USING FIRE TO HEAL THE LAND
WINTER 2021 1
Hastings Wildlife Junction, ON
Nature Conservancy of Canada
4 Native plants for
Gardening with easy-to-grow plants.
6 Pearson Township Wetland
A wondrous wetland on Lake Superior’s
7 Bat signal
How to help Canada’s declining
7 A natural fit
Cataloguing the diversity of those
who explore nature.
8 Prescription to burn
The paradox of fire.
12 Bald eagle
A showstopper of a bird.
14 Wave of change
Dax Dasilva is inspiring others to make
a difference for nature.
16 Project updates
Plains bison re-established; grassland
stewardship; Hastings Wildlife Junction.
18 Hidden in plain sight
The magical, endangered world of lichen.
Check out our online magazine page with
additional content to supplement this issue,
Nature Conservancy of Canada
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twin crises of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change through large-scale, permanent land conservation.
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TOP TO BOTTOM: PHOTO COURTESY OF DAWN CARR. CHEYENNE RAE; LUCY LU.
Kootenay River Ranch
Conservation Area, BC
If there is one thing I’ve noticed since joining the Nature
Conservancy of Canada (NCC) family in 2021, it’s the
unwavering determination demonstrated by colleagues,
partners and supporters to be champions for nature. I have
found respite among caring, talented and passionate people who
are working every day to make a tangible difference and positive
contribution — locally, nationally and globally. I have also come
to learn that NCC’s determination for nature’s sake is grounded
in a deeply held belief that conservation action is a remedy to
our world’s most pressing challenges. Conserving nature for the
greater good is good medicine for all.
As we collectively face the twin crises of biodiversity loss
and climate change, there is growing recognition that Canadians
need to share responsibility not only for conserving, but for
caring for our natural areas for the long term.
Last June, on World Environment Day, the United Nations
kicked off the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030).
The goal of this global movement is to “prevent, halt and reverse
the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every
ocean.” It could not have come at a more critical time, as humans
have modified 77 per cent of terrestrial land (excluding
Antarctica) and 87 per cent of oceans, globally. In this issue,
you’ll read about the dramatic impact that fire can have in managing
and restoring natural areas.
As Canada embraces its global commitment to conserve
nature by protecting 30 per cent of its lands and waters by 2030,
NCC is in position to accelerate conservation. It’s so great to be
part of a team who values and delivers conservation action for
communities, with far-reaching benefits.
Yours in nature,
Director, strategic conservation, NCC
Susan Peters is a
and editor. She wrote
“Prescription to burn,”
page 8, and her articles
have appeared in
Report on Business and
Lucy Lu is a freelance
work explores cultural
histories, and collective
myths and memories.
Micheline Khan for
“A natural fit,” page 7.
SPRING 2022 3
Beautify your garden and help local biodiversity with easyto-grow
native plants suggested by our regional experts
From coast to coast, frosty, hard ground is giving way to the green-up
unfurling across the country. What better way to welcome the change of
seasons than by preparing your planting space so you can look forward to
a thriving garden? Whether you’re starting from scratch or expanding your
gardening efforts, adding easy-to-grow native plants not only beautifies your
yard or balcony, it also benefits your local ecosystem. Gardening is also a great
opportunity to breathe in fresh air, move your body, focus on the physical
environment and even see some wildlife.
Before you plant, ask your local native plant nursery or regional native plant
society for guidance on whether your plant choices are truly local to you.
CHRISTOPHER PRICE / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO.
4 SPRING 2022 natureconservancy.ca
IRINA NAOUMOVA / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO; ISTOCK; WIRESTOCK, INC. / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO; CHRISTOPHER PRICE / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO; AGEFOTOSTOCK / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO; DON JOHNSTON_PL / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO.
Winter currant is a deciduous
shrub that does best in moist,
well-drained soil. Native to BC’s
south coast, this plant thrives in
a sunny spot, but does tolerate
some shade. Its drooping clusters
of pink flowers attract butterflies,
hummingbirds, songbirds and
bees. The plant produces edible
blue-black berries that are great
for jams, syrups and pies.
AB, BC, MB, NB, NL, NS, NT,
NU, ON, QC, SK, YT
Canadian buffaloberry is a native
deciduous shrub found throughout
North America, including
the boreal forest, aspen parkland
foothills and grassland regions.
This hardy, medium-sized shrub
(1–3 metres tall) will tolerate
poor soil conditions. It produces
attractive, edible — though
bitter — red fruit, which is also
a food source for small mammals
AB, BC, MB, NB, NL, NS, NT,
NU, ON, PE, QC, SK
Canada anemone is a
low-maintenance perennial forb
that produces cup-shaped white
flowers. It grows in cool and
humid woodlands and cool moist
prairies, but can tolerate a variety
of other types of soils. It makes
a nice ground cover on its own or
among milkweeds and between
shrubs, but can spread in gardens
and create full ground cover.
Canada anemone attracts bees
and other pollinators, as well as
predatory wasps, which control
common insect pests.
AB, BC, MB, NB, NL, NS, NT,
ON, PE, QC, SK, YT
Ostrich fern does best in moist,
relatively rich sites, full sun or full
shade, but may spread aggressively.
This plant will grow under the
dense, maple-heavy canopies
of urban backyards or in rain
gardens. It can be planted as
borders by streams or ponds.
Young fronds can be harvested
and eaten, if cooked properly,
before they unfurl; the taste is
comparable to asparagus.
AB, BC, MB, SK
In the mixed grassland region,
great blanket-flower is a
herbaceous perennial that
tolerates well-drained, nutrient-poor
soil. It blooms all
summer, with flowers that
last a long time. It is easy to find
the native variety (as seeds and
plants) in local nurseries. Both
bees and butterflies (and other
pollinators) use this plant. The
entire plant is covered in fuzzy
hairs, which can be an irritant
for some people.
MB, NB, NL, NS, ON, PE, QC
White turtlehead is found in wet
locations in the wild, but adapts
well to average garden soils if
kept watered. The species grows
in partial sun, and moist to wet
gardens, and blooms from late
summer to fall. Plants divide and
transplant readily, and once
established are virtually troublefree.
They are a good late-season
nectar source for pollinators and
the primary host plant for
Baltimore checkerspot butterfly.
AB, BC, MB, NB, NL, NS, NT,
ON, PE, QC, SK
Choke cherry is a shrub that
can grow up to six metres tall.
It produces clusters of red
cherries that are very sour but
edible. Choke cherry does best
in rich, well-drained soil and can
grow under light shade to full
sun. The fruits are a preferred
food source for a variety of birds,
including pileated woodpecker,
eastern bluebird and cedar
waxwing. Mammals, such as red
fox, skunk and chipmunk, may
also browse the twigs and buds
for food. This plant is resistant
to salt and can be planted along
shorelines or roadsides.
NB, NS, PE, QC
also known as chuckleberry,
is a deciduous shrub with
edible dark-purple berries. It’s
an excellent early flower for
pollinators. Many bird species
feed on its berries, as they are an
important food source before
migration. This shrub grows well
in a variety of conditions and is
resistant to air pollution.
BEST TIME TO GET PLANTS IN THE GROUND
A general rule of thumb is to wait until after the last frost to plant native flowers and grasses. In some parts of
the country, this can be as early as April, while in other areas it may be late May. If you’re starting from seed,
some native species require a cold–moist stratification (when seeds go through a period of cold temperatures)
to break the seed’s dormancy. You can mimic these conditions at home using moist, sterile substrate (such as
perlite) in a sealed bag in the refrigerator (ideally a few weeks before the last frost).
SPRING 2022 5
Pearson Township Wetland
North American river otter
A wondrous wetland on Lake Superior’s North Shore
The Pearson Township Wetland, located within
the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Lake
Superior Coast Natural Area in Neebing, Ontario,
measures 739 hectares. Much of it is protected as
a conservation area, including 130 hectares by NCC.
Volunteers contributed over 150 hours to clear
the trails and install signage. The six-kilometre
Pearson Township Wetland Nature Trail is located
on Crown land, and overlooks NCC’s Pearson
Township Wetland Nature Reserve.
Located in the headwaters of the Pine River, this
large wetland provides critical habitat for a variety
of wildlife, such as American river otter and beaver.
Back in the mid-1990s, Gary Davies, now retired
from his position as NCC’s program director for
northwestern Ontario, dreamed of creating a trail
that overlooked the Provincially Significant Wetland.
The goal was to create an enjoyable and educational
experience for visitors.
Thanks to the generous contributions of volunteers
and donors, Davies’ vision became a reality.
The trail climbs from the parking area to a loop
atop the mesa, with stunning views overlooking
the wetland. The trail is steep in sections, ranging
in difficulty from moderate to difficult.
Please stay safe and respect local health directives
when visiting NCC properties.1
SPECIES TO SPOT
• American redstart
• black bear
• ghost pipe
• magnolia warbler
• North American
MAP: JACQUES PERRAULT. PHOTOS: ROBERT MCCAW.
6 SPRING 2022 natureconservancy.ca
Shine the bat signal and do
your part to help Canada’s
declining bat populations
PHOTO: LUCY LU. ILLUSTRATION: BELLE WUTHRICH.
Bats may be commonly associated with a certain
superhero, but these often-misunderstood
mammals are facing many threats, including
habitat loss and a fast-spreading fungal disease
called white-nose syndrome.
Here are a few things you can do to help bats
(find out more at natureconservancy.ca/bats):
1. Build and install a bat box near your
home, with just a few tools and some easy-tosource
2. Become a bat watcher by converting your
smartphone into a bat detector.
3. If you have to remove bats from your
house, use humane practices and/or keep
them from re-entering your home.
4. Find out more about the bat species in your
neighbourhood, and your share your story on
social media with the hashtag #MySmallAct.
NCC is protecting habitat for bats across Canada.
We are also monitoring bat populations on our
properties, and working with the Toronto Zoo
on their Native Bat Conservation Program.
Find out more about these small acts and
how you can help bats in your neighbourhood
A natural fit
Ecologist Micheline Khan catalogues the sights of nature
and the diversity of those who explore it
Ihave always been fascinated by nature. I would venture into the woods near my
childhood home, teeming with life, reeds tall and stately and standing guard
over marshy ponds, salamanders creeping under dark, dank rocks as songbirds
soared and dipped with an exhilarating freedom. It was natural that I would become
an ecologist, that I would make a space for myself where there were few
others who looked like me. I remember the first time I did field work in Algonquin
Park, I all but forced two graduate researchers to let me volunteer with them. The
curious, sometimes derisive stares when we went into town did nothing to dampen
my resolve. I didn’t quite fit the mold, to some. The researchers, however, recognized
a kindred spirit and welcomed me into their homes. As we ventured out into
the forests and onto the lakes with our canoes, I began to appreciate and be in awe
of how tremendously vast these spaces were.
My goal then and there was to make nature more accessible to underserved
communities so that they know they deserve access to these spaces too. There is
beauty here, undiscovered, underappreciated, in hard-to-find nooks and crannies.
So, my backpack carries an old Fujifilm camera my dad gifted me; what I need to
capture and convey not only the sights of nature but the diverse people who work
in and explore it. I catalogue us so that younger generations will know they
belong here too.1
SPRING 2022 7
The paradox of fire: How something so
destructive can benefit the landscape
BY Susan Peters
CHELSEA MARCANTONIO/NCC STAFF.
8 SPRING 2022 natureconservancy.ca
Fire has been used to manage the
landscape for thousands of years.
Standing over the flames with
shovels and backpack sprayers of water,
ready to stamp out stray embers, the burn
crew watches the fire they’ve set. “Especially
when it’s a boring burn, it’s fun,” says Julie
Sveinson Pelc, the incident commander in charge of the
fire. “Boring means we’re standing and looking at fire. It
means things are going exactly as they should,” she explains
as, during a COVID-19 surge in the height of winter,
she shows photos of a planned burn that happened last
September at the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve in southeastern
Manitoba, where the scent of burning grasses can
resemble essential oils.
Although North America has a recent history of fire
suppression, fire was used to manage landscapes for thousands
of years prior to European settlement. For several
decades, Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) staff have
been bringing back fire in an intentional way to manage
the organization’s conservation lands, from BC to Saskatchewan
and Manitoba, and even the grasslands of Ontario.
Particularly in prairie regions, the plants and animals
we have today — and the ones we want for tomorrow, too
— evolved to thrive in an ecosystem that experienced
regular disturbances, such as grazing, burning, flooding
With 20 years of burn experience, Pelc, who manages
NCC’s stewardship program in Manitoba, can debate the
merits of a light, surface burn versus a high-intensity fire:
“It can boil the trees: you can see the fluids bubbling.”
The fire was intended to contribute to the ongoing restoration
of a 20-hectare area of grassland that is prime habitat
for endangered monarch butterflies. It removed willows
and other woody shrubs that were growing in the
grasses and that would turn the wide, open land into a
woods of aspen and bur oak, if left unchecked. Fires burn
dry grasses and leaves, returning those nutrients to the
soil and leaving the earth open for rain to sink in. Burning
the area that had previously been seeded will grow more
of the plants that feed monarch butterfly caterpillars
SPRING 2022 9
Clockwise from left: Julie Sveinson Pelc communicating
prescribed fire activity with the crew at the Tall Grass Prairie
Preserve; fire crew members overseeing burn; Rice Lake Plains.
These fires are set with a “prescription” to
burn, meaning professionally managed, intentionally
set fires that burn in a pre-determined
area, under strictly controlled circumstances
for the sole purpose of restoring natural habitat
(a different kind of burn happens in agriculture
when farmers burn crop stubble after
harvest). Planning for prescribed burns involves
consulting a decision-making tool
called the Multiple Species at Risk Recovery,
Management and Research (Multi-SAR) plan
to determine the best time of year to burn to
support a species, such as endangered prairie
white-fringed orchids or Poweshiek skipperling
butterflies. It means assessing the dryness
on the ground, relative humidity, wind
and temperature, getting burn permits from
the municipality or province, and doing outreach
to fire departments and neighbours who
might have concerns that an out-of-control
fire could destroy their homes or ranches.
When NCC undertakes prescribed burns,
they’re usually done to decrease dry plant
litter build-up and prevent woody tree species
from overtaking a prairie or grassy area,
as at the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, although
there are also plans to use fire to clear the
understory in open forests like those at the
Darkwoods Conservation Area in BC. Across
North America, controlled burns are managed
by federal and provincial parks services,
Indigenous communities and municipalities,
sometimes to prevent out-of-control forest
fires. “When fuel loads build up, the fires can
be hotter, cover bigger areas — it can be
devastating. Some groups burn to avoid the
risk of catastrophic fire, to make sure humans
aren’t at risk,” says Sam Knight, NCC’s Weston
Family Science Program manager, and
also a conservation biologist who manages the
organization’s national conservation research
program. “A lot of ecosystems are adapted to
fire and need disturbances, like grazing and
fire, to be maintained.”
The September burn in Manitoba saw the
crew of 10 workers on a mowed fire guard of
grass in a large square lay a trail of water
along the fire lines. They then used specialized
drip torches to light the burn line, creating
a triple line of defense against a fire escaping
their control. “People like to brag about
how straight their burn lines are,” Pelc shrugs,
but she’s proud of how the crew of new and
experienced NCC staff in personal protective
equipment, such as leather boots and gloves,
fire suits, masks and safety glasses, moves in
slow and unhurried cooperation to complete
the backing burn line against the wind, before
the head fire is lit with the wind to dramatically
sweep across the centre of the section.
A lifelong Manitoban, Pelc’s first fire happened
at the preserve when she was a master’s student
in botany who volunteered to look out
for embers that crossed the fire guard. She
now burns there professionally and at two
NCC properties in Manitoba within the mixedgrass
prairie: Yellow Quill and Fort Ellice.
Farther east, prescribed burns have been
happening for the past decade near Peterborough,
Ontario, at the Rice Lake Plains Natural
Area. The tall grass prairie and black oak
savannah in the area are managed in partnership
with other conservation organizations,
TOP TO BOTTOM: NCC; CHELSEA MARCANTONIO/NCC STAFF; CHELSEA MARCANTONIO/NCC STAFF.
10 SPRING 2022 natureconservancy.ca
LEFT TO RIGHT: NCC; CHELSEA MARCANTONIO/NCC STAFF.
including Alderville First Nation. The Alderville
black oak savannah is “true remnant
prairie,” according to Val Deziel, coordinator
of conservation biology in Ontario for NCC.
“In the last 10 years, we’ve focused our efforts
in the area on not only conservation, but
the restoration of land,” says Deziel, whose
work includes supervising fires run by a private
contractor. Thinning trees with a chainsaw,
along with prescribed burns, helps to
keep grasslands open. “Woodpeckers love the
burns — if there’s a tree that’s half dying and
full of insects, like an old pine, the birds will
fly in and get fat on the insects after the fire
finishes off the tree,” says Deziel. She grew
up in the area and can tell you how, before
colonization, people conducted burns to grow
medicinal plants along with lush, green grass
to attract grazing animals for hunters. As we
enter the second year of the UN Decade on
Restoration (2021–2030), fire is a dramatic
example of how we can play a role in managing
and healing nature for the long term.
Another place where controlled burns
are occurring on NCC lands is in BC. At the
Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve on Vancouver
Island, prescribed burns in these Garry oak
meadows not only lower the risk of wildfires,
but also control invasive plants and promote
the growth of fire-adapted native species.
The timing of when fires should be prescribed
remains an important decision for NCC in BC,
where dry summers increase the risk of extreme
wildfires. Burns take place in autumn
when wildfire risk is low. When burns do take
place at the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve,
they are often low-intensity fires, which don’t
burn very hot. “Five minutes after the fire
passes, the ground is cool enough to touch,”
says Ginny Hudson, manager of conservation
planning and stewardship for NCC in BC.
These types of meadows have been traditionally
managed with fire by Indigenous people
for thousands of years. One purpose for the
burns here is to promote the growth of cultural
food plants like camas, which have sweet
tasting roots that can be baked or dried.
NCC’s goal is to work more closely with local
Indigenous people on burns, as happens at
Rice Lake Plains in Ontario.
Medicine for the land
Around the world and within North America,
fires are part of how many Indigenous
Peoples manage the landscape. Amy Cardinal
Christianson is a fire social scientist with Canadian
Forest Service, a co-host of the podcast
Good Fire and a Métis woman. She has also
authored Blazing the Trail: Celebrating Indigenous
Fire Stewardship. “When settlers
came to Canada, they brought a European
idea of forest management. The idea was to
protect timber. They saw fire as a risk to forests.”
Christianson distinguishes between
cultural burns — low-intensity, slow burns
on a small piece of land for cultural reasons,
which she calls ”medicine for the land” — and
prescribed burns, which she describes as
usually hot, high-intensity burns that cover
large areas to reduce fuel or to clear land for
ecological reasons. Christianson says barriers,
such as the training and certification required,
don’t recognize Indigenous ways of knowing.
She would like to see more Indigenous people
involved and more local autonomy in burning
decisions. “Over the next 10 years, hopefully
the communities and wildfire management
agencies can work together,” she adds.
Meanwhile, at the September burn at the
Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, the result could
be seen the next day. Pelc describes islands
of intact grass left behind in a black ocean of
soot, where the patches of native grasses will
regrow from their roots, newly reinvigorated.
“As the leader, I find a burn somewhat intense,
but I find it rewarding after it’s finished,” says
Pelc. The local fire chief stopped by and
checked out the new two-way radios that the
burn crew had purchased on his recommendation,
while neighbours slowed down to
wave as they drove past. In 2021, Pelc led the
crew on eight prescribed fires that covered
167 hectares, the most in the last 10 years
that NCC has burned in Manitoba. Pelc is already
planning for spring: after the fire crew
renew their training, as soon as the snow
melts, it’s dry enough and the wind is low,
Fort Ellice is due for a good burn.1
As we enter the second year of the
UN Decade on Restoration (2021–2030),
fire is a dramatic example of how
we can play a role in managing and
healing nature for the long term
SPRING 2022 11
With a wingspan of more than two metres, this regal bird is a showstopper
JUNIORS BILDARCHIV GMBH / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO.
12 SPRING 2022
This bird is far from bald; it derives its name
from the word “piebald,” meaning “patches of two
different colours,” in reference to the eagle’s white head
and tail, and dark brown body.
Spanning more than two metres, a bald eagle’s wings
are made for soaring. This species can measure about
76 centimetres in height and weigh three to seven kilograms.
Female bald eagles are typically larger than males.
Bald eagles feast on the Squamish River
Plumage on male and female bald eagles is identical.
Adults have a dark brown body with white feathers
on their head and tail. Their beaks are yellow, as are their
legs. Juvenile bald eagles have mostly dark heads and
tails, and are often mistaken for turkey vultures or
golden eagles. It takes four to five years for
them to reach adult colouration.
Bald eagles are distributed from
coast to coast, ranging from Canada’s
boreal forest to northern Mexico, a range of
approximately 2.5 million square kilometres.
Much of Canada’s bald eagle population lives in
coastal British Columbia, with inland populations
found in boreal forests across the country, as well as
populations in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
Bald eagles rely on forested areas close to lakes,
rivers, marshes and coastal habitats. In
winter, bald eagles can be found in
parts of southern Canada.
What NCC is doing
to protect habitat for
Since the 1990s, NCC has been at
the forefront of efforts to protect
core habitat for the largest recorded
concentration of wintering bald
eagles in North America. In the small
community of Brackendale, BC, just
north of Vancouver, bald eagles congregate
by the thousands from November
to March to feast on the abundant
salmon spawning in the Squamish and
Cheakamus rivers. In partnership with
the Cheakamus Centre, an outdoor
environmental education centre, NCC
placed a conservation agreement on
the centre’s 170-hectare property along
the Cheakamus River, ensuring protection
of its old-growth forest and salmon-rich
riverfront in perpetuity.
NCC also participated in a campaign
to educate the public about how
to respectfully view the eagles of
Brackendale, which included the
construction of a viewing shelter and
interpretive signs. The Eagle Count is
a popular event, dating back to at least
1986, when the community gathers in
January to watch the birds.1
PHOTO: GUNTER MARX / WI / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO. ILLUSTRATIONS: CORY PROULX.
Bald eagles are currently not listed as
an at-risk species and have healthy
populations throughout most of their range,
but this was not always the case. Historically,
the species declined as a result of habitat loss and
unintentional DDT poisoning. Public education,
habitat conservation and regulations have helped
bald eagle populations recover. Today, researchers,
conservation groups and community
science programs continue to monitor
these impressive birds.
Help protect habitat
for species at risk at
Bald eagles breed in forested
areas near large bodies of water, such
as ocean coasts and lakeshores. They
prefer tall, mature trees for perching;
this provides them with a wide view of
In winter, bald eagles can be found
in areas with open water for fishing,
as fish constitute the majority of
SPRING 2022 13
Dax Dasilva, founder of e-commerce platform Lightspeed,
is inspiring others to make a difference for nature
14 SPRING 2022
Five minutes from Dax Dasilva’s office in Quebec
flows a natural treasure that nurtures life as big as
humpbacks and as small as tiny krill. It’s also a major
throughway for wildlife and humans that, perhaps, not enough
people have appreciation for: the St. Lawrence River.
“Nature is a big part of my life. It always reminds me of how precious
and vulnerable it is to humanity’s never-ending expansion,” says Dax
Dasilva, founder of e-commerce platform Lightspeed and the non-profit
environmental alliance Age of Union. He attributes his deep connection
to nature to his upbringing on the West Coast, where he had access to
beautiful landscapes. But no matter where he has travelled and settled,
hiking and adventuring have always been a part of his lifestyle.
“Given my early exposure to nature, I felt that when I had the resources
and platform, I would be doing as much as I could to further
conservation,” says Dasilva. “I think people look to tech leaders and
how they approach challenges like humanity’s impact on the future.
For me, there’s no more important way [to be a leader] than by protecting
our planet and its species.”
This vision for safeguarding nature motivated Dasilva to form Age
of Union, a non-profit alliance that supports those working to protect
our planet’s threatened species and ecosystems. He is now on a path
to support tangible conservation projects in his province and around
the world through contributions from like-minded business leaders
and conservation organizations.
If we see positive examples that we can
relate to, where we’re moving the needle,
we will feel the goal is within reach. We
can make impacts every day.
SUPPORTING CONSERVATION ALONG THE
ST. LAWRENCE RIVER
The St. Lawrence River is one of the world’s largest freshwater reserves.
It flows into the St. Lawrence Estuary where fresh water and salt water
meet, eventually emptying into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which opens
to the Atlantic Ocean. Its entire length (1,197 kilometres) teems with
life that remains productive all year long. Dasilva saw this majestic river
up close during site visits with the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s
(NCC’s) Joël Bonin, associate regional vice president in Quebec.
“Just an hour away from Montreal, you have the floodplains of
the St. Lawrence, which look like the Florida Everglades. When we
documented all the wildlife close to where [people] live, it is incredibly
humbling. Seeing this first-hand motivates you to do everything you
can to safeguard life here,” explains Dasilva.
As Bonin and Dasilva threaded a boat through the small channels
of the St. Lawrence River delta on a recent visit, they observed the
interconnected life along its shorelines, islands and wetlands. Fish
here rely on river bottoms for spawning. These areas can be at risk
from deforested floodplains, whose exposed soil can get dragged into
the freshwater ecosystem during natural cycles of flooding. The health
of the wetlands along the river is also vital to maintaining nature’s
filtration system, sustaining both humans and wildlife.
Protecting these waters and lands requires
a collective effort, or union, as Dasilva
calls it. This is where Age of Union can
contribute to NCC’s work in protecting these
habitats, by supporting restoration activities,
cleaning shorelines, reforesting flood plains
With support from the alliance, NCC has
helped protect more than 205 hectares, restored
over 15 hectares, completed planting
over 1,700 plants and helped recover 32 species
at risk. This included restoration work
on the sandbars of Barachois-de-Malbaie,
where vegetation was planted to reduce natural
erosion and restore degraded areas.
Phragmites control is also well underway at
Île aux Grues, approximately 80 kilometres
from Quebec City, with a plan to halt this
invasive reed’s spread on the island.
The alliance’s funding also contributed
to the protection of over 200 hectares at
the western end of the Montreal Green Belt,
with 1.6 kilometres of shoreline on Rivierè
du Nord: habitat for at-risk northern map
turtles (one of 17 at-risk species protected
through this new acquisition).
“It’s time to shift from going about your
day-to-day life on autopilot to a mindset
that centres around sharing the planet. We
have to think about ourselves as guardians
instead of consumers,” reflects Dasilva.
When asked about his thoughts on inspiring
others, Dasilva says: “Doom and gloom is not
going to motivate people. If we see positive
examples that we can relate to, where we’re
moving the needle, we will feel the goal is
within reach. We can make impacts every
day. Everyone has a unique ability to do
something positive for nature — we can
This power of union — with people, and
with nature — is what will motivate positive
change in an age of climate emergency. Business
leaders like Dasilva are hoping that by
showcasing action-oriented causes and their
impacts, sharing people’s stories and leveraging
partnerships, more changemakers will
start their own small actions for nature.
“I’m hoping others will find projects
they feel close to and follow our example,”
Dasilva says confidently.1
SPRING 2022 15
Plains bison herd successfully
re-established to The Key First Nation
Your support has made these
projects possible. Learn more at
Mashkode-bizhiki/plains bison are an iconic symbol of the
grasslands. Indigenous people in North America subsisted
on bison for thousands of years, but European colonization
swiftly drove the bison populations to near extinction through
unsustainable hunting pressure.
Recently, a total of 20 plains bison from Grasslands National Park
and 20 from Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation
Area (OMB) in Saskatchewan were successfully translocated to The
Key First Nation’s (TKFN’s) lands in Treaty 4. With this transfer of
bison, TKFN, Parks Canada and NCC are working in collaboration toward
the survival and well-being of these iconic and majestic animals.
The return of mashkode-bizhiki to TKFN advances Indigenous-led
conservation in this area, including managing the herd through Indigenous
ecological knowledge, creating and strengthening relationships between
Nations and stakeholders, and sustaining cultural and socio-economic
opportunities for Indigenous community members.
Chris Gareau, councillor with TKFN and a member of the NCC
Indigenous Advisory Group in Saskatchewan, noted: “The return of
Bison to TKFN has fostered unity within the community and, most
importantly, an atmosphere for healing, [with] the unlimited benefits
shared by all. Our ancestors relied heavily on Bison for their survival
and well-being, utilizing every part of the Bison for food, clothing,
shelters, tools, implements and in a variety of ceremonies.”
Restoring threatened species to Indigenous Nations is an important
step on the pathway toward Reconciliation. This February, the Honourable
Steven Guilbeault, minister of environment and climate change
and minister responsible for Parks Canada, and Jennifer McKillop, Saskatchewan
regional vice-president for NCC, were present at a celebration
of the translocation of the 40 plains bison to establish a new herd
MARK TAYLOR; INSET: PARKS CANADA.
The recovery of mashkode-bizhiki/plains bison to Indigenous Nations
is an important step on the pathway toward Reconciliation.
16 SPRING 2022
Marsh Ranch, Alberta
Wild + Pine staff
tree planting on
Grassland stewardship keeping the prairie healthy
L TO R: CARYS RICHARDS/NCC; NCC; MAIDA TANWEER.
A new collaboration, the largest ever in support of grassland stewardship in Canada’s Prairie provinces, aims
to care for unique and threatened grassland ecosystems in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Home to
rare and endangered plant and animal species, grasslands sequester carbon, filter water and stabilize soil.
Over the next few years, NCC, in cooperation with four land trusts in Canada's prairies, will administer
the Stewardship Investment Program, part of the Weston Family Prairie Grasslands Initiative.
The program, launched in June 2021, will impact the plant and wildlife biodiversity of up to 1.4 million
hectares of grasslands, through the delivery of up to 800 individual grants. Livestock producers with
conservation agreements with NCC, community pastures, and individuals renting lands from NCC and
other land trusts can apply for funding to implement a range of projects that support the conservation
of biodiversity on rangelands, from installing wildlife-friendly fencing to installing solar powered remote
Empowering ranchers — the primary owners and managers of the remaining grasslands — with stewardship
tools, incentives, education and support will encourage the adoption of management practices
that support biodiversity. Improving the use and productivity of grasslands will ensure that all its inhabitants
are sustained, and can reduce the risk of further grassland loss.
Final push to protect once-in-a-lifetime
NCC is working on a major conservation project to help protect
and care for 8,000 hectares near Bancroft, Ontario.
Hastings Wildlife Junction provides some of the best
remaining habitat for many species at risk and wide-ranging
mammals, including elk, birds and turtles. Located within
the Lake Ontario watershed and headwaters for the Bay of
Quinte, the project is particularly critical for maintaining the
water quality for local aquatic life and communities on the
coast of Lake Ontario. Vast amounts of carbon are stored in
its forests and wetlands.
NCC is the only organization of its kind working in Canada
to deliver this scale of conservation impact, with a proven
track record of connecting, conserving and caring for vast
To date, 5,000 hectares of the Hastings Wildlife Junction
have been protected, but there is more to be done. NCC’s goal
is to conserve 8,000 hectares of intact forest and wetlands here.
Join us in this historic effort by making a one-time gift or multiyear
pledge to ensure the future of Hastings Wildlife Junction.
Learn more at natureconservancy.ca/hastings.
Hastings Wildlife Junction
Wild + Pine Sustainability has
been working in ecosystem
restoration across Canada
for more than a decade.
Using eco-technology to grow
seedlings in their custom
greenhouse, they are able to
mimic the light and conditions
found in the ecosystems where
the seedlings will eventually
In 2020, Wild + Pine
approached the Nature
Conservancy of Canada (NCC)
and offered to design and
implement a crowd-funded
project. This project allowed
Canadian businesses that
balance purpose and profit by
considering the impact of their
work to fund the reforestation
and restoration of 25 hectares
of former agricultural land on
an NCC property in Central
Alberta. In 2021, Wild + Pine
prepped the site and planted
52,000 seedlings of trembling
aspen, balsam poplar, paper
birch, white spruce and larch,
along with complementary
shrub species. Another 5,000
seedlings will be planted in
2022, and NCC volunteers will
help weed the newly planted
site to give the seedlings room
Every tree planted creates even
more habitat for native species
in Alberta. As a partner, Wild +
Pine is helping accelerate the
pace of conservation.
Hidden in plain sight
By Doug van Hemessen, Nova Scotia stewardship manager, NCC
Ioften go out for an “aimless wander,” especially
in the woods surrounding my home.
It is an opportunity for me to leave my
preoccupied mind and open my awareness
to the surrounding environment. Seeing, listening,
smelling, touching...even tasting, if
something edible is on hand. No destination,
no plan, no formal hike.
It is with such a mindset that I discover
details; the small, the overlooked. I’m thrilled
by the tiny pockets of the “universe” that
I find. Often this means lichens and mosses;
things you need to stop and really look at to
appreciate. Intricacies appear. It takes time
to observe. To really look, to really see.
Lichens are all around but often unnoticed.
They can be found worldwide, from ocean
coasts to mountain peaks, from the Arctic
They grow on almost any surface, in many
diverse (and sometimes weird) forms. Rocks,
soil and other plants are all homes for lichens.
In areas freshly denuded of vegetation, lichens
are typically the first organisms to gain a
foothold. They are the foundation of more
Lichens’ abilities to withstand extremes
of temperature and drought also amaze me.
However, many are sensitive to air pollutants.
Their absence can be an indication of
poor air quality.
Depending on where you are, lichens
may be both discrete and obvious. Some
are showy, others require a magnifying
glass or loupe to reveal an amazing world
A favourite of mine is called old man’s
beard. Its shaggy, stringy strands remind
me of pale greenish-grey tinsel on a Christmas
Sadly, despite their ubiquitous and
generally hardy nature, some lichens are
designated as species at risk. For example,
boreal felt lichen and vole ears lichen are
endangered. Their decline is linked in part
to prevailing winds that bring pollution from
central Canada and the eastern U.S., which
falls in Nova Scotia, my home province, as
acid rain. Pollution isn’t the only threat; they
are also threatened by land use changes and
Time spent in nature is time well spent.
Get yourself out there. Pause.
Close your eyes. Listen. Smell.
Feel. Breathe. Let go of the thinking that
preoccupies you. Open your eyes. Can you
find a lichen?1
TERRY ALLEN / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO.
18 SPRING 2022 natureconservancy.ca
Your passion for Canada’s natural spaces defines your life; now it can define
your legacy. With a gift in your Will to the Nature Conservancy of Canada,
no matter the size, you can help protect our most vulnerable habitats and the
wildlife that live there. For today, for tomorrow and for generations to come.
Order your free Legacy Information Booklet today.
Call Marcella at 1-877-231-3552 x 2276 or visit DefineYourLegacy.ca
Moose Sex project
gets a boost
The conservation of a large parcel
of forest, wetland and coastline,
totalling close to 400 hectares on
the Chignecto Isthmus, was made
possible thanks to a generous gift
of land, and support from the
Natural Heritage Conservation
Program. Dubbed the Moose Sex
Corridor, the isthmus allows
endangered moose in Nova Scotia
to connect with moose in New
Brunswick. To date, you have helped
protect 1,949 hectares on both sides
of the isthmus.
Five generations of the Pisony family have homesteaded what is now an
879-hectare property in the Castle-Crowsnest Watershed Natural Area of Alberta.
This working ranch boasts forests, grasslands and vital wetlands — one of the
rarest habitats in Alberta. With support from the Natural Heritage Conservation
Program and working with NCC, the family placed a conservation agreement on
a portion of the land, ensuring the future of the area’s wildlife and the quality of
the waters that flow into Oldman River.
Thank you for all you do for nature in Canada!
JULY 28–AUGUST 1, 2022
This upcoming August
long weekend, grab your
camera and spend some
time outdoors observing
nature around you.
Together, we’ll document
and grow the inventory
of species across the
country, so that science
and conservation planners
can use the data for
future protection and
opens in June; keep an
eye out for your invitation
or subscribe for emails if
you haven’t already.
TOP TO BOTTOM: MIKE DEMBECK; BRENT CALVER.