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Area home to about two dozen species at risk

By Louis Pin,
The Observer,
December 17 2016

Ontario Nature’s plans to preserve a biodiverse section of the Sydenham River in Lambton County has been approved.

The 193-acre Sydenham Nature Reserve is located south of Alvinston and west of Glencoe and is home to almost two dozen species at risk. The preservation of the acreage – and the species therein – is far closer to becoming reality with the plan finalized.

Some species at risk include the spiny softshell turtle and freshwater river mussels.

Ontario Nature partnered with Lambton Wildlife Inc. and the Sydenham Field Naturalists to create the reserve, their 25th in the province. Though far from the largest area, the new nature reserve will be the first from Ontario Nature with a river running through it.

Both regional groups will play a large role in maintaining the park from this point on.

“A lot of the work is done by those stewardship groups,’ said Caroline Schultz, executive director with Ontario Nature. ‘It is fantastic – they love it and they’re close by. It’s a huge plus.”

The organizations also donated a combined $185,000 toward the fund for the reserve. Ontario Nature came close to their goal of $860,000 for acquisition and maintenance of the reserve and say they expect to close the remaining gap shortly.

“The owners also made a donation to the purchase,” Schultz said. “It’s for several things – for the actual purchase price of the property itself, to secure costs of procuring the property itself – and we also raised money for stewardship. Which includes marking boundaries, signage.”

Environmental groups have been on the defensive since October, when a regulation was passed by the Court of Appeal modifying the Endangered Species Act. The ESA prohibits killing, capturing, or harassing at-risk species but the regulation created partial exemptions for numerous industries – grey areas, in other words.

For those groups, news like this is a breath of fresh air.

The next step will be surveying the land itself. When asked about the extent of the survey last May, Ontario Nature said they expected a full analysis to take three years, or optimistically, two.

The survey will include mapping out vegetation, cataloging animals, and identifying invasive species on the reserve. Part of the money raised toward land purchasing and surveying will also go toward land stewardship.

“It’s special,” Schultz said. “What better Christmas present could you get than a whole new nature reserve?”