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GUEST COLUMN: Conservancy raising money to protect alvar

'I believe it is our responsibility as Canadians to preserve these natural areas for many reasons,' says volunteer

I was recently talking with a friend about how our local land trust organization, the Couchiching Conservancy, works to protect nature.

My friend responded by saying they never really thought of themselves as an environmentalist, but then added, “Now that I have kids, and we’re facing a climate crisis, I am definitely paying more attention.”

I think many of us are not only paying attention, but feel driven to do something about the impact of the climate crisis and the loss of biodiversity on our planet. Some of the negative effects of our changing climate are clearly evident when we read daily news stories about fires, floods and other increasingly common natural disasters. But what about biodiversity? Why should we care?

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature website, “biological diversity is the resource upon which families, communities, nations and future generations depend. It is the link between all organisms on Earth, binding each into an interdependent ecosystem, in which all species have their role. It is the web of life.” The United Nations Climate Action website states, “Biodiversity forms the web of life that we depend on for so many things” — food, water, medicine, a stable climate, economic growth, among others. 

Biodiversity loss is caused by humans’ use of land, but also by climate change. Ecosystems have been altered causing many species and natural resources to be at risk or become extinct.

The good news is we have a powerful tool to fight against the threats of climate change and biodiversity loss — nature. This is where the Couchiching Conservancy comes in. By protecting natural habitats, the organization is supporting a nature-based solution to help mitigate the destructive effects of the climate crisis.

“Our focus has always been on preserving vital habitat,” explained Dorthea Hangaard, executive director of the Couchiching Conservancy, “but the challenge has never been greater because of the climate crisis and the development pressures on our region.”

The conservancy has developed a long-term protection strategy that has identified areas that will make the biggest impact in protecting crucial habitat and threatened species. One of those areas is a corridor east of Lake Couchiching that runs from the Carden Alvar region through the Black River Wildlands and Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park. (See map.)

In an effort to protect and steward this important natural habitat, the conservancy has created a corridors campaign with a goal to raise $1.4 million. Thanks to generous supporters and donors, the organization is close to realizing this goal. To date, the campaign has helped to protect six new nature reserves. Currently, the conservancy has an opportunity to gain another significant property that will make a huge impact on building this important corridor.

“We have been working with a local landowner to acquire the Morton Prairie Alvar,” explained Tanya Clark, fundraising and engagement manager with the conservancy. “It is particularly important to us because of the larger size (400 acres) and its connection to two other nature reserves. Not only is the property home to globally rare alvar habitat and species; it also contains a wide variety of ecosystems including forests, grasslands and wetlands. It is one of those properties that is so important for our communities. It helps reduce flooding, helps store carbon and is a nature-based solution to our changing climate.”

Couchiching Conservancy volunteer Doug Varty, who chairs the organization’s development committee, is proud of how the conservancy has protected some of our natural and wilderness areas, and he encourages support from the community.

“I believe it is our responsibility as Canadians to preserve these natural areas for many reasons, including protecting biodiversity, reducing the impacts of climate change and protecting them for future generations to enjoy,” he said.

“We are extremely fortunate to have a large supporter base and many people who want to help us protect local wilderness. We need to raise $632,000 for the Morton Prairie Alvar. That covers the cost of the land, a stewardship endowment and other costs such as fencing, signage and other ongoing maintenance,” added Clark.

“When donors contribute to a fundraising campaign such as this one, they often feel that their gift is doing a lot more than what they could do on their own. When we see forests, wetlands and alvars being destroyed, it can make you feel hopeless, but by connecting with others, you can really make a difference.”

The conservancy is already well on the way to raising the money needed to secure the Morton Prairie Alvar but has $271,000 left to go. To learn more about the property and how you can support the corridors campaign, visit the Couchiching Conservancy website.


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