August 27, 2017

10th Annual Prairie Day

Join us for our 10th Annual Prairie Day, Saturday, September 9, 2017 at the Alderville Black Oak Savanna

Well it's been a long, hot, dry summer, with days of weed pulling, field mowing, native plant planting, vegetation monitoring, and praying for rain.  And now it's time to celebrate, and to give thanks to the community, our volunteers and partners for your ongoing support in knowing, conserving and restoring tallgrass prairie and savanna ecosystems across the Rice Lake Plains! 

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Celebrating "roughly" a decade of conservation and camaraderie on the Rice Lake Plains!

Imagine you are married and a special anniversary arrives. Now imagine both partners are so busy that you forget to celebrate it! Well, it is safe to say that the partners in the Rice Lake Plains Joint Initiative (RLPJI) must be a busy lot, because we missed celebrating our big 10th anniversary! And we missed it by a country mile.

It was October 14th, 2003 at the Grafton Inn that conservation partners gathered to launch an ambitious ecological restoration project. The lofty goal: to restore a lost landscape – the tallgrass prairies and oak savannas of Northumberland County’s Rice Lake Plains.

Signing the first agreement were staff from Northumberland County, Wildlife Habitat Canada, Ontario Parks, Lower Trent Conservation, Ganaraska Conservation and the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). NCC led the new partnership, which was fired up and inspired by the support of the Oak Ridges Moraine Foundation. In 2002, NCC had purchased the 811-acre (328 hectare) Burnley-Carmel properties, home to globally-rare black oak savanna habitats. This was our first big step into tallgrass and savanna conservation in the Rice Lake Plains. From the beginning, however, it was clear that a landscape-scale approach was needed to bring meaningful ecological change to the region. 

The Rice Lake Plains Joint Initiative was born!

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Tales from the Greenbelt

On a crisp fall day in early October twenty donors, volunteers, and neighbours gathered at the Nature Conservancy of Canada's (NCC) Hazel Bird Nature Reserve to celebrate the opening of brand new trail.

It was a big day. With support from the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, the NCC and the Oak Ridges Trail Association had spent the last month getting the trail ready, blazing paths and creating and installing signs to guide visitors.

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Prairie Day 2014 : Celebrating the Rice Lake Plains / Alderville Black Oak Savannah

Posted by Kat Snukal on September 29, 2014

The day dawned grey and overcast on September 20th, 2014 for the 7th Annual Prairie Day at Alderville Black Oak Savanna Ecology Centre, a 30-minute drive north of Cobourg. Despite the ominous weather, the event started off well with a smudging ceremony from the Alderville First Nation, as well as speeches carrying messages of hope and regeneration.

The savanna landscape visible now is a testament to the incredible efforts and collaboration of many groups working as part of the Rice Lake Plains Joint Initiative: Alderville First Nation, Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), Lone Pine Marsh Sanctuary, Lower Trent Conservation, and more.

In 2002, the tallgrass prairie ecosystem was a remnant of a formerly thriving, 100,000 hectare vegetation community throughout Southern Ontario. Today, just 3 percent of the original tallgrass prairie and black oak savanna remains, with Alderville a gem in this crucial network of endangered ecosystems. With diligence, care, and cooperative work, the tallgrass prairie here at Alderville Black Oak Savanna has grown by 150 hectares in the past decade, with an additional 536 hectares secured for future restoration.

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Featured Property

Nature Conservancy of Canada, Hazel Bird Nature Reserve

On January 17, 2012, Canada's Minister of the Environment, the Honourable Peter Kent, announced the Nature Conservancy of Canada's successful acquisition of the Hazel Bird Nature Reserve - 117 hectares of land in Hamilton Township in Northumberland County, Ontario. This project was secured in part with funding from Environment Canada's Natural Areas Conservation Program.

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Guest Blog

Why Purposely Light Fires?
By Corina Brdar

Wildfires cause a lot of destruction each summer - there are dramatic videos and pictures in the news every year. So why did the Rice Lake Plains Joint Initiative partner organizations purposely light several fires this spring?

In some parts of Ontario fires used to be a common, natural part of the landscape. Some ecosystems and species need fire in order to survive and are now disappearing from the province. The Rice Lake Plains Joint Initiative, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Nature Conservancy of Canada, and many other non-government organizations are dedicated to understanding the role of fire in Ontario, and to using fire to restore unique communities of plants and animals.

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Adopting a tallgrass property for wildlife restoration

January 2014

In recognition of the Nature Conservancy of Canada's (NCC) work in land conservation in Rice Lake Plains, the Gordon and Patricia Gray Animal Welfare Foundation generously donated $90,000 to NCC to purchase the LeBlanc property. The 36 acre (14 hectare) LeBlanc property is a key site in the Rice Lake Plains Natural Area. The foundation's support will directly benefit the tall grass ecosystem and help to conserve land habitat that is particularly important to grassland birds and significant species at risk.

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Guest Blog

Making Peace with the Scotch pine
By Mark Stabb

When it comes to Christmas trees, I am a balsam fir man through-and-through. I like the form, the smell and the smooth, soft needles. I also admit that I am not crazy about Scotch pine, a main alternative here in Ontario. You could say we have "issues."

Scotch pine (people in the know call it Scots pine) is native to northern Asia and Europe, including its namesake Scotland. Hardy and tenacious, it was once a tree of choice for the Ontario Christmas tree industry and for re-greening eroded lands and abandoned farms. This is all well and good, but Scotch pine just does not stay put.

Today it is a weedy and problematic species that spreads like a dandelion and invades many natural areas, particularly grasslands. It is a tree of choice for elimination from protected lands of the Nature Conservancy of Canada. And we're not the only ones.

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Prescribed Burns

For centuries, fire has been the natural friend of the Tallgrass Prairies. It ensured a healthy environment for native species, controlled the growth of non-native plants, burned dead plant material and stimulated new growth by increasing the temperature of the soil. Tallgrass prairie and savanna plant species depend on fire to live.

Today, natural fires have been suppressed, and in the Tallgrass Prairie restoration planning process, the activity has been replaced by prescribed burns. This brings new life and strength to the prairies.

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Grassland Bird Conservation Project for the Rice Lake Plains and Ganaraska Hills region of Northumberland County

Grassland bird populations are in serious decline across eastern North America. The rolling grasslands, farmlands and open habitats of the Rice Lake Plains and Ganaraska Hills are home to many of these species.

Bobolink. Photo by Bronwyn Salmon
Grassland birds include familiar species such as the Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark and Barn Swallow, as well as the lesser known Upland Sandpiper and Grasshopper Sparrow, and the Savannah Sparrow (the bird featured in our logo on our homepage).

These birds use a variety of fields and open habitats for nesting and feeding. The natural tallgrass prairie and oak savanna habitats of the area would have had large populations of these birds, but many of those habitats are gone or degraded. Partners in the Rice Lake Plains project are committed to conserving and restoring habitats for grassland birds and other wildlife in Northumberland County. This involves land conservation with willing landowners and active habitat stewardship to prevent further habitat loss.

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First, check out our new calendar here.

Click to enlarge

10th Annual Prairie Day
Saturday, Sept 9, 2017
at Alderville Black Oak Savanna

Keynote Articles

• Adopting a tallgrass property for wildlife restoration

• Making Peace with Scotch Pine

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