future for our kids and grandkids.
“Protecting our nature and the wildlife that depend on it is important to preserving our natural heritage and ensuring our kids and grandkids have a healthy and prosperous future. That’s why we are committed to doubling the amount of protected nature. The Nature Fund is an important part of achieving this objective through the establishment of new protected and conserved areas on private lands.”
– Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Quick facts

  • The new $500 million Canada Nature Fund will be matched by partners who will contribute an additional $500 million to raise at least $1 billion toward the conservation of Canada’s nature.
  • Today’s announcement means that the Canada Nature Fund will contribute $100 million over four years to the establishment of protected and conserved areas on private lands in Canada. This federal funding will be matched by private organizations.
  • The Canada Nature Fund supports the protection of Canada’s ecosystems, landscapes, biodiversity, and species at risk.
  • Globally, Canada has 20 per cent of freshwater resources, 24 per cent of wetlands, 25 per cent of temperate rainforest area, and 33 per cent of remaining boreal forest.
  • Canada also has almost one third of all land-based carbon storage. This is a vital element of action on climate change.

For further information: Caroline Thériault, Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, 613-462-5473,; Media Relations, Environment and Climate Change Canada, 819-938-3338 or 1-844-836-7799 (toll-free),

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Wetlands – World’s Most Valuable Ecosystem are Disappearing Three Times Faster than Forests, warns new report

27 September 2018, Reposted from Ramsar

Wetlands, the most economically valuable and among the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world, are disappearing three times faster than forests with severe consequences for our future unless urgent action is taken to ensure their survival, warns a new report by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

Approximately 35 per cent of the world’s wetlands were lost between 1970-2015 with annual rates of loss accelerating from 2000, according to the first-ever Global Wetland Outlook of the Ramsar Convention, a global treaty ratified by 170 countries to protect wetlands and promote their wise use. The report shows every region is affected.
Losses have been driven by megatrends such as climate change, population increase, urbanization, particularly of coastal zones and river deltas, and changing consumption patterns that have all fuelled changes to land and water use and to agriculture.

Wetlands, which include lakes, rivers, marshes and peatlands as well as coastal and marine areas such as estuaries, lagoons, mangroves and coral reefs, are currently estimated to cover more than 12.1 million km2, an area greater than Greenland. Between 13-18 per cent of them are on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, which are protected sites.

Wetlands are critical to human and planet life. Directly or indirectly, they provide almost all of the world’s consumption of freshwater. More than one billion people depend on them for a living and 40 per cent of the world’s species live and breed in wetlands. They are a vital source for food, raw materials, genetic resources for medicines, and hydropower; they mitigate floods, protect coastlines and build community resilience to disasters, and they play an important role in transport, tourism and the cultural and spiritual well-being of people.

Studies show the economic value of services provided by wetlands far exceeds those of terrestrial ecosystems. Inland wetlands, for example, have a total economic value five times higher than tropical forests, the most valuable terrestrial habitat. Wetlands are also essential to efforts to regulate the global climate. Peatlands store twice as much carbon as the world’s forests despite accounting for just three per cent of the world’s land surface, with salt marshes, sea grass beds and mangroves also carbon-dense ecosystems. However, wetlands produce 20-25 per cent of global methane emissions and rising temperatures from climate change are expected to increase greenhouse gases from wetlands, particularly in permafrost regions.

Despite this, wetlands remain dangerously undervalued by policy and decision-makers in national plans. An inexplicable omission given the pivotal role wetlands play in delivering global commitments on climate change, sustainable development, biodiversity and disaster risk reduction, with wetlands contributing to 75 indicators of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) alone.

The persistent and growing threat to the world’s remaining wetlands from water drainage, pollution, unsustainable use, invasive species, disrupted flows from dams and sediment dumping from deforestation and soil erosion upstream is detailed in the GWO, released ahead of the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP13) in Dubai, UAE.
Water quality trends are worsening with nearly all fresh water sources in the world compromised to some extent. Water pollution and nutrient loading from fertilizers are among the biggest challenges. According to the UN, more than 80 per cent of waste water is released into wetlands without adequate treatment while fertilizer use in 2018 is likely to be 25 per cent higher than in 2008, exacerbating excessive wetland plant growth and levels of decomposition resulting in oxygen starvation for flora and fauna alike.

The biodiversity crisis is just as alarming.

More than 25 per cent of all wetlands plants and animals are at risk of extinction. The IUCN’s Red List Index which assesses survival probability using available data has identified negative trends for wetland mammals, birds, amphibians and corals, an indication they are heading for extinction. Coral reefs are declining fastest due to rising sea temperatures, while amphibians have the lowest numbers and are the most threatened. Wetland fish, reptiles and large mammals are also vulnerable with every turtle species globally threatened and a third critically endangered.

“The Global Wetland Outlook is a wake-up call – not only on the steep rate of loss of the world’s wetlands but also on the critical services they provide. Without them, the global agenda on sustainable development will not be achieved,” says Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. “We need urgent collective action to reverse trends on wetland loss and degradation, and secure both the future of wetlands and our own at the same time.”

The Parties to the Ramsar Convention have committed to the conservation and wise use of all wetlands. Although they have designated more than 2,300 sites of international importance so far, making the Ramsar List one of the world’s largest networks of protected areas, designating new sites for protection is not enough.

The GWO emphasizes the necessity of developing effective wetland management plans and integrating wetlands into the planning and implementation of national plans on sustainable development, climate change and other key global commitments.
The report also stresses good governance and effective institutions at local, national and regional levels as a crucial factor in preventing, ending, and reversing trends in wetland loss and degradation. More accurate data on wetland extent and wetland inventories is needed to help countries identify priority sites for restoration. Indigenous and local knowledge as well as citizen scientists are already invaluable resources on the state of wetlands and can be used more.

Drawing on successful examples across the world, the report recommends using existing funding mechanisms to apply economic and financial incentives for communities and business to protect wetlands through tax benefits. Perverse incentives for farmers and business such as subsidies to agriculture that encourage wetland conversion or pollution should be ended.

Additional recommendations include identifying solutions for wise use of wetlands that draw upon all expertise, ranging from hard science to traditional knowledge, to secure wide engagement on wetland protection and wise use and ensure sound decision-making. The GWO’s findings are expected to inform discussions and decisions at the Ramsar COP13 (21-29 Oct).

“There is a slow awakening to the value of wetlands. Across the globe, legislative bodies need to integrate wetlands into policy programs and make investments into their sustainability. We need to educate the world on the critical importance of this most rapidly disappearing ecosystem. Without the world’s wetlands, we all hang in the balance,” asserts Rojas Urrego.

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In New Brunswick’s Blueberry Country, a “Nuisance” Bird Earns Respect and Allies

reprinted from the Globe and Mail, August 27, 2018
Ivan Semeniuk/The Globe and Mail

On a typical summer afternoon, the main activity on the island of Miscou, at the tip of New Brunswick’s Acadian Peninsula, consists of tourists flocking to La Terrasse à Steve, a local landmark, to fill up on lobster sandwiches and skewers of barbecued shrimp and scallops.
But nearby on the 10-kilometre-long island, another feeding frenzy has a more troubled history.

For three weeks every summer, Miscou Island plays host to migrating shorebirds called whimbrels that fly in from the Arctic and feast on the region’s bounty of wild berries before undertaking an extraordinary non-stop journey across 6,000 kilometres of open ocean.

The Maritime sojourn is crucial for the whimbrel, a protected species thought to be in serious decline. But it has also placed whimbrels in direct conflict with the island’s blueberry producers, a growing presence in the region who, until recently, viewed the brown, speckled birds as a threat to their bottom line.

Now, a concerted effort by scientists to engage with producers on behalf of the whimbrels appears to be paying off. Producers have not only become more tolerant of whimbrels in their fields, but, for the first time, they have participated in counting the birds to help track their fluctuating numbers.

“This year we had producers calling and telling us, ‘Hey they’ve arrived!’ I wasn’t expecting that,” said Lisa Fauteux, a biologist with the conservation group Verts Rivages, based in Shippagan.

Ms. Fauteux said the success of the outreach effort could pave the way for a broader awareness of conservation issues across the Acadian region.
Open this photo in gallery

It’s a dramatic turnaround compared to 2014, when frustrated producers were looking for ways to deal with the whimbrels turning up in their blueberry fields. Reports from local birders of whimbrels being harassed and shot reached Julie Paquet, a Sackville-based shorebird biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service. Ms. Paquet began enlisting colleagues to investigate the problem. But when her team of mainly female researchers arrived and began asking questions, producers were more than a little wary of the “strange women hanging out in their blueberry fields,” she said.

“The growers, in the first year, were not happy to see us,” said Diana Hamilton, a field ecologist with Mount Allison University who participated in the project. “They considered the birds a nuisance.”

Ms. Paquet decided on a two-pronged approach that involved surveying producers to understand their concerns while gathering data on the whimbrels to quantify their impact. From the survey, there was no question producers regarded the migrating birds as a serious problem. But when scientists began documenting the whimbrels’ feeding habits, they discovered that impression was incorrect.

Whimbrels are omnivores who use their long curving beaks to hunt for crabs, insects and other small invertebrates living along the shore. During migration, they supplement this diet with berries, which grow naturally in bogs near the coast. As commercial blueberry growing has expanded on the peninsula, whimbrels have helped themselves to the new food source.

But researchers found that blueberries only account for half of what the birds eat when they are in the region, and producers were significantly overestimating the quantity of berries the birds can consume. The real quantity and cost turned out to be minimal compared with money spent on noisemakers and other means of chasing the birds away.

The challenge of conveying these data and winning over producers fell to Julie Guillemot, a professor of environmental management at the University of Moncton’s Shippagan campus. With a background in conflict resolution, she began an outreach program to inform growers – a program that Ms. Fauteux has since continued under contract with the federal government.

“What we’re doing is myth-busting,” Ms. Fauteux said. “We are telling them the story of the whimbrel.”

It’s a story that spans half the globe, from the Mackenzie River Delta where whimbrels nest each summer to their wintering grounds in South America. Based on historic accounts, biologists estimate the number of birds making the trip once numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Current estimates suggest about 22,000 now pass through Atlantic Canada annually. While fewer than 10 per cent of them will stop on the Acadian Peninsula, it’s enough to make the region critically important to the long-term survival of the species.

John Schenkels, chair of Bleuets NB Blueberries, which represents producers in the province, said biologists made a convincing case that whimbrels are not a problem for the industry when they spoke at one of the organization’s meetings last year.

“I would say that most producers that heard the message were somewhat relieved,” he said. Lane Stewart, a producer with a 200-acre blueberry farm on Miscou Island, said the outreach effort has helped to change his mind about the whimbrel, a bird he said was commonly hunted on the island in his grandparents’ day.

“They are not a threat to me,” said Mr. Stewart, who was among the producers who allowed biologists onto his property in 2016 to trap individual birds temporarily and outfit them with GPS transmitters.

Satellite tracking of the transmitters confirms that after leaving New Brunswick, the birds typically fly non-stop for about six days in order to reach the northern coast of Brazil. No other shorebirds in the Western Atlantic are known to routinely undertake such a long flight over open water, a behaviour biologists suspect may have arisen so the whimbrels can skirt past the hurricane-prone Caribbean.

“They may actually be flying a longer distance to avoid storm encounters,” said Fletcher Smith, a biologist at the College of William & Mary in Virginia who led the tracking operation. “It’s really an amazing thing.”

Mr. Stewart said he has taken to following the birds’ progress on a website that shows where they have travelled.

“To see such a little bird crossing from one end of the planet to the other – it’s kind of impressive,” Mr. Stewart said. “If it’s a help for them to eat here, that’s okay.”
It appears the whimbrels need all the help they can get. While biologists counted 1,200 whimbrels on the Acadian Peninsula in 2014, Ms. Fauteux said the number this year is closer to 400. But it is not clear how much of this represents a population decline and how much can be chalked up to shifting migration routes. Either way, scientists need more data, and Ms. Fauteux sees an opportunity to keep growers engaged by involving them in monitoring the birds. She said the project requires persistent communication with individual growers and with the community as a whole.

Even now, there are wrinkles that can make the dialogue challenging. While whimbrels may not be the scourge producers once thought they were, they must also contend with gulls, a resident species that requires no protection and likely does far more damage. That raises the question of how to keep the gulls off the blueberry fields without also chasing away the more skittish whimbrels.

Local politics also comes into play in places where residents are opposed to the expansion of blueberry fields into natural habitat. Ms. Fauteux said the need to enlist producer support on behalf of the whimbrels has sometimes meant striking a delicate balance between strongly-held opinions on land use.

“We’re trying to create a different viewpoint to broaden [the producers’] sense of working with nature,” she said. “But we have to respect that they have permits to have these fields.”
Having started the ball rolling four years ago, Ms. Paquet said the gradual shift in attitude toward whimbrels can blossom into something richer as producers continue to weigh the evidence scientists have provided.

“People need time,” she said. “My hope would be that communities on the peninsula take pride in the fact that they are providing habitat and resources for this really quite amazing species.”

Ms. Fauteux, who has roots in the area, said that is exactly what she has in mind, as she spends her summer crisscrossing the peninsula to meet with producers wherever she can reach them.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story stated that no other shorebirds are known to fly farther over open water than whimbrels. While this statement is accurate for the Western Atlantic, The Bar-tailed Godwit flies even farther over Pacific waters.

Follow Ivan Semeniuk on Twitter @ivansemeniuk


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Fighting Green with Green for Great Lakes Water Quality

(Courtesy of Ducks Unlimited Canada)

Lake Erie’s long-threatened water quality gets fresh hope with collaborative wetland restoration project

Paul General, wildlife manager for the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, was among the eight First Nations communities represented at a knowledge and experiences sharing workshop organized in February by Ducks Unlimited Canada. The workshop gave participants opportunities to exchange perspectives on wetland conservation in the Lake Erie watershed and discuss topics like invasive species and wetland restoration.

General is a member of Canada’s largest Indigenous community, one that for generations has relied on the watershed’s natural features to sustain its people. He singles out one of them.

“Water is a giver of life,” says General. “Without water, all things cease to exist.”

This home truth fortifies the passionate efforts behind the Lake Erie Watershed Wetlands Initiative (LEWWI), an ongoing collaborative project dedicated to improving the water quality in Lake Erie, the southernmost, shallowest, and smallest-by-volume of the Great Lakes. It’s also the Great Lake that’s most susceptible to blue-green algae. The algae, growing in response to excess nutrients, produces toxins that threaten drinking water sources, fish populations, beach quality, coastal recreational activities and the overall ecological health of the lake.

The cause of Lake Erie’s algae problem
There’s broad consensus within the scientific community that the main culprit promoting the growth of this destructive algae is phosphorus, a nutrient that enters the lake from a variety of Canadian and American sources including farmers’ fields, where the fertilizer is used to promote plant root development. The gravity of the problem varies by year depending on many factors, but very wet years, like 2017, can be especially bad when too much early spring rainfall carries more nutrients towards Lake Erie.

Still, 2017 was also a standout year for the promise it heralded for the lake’s water woes. That’s when DUC received a $1.3 million transfer payment—half from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and half from Infrastructure Canada —to restore wetland habitats and conduct project rebuilds in the Lake Erie watershed. This investment recognizes the emerging value of wetlands for improving water quality, a trend that’s taking hold across the country.

“It’s the first time the federal government has given money for wetland restoration, as an investment in green infrastructure, and that’s a big deal for us and other conservation organizations,” says Owen Steele, DUC’s head of conservation programs in Ontario. “It’s an affirmation of the importance of green infrastructure in addressing critical issues that impact society.”

Since European settlement, southwestern Ontario has lost as much as 90 per cent of its wetland habitat to urban development and agricultural intensification. The scale of this loss has sped up the flow of water and its associated nutrients downstream, diminishing the quality of our surface waters and contributing to water quality issues in our rivers and lakes.

In summer 2017, restoration work was well underway at this small wetland project located on a 270-acre agricultural property along the Thames River in the County of Middlesex.
In summer 2017, restoration work was well underway at this small wetland project located on a 270-acre agricultural property along the Thames River in the County of Middlesex. 

Helping Lake Erie’s water quality with green infrastructure
If draining and degrading wetlands has contributed to Lake Erie’s problems, putting some back on the landscape may be part of the answer. These restored wetlands collect water, trapping nutrients before they reach the lake, and are a type of green infrastructure identified as a best-management practice for improving water quality issues in Lake Erie.

In 2018, the federal and Ontario governments released the Canada-Ontario Lake Erie Action Plan, which includes a target of 40 per cent reduction in phosphorus loads based on 2008 levels. In spring 2017, the MNRF—with DUC and with additional financial support from Infrastructure Canada—jumpstarted the Action Plan’s implementation through the creation of LEWWI.

The LEWWI consisted of a series of DUC wetland conservation project rebuilds and new wetland restoration projects. The partnership exceeded expectations with the construction of 75 new projects, and the rebuilding of 17 existing wetlands projects within the Lake Erie basin. Most of the new projects are small wetlands on private lands that capture agricultural runoff from adjacent fields and tile outlets. These wetlands help reduce nutrient loading, improve water quality, mitigate flooding and contribute to climate resiliency in a long list of benefits. They also provide important habitat for waterfowl breeding pairs in the spring.

“We are really happy with the work DU Canada has done, as are the other collaborators we worked with on the Lake Erie Action Plan,” says David Copplestone, a policy advisor with MNRF. “With this increased investment, DUC was able to ramp up the amount of projects delivered this year, and so quickly—it was really impressive.”

The benefits of wetlands
Richard Wyma, general manager/secretary-treasurer of the Essex Region Conservation Authority, could say a thing or two—from both a professional and a personal position—about wetland benefits related to water quality, green infrastructure and watershed health. For the last several years, his conservation authority has partnered with DUC on various wetland restoration projects in the Carolinian ecozone: home to 25 per cent of Canada’s population—and the greatest diversity of wildlife species in the country.

“It’s an incredibly significant natural region that’s been heavily impacted by land use over the years, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to do what they can to protect it,” says Wyma.

It’s why he consigned 1.5 acres (0.6 hectares) of his 10 to a DUC-built wetland last year. This shallow water feature, a couple hundred feet from his house, delivers Wyma back to a childhood spent in nature. From his windows, he watches ducks, geese and cormorants make spectacular landings and wild turkeys and deer poke up among the sedges and rushes along its banks. “It’s wonderful to watch birds and wildlife in my own backyard, and to have my son grow up in a place where he can learn about nature in ways other kids can’t.”

For Paul General, such progress is heartening, if ironic. “To a First Nations person, it seems kind of odd that we would have to raise awareness to begin with. You would think that it would be a no-brainer to everyone, how important water is.”


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