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.
"The Rice Lake Plains contain some of the largest examples of prairies and savannahs in Ontario. With this investment, we are taking action to protect and conserve our ecosystems and sensitive species for present and future generations," said Minister Kent.
The easternmost segment of the Oak Ridges Moraine is the area south of Rice Lake known as the Rice Lake Plains. Historically, the Rice Lake Plains were dominated by prairie and savannas covering at least 17,200 hectares. In 1992, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources commissioned a survey of the tallgrass prairies of southern Ontario and this survey identified approximately 2,100 hectares of tallgrass communities remaining in this area. That is only about 12 percent of the original extent. The acquired property contains priority Black Oak savannah communities and documented habitat for Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (below right) and grassland birds. An assessment of birds in the Rice Lake Plains identified the property as significant for grassland birds, including the Whip-poor-will. It also is the site of one of the last documented populations of Wild Lupine (the primary food for Karner Blue butterfly) in the Rice Lake Plains, and will become a restoration area for this species.
"This project is possible through the incredible partnership with the Government of Canada and the generosity of private partners," said James Duncan, Ontario Regional Vice President of the Nature Conservancy of Canada." Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is a non-for-profit land trust dedicated to protecting important wildlife habitats, including natural prairie and oak savanna habitats of the Rice Lake Plains portion of the Oak Ridges Moraine. NCC named the property after the late Hazel Bird, a well-known local conservationist who loved the property and spent much of her time there while working on her bluebird conservation project.
NCC plans to begin restoration work on the Hazel Bird Nature Reserve this winter. A local contractor will begin cutting non-native Scotch pine to control this invasive plant and restore grassland habitat. NCC will be holding an official "grand opening" of the property in the spring of 2012, and will be inviting local residents to join in the celebration.