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Hundreds of new trees, shrubs to restore deciduous swamp forest

'Over the last 60 years, more than 60 per cent of the deciduous swamp forest has been lost in the Minesing Wetlands due to water levels and land use,' says NVCA official
Ian Ockenden, manager of watershed science with the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority, demonstrates taking a water sample during a news conference at the Willow Creek Canoe Launch on George Johnston Road, Monday morning.

Editor's note: The following story has been updated from its original version after an incorrect number of trees being planted was provided. Village Media apologizes for the error and any confusion it may have caused.

Water is to the planet what blood is to the human body. Without it, it’s impossible to live.

“Watersheds are our future,” said Doug Hevenor, chief administrative officer for the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA).

That proclamation came shortly after announcing the receipt of a $125,000 grant from the provincial government’s Wetlands Conservation Partner Program on Monday morning during a news conference at the Willow Creek Canoe Launch on George Johnston Road, west of Barrie.

“When you look at the human body and you look at veins, think of a watershed," he said. "You look at a river and you look at the tributaries — those are the capillaries that are in our veins that transfer that blood.

“The water is the blood of the landscape and that’s what’s so important. We can’t see what’s happening but it connects the aquifer, provides fresh water, provides transportation and recreation," Hevenor added. “So yeah, we really want to save it.”

According to the news release that accompanied the announcement, approximately 70 per cent of wetlands in the Nottawasaga watershed have been lost. 

Dubbed as the "return of the wetlands," this project will restore and enhance 2.55 hectares of wetland habitat, providing links between larger existing wetland blocks and controlling invasive species, such as Phragmites, that threaten shoreline wetland ecosystems.

“Over the last 60 years, more than 60 per cent of the deciduous swamp forest has been lost in the Minesing Wetlands due to water levels and land use,” said Sarah Campbell, aquatic biologist at NVCA. “This grant provides essential funding to engage community volunteers in the planting of [1,200] native trees and shrubs.”

Often called the everglades of the north, Campbell said, the Minesing wetlands is a gem in the NVCA watershed.

At 6,000 hectares, it’s one of the largest intact wetlands in southern Ontario.

In addition to providing life-sustaining support for more than 30 species at risk, the wetlands provide numerous recreational opportunities and play a critical role in flood control, protecting downstream communities like Springwater and Wasaga Beach.

“Our government really does share your vision to ensure watersheds in the province are preserved and protected,” said Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin, who is also the province's minister of the environment, conservation and parks, who was on hand at the early morning announcement.

“That’s why over the last five years you’ve seen our government making historic investments, restoring and enhancing wetlands across the province," she added. “We established the Wetland Conservation Partner Program in 2020 and since then our government has been able to provide a total of $31 million to preserve and restore wetland ecosystems throughout the Great Lakes watershed."

Since launching the program, Khanjin said 560 wetland projects have been initiated or completed, resulting in restoration and enhancement of approximately 3,700 hectares of wetlands across the province.

“Thanks to this grant from the province, we are able to work with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, South Simcoe Streams Network, local environmental associations, rural landowners and corporate partners,” said Fred Dobbs, manager of stewardship services at NVCA. “Wetland restoration projects help improve water quality, fish and wildlife habitat and flood resiliency across the watershed.”

The data collected from this monitoring network and other NVCA monitoring programs allows staff to develop a better understanding of the condition and health of the watershed as well as identify priority restoration sites and provides information on impacts and changes after restoration and enhancement projects are complete.

Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Wayne Doyle covers the townships of Springwater, Oro-Medonte and Essa for BarrieToday under the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI), which is funded by the Government of Canada
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