NCC Magazine, Spring 2022

natureconservancyofcanada

SPRING 2022

Nature

rising

TKTKTKTKTKTKT

USING FIRE TO HEAL THE LAND

natureconservancy.ca

WINTER 2021 1


Hastings Wildlife Junction, ON

SPRING 2022

CONTENTS

Nature Conservancy of Canada

4 Native plants for

your garden

Gardening with easy-to-grow plants.

6 Pearson Township Wetland

A wondrous wetland on Lake Superior’s

North Shore.

7 Bat signal

How to help Canada’s declining

bat populations.

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.

Digital extras

Check out our online magazine page with

additional content to supplement this issue,

at nccmagazine.ca.

Nature Conservancy of Canada

245 Eglinton Ave. East, Suite 410 | Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 3J1

magazine@natureconservancy.ca | Phone: 416.932.3202 | Toll-free: 877.231.3552

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the country’s unifying force for nature. We seek solutions to the

twin crises of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change through large-scale, permanent land conservation.

NCC is a registered charity. With nature, we build a thriving world.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada Magazine is distributed to donors and supporters of NCC.

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natureconservancy.ca


Nature champions

Featured

Contributors

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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,

Dawn Carr

Dawn Carr

Director, strategic conservation, NCC

Susan Peters is a

Winnipeg-based writer

and editor. She wrote

“Prescription to burn,”

page 8, and her articles

have appeared in

Canadian Geographic,

Report on Business and

The Walrus.

Lucy Lu is a freelance

photographer whose

work explores cultural

identity, personal

histories, and collective

myths and memories.

She photographed

Micheline Khan for

“A natural fit,” page 7.

natureconservancy.ca

SPRING 2022 3


COAST TO

COAST

Native plants

for your

garden

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.

Berryproducing

plants

Winter currant

BC

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.

Canadian buffaloberry

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

and birds.

Ground

cover

Canada anemone

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.

Ostrich fern

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.

Beautiful

blooms

Great blanket-flower

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.

White turtlehead

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.

Shrubs

Choke cherry

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.

Oblong-leaf

serviceberry

NB, NS, PE, QC

Oblong-leaf serviceberry,

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).

natureconservancy.ca

SPRING 2022 5


BOOTS ON

THE TRAIL

NCC

Nature Reserve

P


Pearson Township Wetland

Conservation Reserve

Hwy 597


N



NCC

Nature Reserve

NCC

Nature Reserve

Chestnut-sided warbler


Roundleaf sundew

Starflower

North American river otter


N

Beaver

Pearson Township

Wetland

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.

STAY SAFE

Please stay safe and respect local health directives

when visiting NCC properties.1

LEARN MORE

natureconservancy.ca/pearsonwetland

LEGEND

-- Trail

★ Lookout

P Parking

SPECIES TO SPOT

• American redstart

• black bear

• chestnut-sided

warbler

• fisher

• ghost pipe

• magnolia warbler

• moose

• North American

river otter

MAP: JACQUES PERRAULT. PHOTOS: ROBERT MCCAW.

6 SPRING 2022 natureconservancy.ca


ACTIVITY

CORNER

BACKPACK

ESSENTIALS

Be batty

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

materials.

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

at natureconservancy.ca/bats.

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

natureconservancy.ca

SPRING 2022 7


Prescription

burn

to

The paradox of fire: How something so

destructive can benefit the landscape

BY Susan Peters

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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

and drought.

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

and adults.

natureconservancy.ca

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.”

Under control

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

natureconservancy.ca

SPRING 2022 11


SPECIES

PROFILE

Bald eagle

With a wingspan of more than two metres, this regal bird is a showstopper

JUNIORS BILDARCHIV GMBH / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO.

12 SPRING 2022

natureconservancy.ca


APPEARANCE

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.

RANGE

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

this species

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

THREATS

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 OUT

Help protect habitat

for species at risk at

giftsofnature.ca.

HABITAT

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

their surroundings.

In winter, bald eagles can be found

in areas with open water for fishing,

as fish constitute the majority of

their diet.

natureconservancy.ca

SPRING 2022 13


FORCE FOR

NATURE

Wave

of change

Dax Dasilva, founder of e-commerce platform Lightspeed,

is inspiring others to make a difference for nature

GUILLAUME SIMONEAU.

14 SPRING 2022

natureconservancy.ca


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

and more.

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

be changemakers.”

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

natureconservancy.ca

SPRING 2022 15


PROJECT

UPDATES

1

Plains bison herd successfully

re-established to The Key First Nation

SASKATCHEWAN

1

2

THANK YOU!

Your support has made these

projects possible. Learn more at

natureconservancy.ca/where-we-work.

3

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

with TKFN.

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

natureconservancy.ca


Marsh Ranch, Alberta

Wild + Pine staff

tree planting on

prepped site.

2

Grassland stewardship keeping the prairie healthy

THE PRAIRIES

Partner Spotlight

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

watering systems.

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.

3

Final push to protect once-in-a-lifetime

landscape

SOUTHERN ONTARIO

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

natural areas.

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

be planted.

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

to thrive.

Every tree planted creates even

more habitat for native species

in Alberta. As a partner, Wild +

Pine is helping accelerate the

pace of conservation.

natureconservancy.ca


CLOSE

ENCOUNTERS

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

to Antarctica.

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

complex ecosystems.

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

of details.

A favourite of mine is called old man’s

beard. Its shaggy, stringy strands remind

me of pale greenish-grey tinsel on a Christmas

tree.

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

climate change.

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


LET YOUR

PASSION

DEFINE

YOUR

LEGACY

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


YOUR

IMPACT

Chignecto Isthmus

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

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

conservation. Registration

opens in June; keep an

eye out for your invitation

or subscribe for emails if

you haven’t already.

natureconservancy.ca/

signmeup

TOP TO BOTTOM: MIKE DEMBECK; BRENT CALVER.

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