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Thanks to funding from Environment Canada's Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources' Species at Risk Stewardship Fund the Nature Conservancy of Canada with support from the Rice Lake Plains Joint Initiative has worked to improve awareness of species at risk in the nationally threatened tallgrass prairie ecosystem. Efforts have been concentrated on vulnerable snake and bird species throughout the Rice Lake Plains in Northumberland County. Summer 2009 marked the third year for such work. ...continue reading "Here’s the Tallgrass Prairie “Species at Risk” story…"

History

To understand why the Rice Lake Plains area is so significant, not only at the local level, but at a truly global level, one must reflect back on the ecological history of this area. The ecosystems we have here today are a product of the last glacial movement that occurred 13,000 years ago. As the climate warmed and the glaciers retreated, the ice divided into two lobes, forming a distinct crack.  It was in this crack that giant accumulations of till, stratified silt, sand and gravel were deposited, creating a contiguous ridge of 160 km from the Niagara Escarpment to the southern shores of Rice Lake. This ridge is known as the Oak Ridges Moraine (ORM) and is recognized as a provincially significant physiographic feature, up to 200 meters thick and 300 meters above Lake Ontario; providing clean groundwater for over 60 streams and rivers, which in turn is used by more than 200, 000 people. ...continue reading "Natural Heritage of the Rice Lake Plains"

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." ...continue reading "Making Peace with the Scotch Pine"

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. ...continue reading "Celebrating “roughly” a decade of conservation and camaraderie on the Rice Lake Plains!"

HARWOOD — With a passion for saving the eastern blue bird, Harwood resident Hazel Bird spent countless hours roaming the Rice Lake Plains checking the nest-boxes she built.

Now the public is welcome to walk the trail Ms. Bird once did at The Nature Conservancy of Canada's Hazel Bird Nature Reserve. Ms. Bird died in 2009 and the piece of land she once spent so much time on was acquired by the Nature Conservancy of Canada in 2011. Volunteers worked to restore and protect the property's tallgrass prairie, sand barren, oak woodland and black oak savanna habitats, which are native to the Rice Lake Plains. ...continue reading "New trail opens in Harwood’s Nature Conservancy of Canada Hazel Bird Nature Reserve"

Prairie Day 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. ...continue reading "Prairie Day 2014: Celebrating the Rice Lake Plains / Alderville Black Oak Savannah"

It was a perfect day to celebrate the Alderville Black Oak Savanna. With wind rustling strongly across the landscape and warming sunshine illuminating the rich natural colours of the tallgrass habitat visitors at the seventh annual Prairie Day had a wonderful opportunity to experience the magnificent and rare grandeur of the black oak savanna and tallgrass prairie restoration project.

Part of the Rice Lake Plains Joint Initiative, which includes partners like Alderville First Nation, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Northumberland Land Trust, Northumberland County, the Lower Trent and Ganaraska Conservation Authorities and Ontario Parks, the day showcased and celebrated the work that's been done across the Rice Lake Plains region to restore and rejuvenate the extremely rare oak savanna and tall grasses that were once so prominent in the area. ...continue reading "Prairie Day celebrates “incredibly special place”"

Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation are funding projects across Ontario from the Escarpment Eco Park in the Hamilton / Burlington area to environmental workshops in Northumberland.

"The Nature Conservancy of Canada's project aims to garner awareness and support for the Greenbelt in Northumberland County by partnering with Alderville First Nation to host (more) workshops for conservationist guided public tours, school outings, and a Greenbelt Prairie Day in the Rice Lake Plains area," states a media release. ...continue reading "Greenbelt Foundation funding for Northumberland"

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. ...continue reading "Adopting a tallgrass property for wildlife restoration"

The dry rolling hills of the Rice Lake Plains, at the eastern end of the Oak Ridges Moraine in Central Ontario, were historically a 17,000–30,000 ha (42,500–74,000 acres) tallgrass prairie landscape.

Fire suppression, conifer plantations and, increasingly, invasive species, have changed and degraded the now globally rare black oak savanna and other significant tallgrass habitats of this region. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) began investing in conservation of the Rice Lake Plains in 2001, with the goals of protecting and restoring multi-property tracts of tallgrass prairie communities.

Inspired by the active tallgrass prairie management of the Alderville First Nation Black Oak Savanna and the Red Cloud Cemetery Prairie, NCC forged the multi-partner Rice Lake Plains Joint Initiative in 2002 to raise awareness and to collaboratively work on a landscape-scale to restore tallgrass habitats.

A Natural Area Conservation Plan was created, which helped prioritize and guide initial land purchase and identify areas of high priority for management, restoration and landowner contact. Through this partnership, over 3,000 ha (7,413 acres) have been evaluated, 536 ha (1,324 acres) have been secured, and over 150 ha (370 acres) have been restored using prescribed burns. Private landowners are learning about the ecological communities on their land and what they can do to protect and maintain tallgrass prairie communities.  There have been challenges, as partners and the local community respond, adapt and rise to the possibilities and realities of tallgrass restoration. To date the partnership has grown to seven groups and momentum continues to build to help revitalize this globally rare ecosystem.

Todd Farrell and Mark Stabb
Nature Conservancy of Canada
Uxbridge, Ontario