Leadership for Life Saving Rural Lands

by | Jan 30, 2017 | 0 comments

Without rest, regeneration, conservation and some preservation, systems tire, stop producing, and inevitably fail.

Leadership for Life Saving Rural Lands
Adding hundreds of seedling trees to a crippled under-story choked out by E. Buckthorn.

How much rest, regeneration, conservation and preservation are we giving our land? In southern Ontario, not enough. More often than not, the adage is, “How can we make our lands produce more? How can we capitalize on what our lands can do for us?”

Looking at land usage in the Carolinian Life Zone (from Windsor to Toronto) over the past hundred years or so we see tired, over-used lands, largely catered to agricultural production. Yes, farms and farmers are critical for our survival! And yet, there’s much room to allow nature. Less than 20% of southern Ontario is covered in its natural form. The rest (80%), is heavily taxed by overuse. This wasn’t always the case.

Before the 1950s and 60s, farms ranged in size from 50 to 100 acres. Thousands of families lived on these small farms, cultivating not only crops and livestock, but firmly cementing their connection to the land. Many woodlots were maintained for important family provisions, products and places for nature.

Jack in the Pulpit

As we know, farming changed. It became bigger, more ‘efficient.’ Machines replaced people. Fertilizers and pesticides replaced any needed ‘hand’ labour. Farm sizes rose to several hundred acres or more. While most farmers of huge land plots certainly know their land, it’s difficult to know it on the fine scale anymore. Instead of needing the land for 25 functions, large farms only need it for a few; crops, possibly firewood, and maybe to go hunting.

What impact did ‘big farming’ have? Maximize the yields. Reduce or completely remove the hedgerow. Thin the bush (if any remains). Spray and spray again for better yields and less competition. These chemicals hampered what wildlife was left – especially amphibians, but birds, reptiles and mammals as well. The Carolinian Life Zone is the place of highest biodiversity in Canada. It’s by far where most of our endangered species are found.

With mighty large farms, city life became more prominent for those who had to move off the rural landscape. Even through today, the trend continues. Except for the important blips here and there.

Blip….organic farms….blip….hobby farms….blip…. people really interested in recovering nature on tired, worn out, overused landscapes. These are the life-saving lands.

Marsh marigold
Marsh Marigold in the wet forest of a private property.

The natural areas in ecology are known as ‘refugia’ for rare plants and animals. Relatively small rural parcels (from an acre to maybe a hundred or more), some of which was too difficult to clear, have been bought up by a whole new breed. Most don’t farm but rent out any active crop land. Most of these people aren’t environmentalists per se. But they are people; people interested in a mix of rural living, with still quite a few ties to cities.

At Carolinian Canada, we call many of these people, “Landowner Leaders” (http://caroliniancanada.com/landowner-leaders).

While they come from many different walks of life, they all share a passion and pleasure for recovering nature, for getting away from squeezing production from the land, while relishing in the return of prairies, grasslands, flowers, trees, wetland, forests, frogs, butterflies and more.

Are you an owner of rural lands in the Carolinian Zone? If so, connect with Carolinian Canada Coalition (CC). CC assists you in mapping out a detailed conservation plan, link you to interesting and important networks, and in some cases, find funding to help recover nature on your landscape.

Some landowners have built extensive tallgrass prairies, established wetland complexes, planted thousands of trees or linked important habitat refugia with neighbouring lands. The sky is the limit with what we can do on many of the ‘blank slates’ that exist in our degredated rural landscapes.

We’ve heard some remarkable stories of wildlife loss, restoration, and recovery from our ever growing network of Landowner Leaders.

One family with 25 acres on the southeastern corner of L. St. Clair recently made plans to recover a choked out five acre wetland. In the area around this wetland, Long-nosed Gar, a pike-like fish with a long beak, spawn a few feet off shore in the hundreds. Instead of extensive non-native grasses covering their sandy shorelines, they now watch the endangered E. Spiny Softshell Turtles lay their eggs.

Another Landowner Leader (LL) near Long Point regularly gets Eastern Rat Snakes, Canada’s longest reptile, visiting her property seeking egg-laying sites.

Near Ridgetown an innovative couple have sought our help to create the largest privately-owned tallgrass prairie in Ontario, providing critical habitat for nesting birds, such as Bobolink, Meadowlarks and several species of grassland sparrows. Indeed, the passion is out there. We can match it to help create a partnership to recover habitats and wildlife.

Contact us if you are interested in joining this beneficial landowner network or if you know of someone who may be interested. stewardship@caroliniancanada.com


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