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Nature Notes

Lambton Wildlife Projects
Lambton Wildlife Inc. has had many projects that have enriched the understanding of the natural areas of Lambton County.

CONSERVATION GOALS OF LAMBTON WILDLIFE
From Lambton Wildlife Incorporated Charter and By-laws

  • To encourage and promote the conservation, preservation and protection of the natural environment including plants, natural resources and wildlife.

  • In particular it shall be concerned with the natural history of Lambton County and the establishment and care of conservation areas and wildlife sanctuaries therein.

LWI Land Trust Properties:

Lambton Wildlife manages properties it owns and properties which are owned by others under a management agreement. When LWI was reorganized in 2005, all of the LWI properties (owned or under a management agreement) were included in the mandate of the Land Trust Committee. The Committee has a Chair, Malcolm Boyd, Assistant Chair, John Bellar and members, Janet Bremner, Gerry Clements, Joe Haselmayer. The LWI President, Past President and President-Elect are ex-officio members. Each property has a Property Manager.

HOWARD WATSON NATURE TRAIL

In 1983, when it became apparent that the CNR was going to abandon the railway line which ran through Sarnia and north through Thedford, members of LWI worked to have this land developed as a linear park, instead of the land being sold off to adjoining property owners. A small group of dedicated LWI members were able to convince Sarnia Township Council that the rail to trail concept was important and it should at least be given a trial, with all expenses borne by LWI. The public and LWI members donated a total of over $24,000 to help pay for the management of the trail during a 3 year trial period which started in 1988. After a year, the trail concept was declared a resounding success by the Sarnia Township/Clearwater Council and the trail was officially named the Howard Watson Nature Trail, as Mr. Watson, a Township councillor, had supported the linear park concept from the time it was first presented by Don Smith and Peter Banks of LWI. (That rail line also ran through Plympton, Forest, Bosanquet and Thedford, but those municipalities sold off most of the right of way to adjacent landowners). In 1991, the amalgamated City of Sarnia developed a new 5 year lease which included shared management responsibilities. Currently, the City of Sarnia manages the trail, but a citizen advisory committee, the Howard Watson Nature Trail Committee has remained, with LWI member Gord Catterson, as Chair.

KARNER BLUE SANCTUARY AT PORT FRANKS

Location: pt lots 1, 2 & 3 of plan 13 and pt. lots 16, 18, 19 & 22 of Plan 16, being at the south edge of the community of Port Franks, in the former Township of Bosanquet, now the Municipality of Lambton Shores. Access to the property can be made by going north on the Port Franks road from its intersection with Highway 21, right onto Whatman St, to where it joins Nipigon St. Property area: 15 ha or 37acres. Property Manager: Brenda Kulon

Property Features: The lands are a part of the Port Franks Wetlands and Forested Dunes Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI). Oak Savanna is the dominant habitat. This is one of the most threatened habitats in North America. Extensive pine planting and the suppression of fire has resulted in the closing of the canopy which has adversely altered this rare habitat.

History: The purchase of the property was initiated by Brenda and Ben Kulon and Gerry Clements to try to protect the last known population of Karner Blue Butterflies (Lycaeides melissa samuelis), in Canada. The property was owned by Lake Huron Developments Ltd (Martin Maylard), the company which had developed Port Franks Estates. In the fall of 1987 LWI was approached to provide funds to assist with the down payment. The Lambton Wildlife Karner Blue Committee was then formed with the addition of Nan McNair, Joan & Frank Baugh, to raise funds to purchase the lands. Funds were raised from across Canada. Through the work of the Committee, the Karner Blue Butterfly became an important symbol of the need to stop the loss of rare insects. They were only able to meet 25% of the purchase price. The total funding required was provided by the newly formed Carolinian Canada Coalition, which coordinating grants from the Ontario Government (50% through the Ontario Heritage Foundation), Wildlife Habitat Canada (25%) and the Nature Conservancy of Canada (25%). The funds which were initially raised were used for the initial management, including signing and fencing. On July 6, 1988, the dedication of the Karner Blue Sanctuary took place. Brenda Kulon received a Natural History Award from the FON in 1989, for her role in purchasing lands, to prevent development, within some of the habitat of the rare and endangered Karner Blue butterfly.

When the property was purchased, there was still a significant population of the Karner Blue Butterfly which had become extirpated elsewhere in Canada. A survey in 1988 counted 350. The wild Lupine is the only food source for the Karner Blue larvae and the availability of Lupine (which requires a balance of sun and shade) is the ultimate control of the success of the species. By 1991, the Karner Blue Butterfly had become extirpated from this property and from Canada. A succession of major droughts reduced the availability of wild Lupine and there was not enough healthy habitat in the area to withstand that loss. It is also thought that many butterflies were removed by collectors, which made survival of the small population more difficult. A Karner Blue Recovery Team for Ontario was established and Pinery Provincial Park and Lambton Wildlife are represented on that Committee. The current management plan was produced in Feb. 1994 and revised in 1995 and 2001. The goal of that plan is to re-establish, at the Port Franks Karner Blue Sanctuary, one deme of a self perpetuating, sustainable metapopulation of the Karner Blue Butterfly in a healthy, high quality oak savanna habitat. A standard recommendation for the maintenance of a healthy oak-savannah habitat is to have a succession of controlled burns, to reintroduce the beneficial effects of periodic, naturally occurring fires. A number of controlled burns have been undertaken on the property, but the results, in terms of producing a healthy, sustainable Lupine population suitable for re-introduction of the Karner Blue, have not as positive as had been expected. LWI is in the process of initiating a full review of the existing management plan.

MANDAUMIN WOODS NATURE RESERVE

LocatIon: Pt. lot 1, concession 3. City of Sarnia, Frontage on the West side Mandaumin Road, (County Road #26) south of Confederation Line, north of Churchill Line. Property Area: 10.12 ha or 25 acres. Property Manager: Wayne Bowen.

Property Features: It is a typical Carolinian woodlot in Lambton County , comprised of Sugar Maple (34%), Basswood (18%), Beech (17%), White Ash (13%), Hickory (10%), Hop Hornbeam (8%), White Elm, Bitternut and Shagbark Hickories, Bur Oak, Blue Beech, Quaking Willow, Black Alder, Sugar Maple, Black Cherry, Hawthorne , Black and Red Ash. Extensive inventories have been made of the vascular plants, breeding birds and fungi. There is an interpretative trail through the property, which is surrounded by farmland on 3 sides.

History: The purchase by LWI in 1972 was initiated by Les and Isabel Greenop, with the support of Peter and Elizabeth Tasker, Gerry Clements and Laura Knight. A fundraising committee under the leadership of Joan Banks, raised the funds over a 2 year period. The Mandaumin Woods Nature Reserve was formally opened on April 26, 1975 and dedicated to the memory of LWI conservationist Laura Knight. The Alexander Vidal Chapter of the I.O.D.E. provided funding for the gate, in memory of Lois Smart. A management plan was produced under the guidance of Tony Roach in 1993 and updated in 1995.

In addition to individual natural history study uses by members and the public, a series of organized nature walks have been offered since 1975. Ron LaFlair organized the first, with Gerry Clements the guide for birds and Les Greenop for botany. Gerry Clements continued to the driving force on these walks for many years, being followed by Keith Wilson, Ben & Brenda Kulon, Carole Buck, Lance Allin, Tony Roach and John Teasel.

LWI is considering expanding ownership in the area of this property as it is designated in the County of Lambton Official Plan as “Significant Natural Area” and woodlots within this designation are Significant Woodlots under the Provincial Policy Statement. It is also designated to be within an area shown as a “Secondary Corridor”. The City of Sarnia Official Plan designates it as an “Environmental Protection Area”, within the Natural Heritage & Natural Hazard areas. The Sarnia Official Plan also designated the area in the back lots of Concessions 3 and 4 as a “Secondary Natural Heritage Corridor”. The intent of both Official Plans is to have the woodlots in this area expanded, not reduced.

WAWANOSH WETLANDS

In 1980, the LWI Board identified the Wawanosh area, west of Blackwell Side Rd, north of Hwy. 402, as worthy of preservation. This area had been used as a borrow pit for the construction of the 402. In 1983-84, LWI contributed $10,000. to the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority as seed money for the purchase of what is now known as the Wawanosh Wetlands. The lands were re-worked into a wetland and opened in 1988. LWI had hoped that it would be developed in a manner to provide assistance for migrating shorebirds. Unfortunately that did not happen.

PORT FRANKS FORESTED DUNE NATURE RESERVE

Location: Island No. 1, Lake Road Concession, in the former Township of Bosanquet, now the Municipality of Lambton Shores in the County of Lambton. Access is from Outer Drive, through the L.Lake Conservation Area. Property area: 56 ha or 139 acres. Property Manager: Robert DiFruscia

Stewardship Agreements with: Nature Conservancy of Canada: 1995 and June, 2006.

Property Features: The lands are part of the 480 ha Port Franks Wetland & Forested Dunes Area of Natural & Scientific Interest (ANSI) by Provincial designation, part of the Port Franks Class 1 designated wetland (123 ha.), and part of the Port Franks Dune Complex (62,000 ha) which has been designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) nationally. The areas of Oak Savannah and sand barrens are considered to be globally threatened and contain a number of nationally imperilled species. The ANSI is one of the 38 Carolinian Canada Signature Sites.

The PFFD is characterized by 3 primary vegetation associations. Most of the property is moist lowland forest on sand with a thin clay veneer where the water table is at or near the surface for part of the year. These associations are characterized by White Ash with Red Oak and Red Maple. Marsh and thicket swamp occur around Mud Creek. The remainder of the site is characterized by rolling forested sand dunes characterized by Black Oak woodland, savanna and tallgrass associations.

An initial Management Plan was prepared by Sarah Rupert of LWI in 1995 after extensive inventories of the flora and fauna. This plan was replaced in Oct/05 by a plan produced by the NCC, under contract to LWI. The main conservation management goals and objectives are to abate the critical threat of fire suppression to savanna and woodland communities, enhance the size and condition of savanna, woodland and sand barren communities and enhance the condition of the tallgrass community.
History: In early 1994, LWI members Wendy and Stephen Bright became aware that the ‘Watson Property’ was for sale. They informed Lambton Wildlife, Carolinian Canada and Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC), who then spearheaded the purchase. 50% of the funding was provided by Carolinian Canada, with the approval of the Ontario Heritage Foundation. The remainder of the funding was contributed by the NCC, the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority and Lambton Wildlife ($14,000). The NCC holds the title.

IPPERWASH DUNES AND SWALES NATURE RESERVE

Location: Part of Lot 2, Conc. 19 S in the former Township of Bosanquet, now the Municipality of Lambton Shores. Access is from the end of Clemens Line in the community of Ipperwash, west of Army Camp Road. Walk over Duffus Drain. The property does not front on a maintained trail. The S-E corner of the ID&S is about 200 feet west of the trail as it forks past the drain. Property area: 22.6 ha or 55.9 acres. Property Manager: Klaus Keunecke.

Stewardship Agreement with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, June, 2006.

Property Features: The ID&S is located within the Port Franks Wetlands and Forested Dunes Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI.) Lands under this designation are given special protection under the Provincial Policy Statement of the Ontario Planning Act from development which could damage their natural values. It exhibits diverse and unique ecological features which are characterized by a fragile series of forested sand dunes and sloughs, extending inland from the shore of Lake Huron. Within the sand dunes are rare black oak sand barren communities. A biological inventory and conservation plan was undertaken by the University of Guelph in 2000. They identified that the extensive ATV trails on the property were undesirable as they encouraged trespassing and could have serious implication for the fragile sand dune ecosystem. There was also evidence of unauthorized firewood harvesting.

History: The property (formerly known as the Van Valkenburg land) was purchased in August, 1994, at the same time as the purchase of the former Watson property, now the Port Franks Forested Dunes. Lambton Wildlife contributed $11,000, with the NCC $22,000 and the Ontario Heritage Foundation $30,000. The NCC holds the title. Lambton Wildlife had an informal involvement and became active in the management of the property with the approval of the NCC Custodial Agreement in June, 2006. Before working on a management plan, LWI is going to undertake an extensive landowner contact program with the hope that area property owners may have similar conservation values for their lands.

NORTH LAMBTON INSECT INVENTORY PROJECT

BICKFORD OAK WOODS

Bickford Oak Woods is a 308 ha (760 acre) forest located in former Moore Township, now part of St. Clair Township, just east of Highway 40, north of the Bickford Line. It was purchased in 2002 with funds raised by the Ontario Government, Nature Conservancy of Canada, St. Clair Township, Ducks Unlimited, the Rural Lambton Stewardship Network, Sydenham Field Naturalists and many local partners and donors, including Lambton Wildlife ($2,000.) and donations from its members. The lands are being administered by the MNR and have been designated as a Conservation Reserve. A resource management plan is being developed and LWI has continued to provide input into this process. LWI is concerned that many more recreation uses are proposed to be permitted that were never permitted when the lands were privately held. A wide range of hunting is proposed to be permitted, based on perceived recreation needs, not to deal with known animal overpopulations.

WALLACEBURG SYCAMORE WOODS

In 2005, LWI pledged $2,000.00 towards the efforts of the Sydenham Field Naturalists to purchase a 10 acre Carolinian forest at the southwest corner of Wallaceburg. It was being sold and removed for farmland. This woodlot, which exhibited old growth features, huge trees and a rare, high density of American sycamore was even more important to save, as Kent County only had 2.7% tree cover. They were successful in saving this important woodlot.