By Chad Ingram
Wetlands are important natural features in combatting the effects of climate change, and the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust is looking to further protect such areas within the county by having a large wetland near Lochlin deemed provincially significant.
The land trust received funding through the RBC Foundation for the project, retaining biologist Paul Heaven to conduct the wetland assessment work and submit an application to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to have the area designated as provincially significant. Having the provincially significant designation protects a wetland from development, and the evaluation process looks at four criteria including hydrological, biological, social and special features. The Lochlin wetland complex encompasses some 1,000 hectares.
“Wetlands have the natural ability to attenuate flooding,” Heaven said, speaking to their role in helping mitigate the impacts of climate change.While more frequent flooding is one of these impacts – one that’s becoming increasingly common and widespread in Haliburton County each spring – wetlands have the ability to absorb these floodwaters. Along with absorbing water, wetlands also absorb carbon from the atmosphere.
“These are rich, rich carbon sinks,” Heaven said, explaining how wetlands are able to sequester carbon with their thick peat. “ … To just maintain [wetlands in the county] will help mitigate climate change impacts down the road.”
As Heaven noted, the Lochlin wetland complex is significant to the land trust for a few reasons. First, it provides connectivity between three of its properties – the Dahl Forest, Fred and Pearl Barry Wetland Reserve and Barnum Creek Nature Reserve – all of which contain wetland features. It also provides substantial wetland connectivity between two provincial parks – the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park near Bancroft, and the Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park near Minden. Not only is this connectivity important in mitigating the consequences of climate change, but since animals tend to move about as a result of those consequences, it’s also important in protecting the area’s biodiversity.
“Biodiversity is so important to our well-being,” Heaven said. Heaven completed an assessment of the nearby Milburn wetland complex back in 2018, that wetland receiving a provincially significant designation.
A number of landowners within and abutting the Lochlin wetland complex allowed Heaven access to their properties in order to conduct his assessment work.
“We were very pleased to offer the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust access to our property at Ritchie Falls, to allow Paul Heaven to work on their Lochlin Wetland Complex mapping project,” Lochlin residents Greg and Bonnie Roe said in a release. “Over the years we have been impressed with what they have done to preserve, and improve, packages of land throughout the county. As well, we have appreciated and enjoyed their various educational walks/events. In short, they are a very valuable asset to Haliburton County.”
Public education was also part of the project.
“HHLT contacted landowners in this complex to increase their awareness of the special role they play in good stewardship of their properties,” read a release from the land trust. “These landowners and the public were invited to a hands-on, interactive workshop on wetlands and climate change. Participants at the workshop learned about the value of wetlands and the ecosystem services they provide. All participants were encouraged to take home an HHLT booklet on best management practices for protecting wetlands as a climate change adaptation strategy.”
Property owners with wetlands on their properties are also eligible for a tax incentive that offers a 100 per cent tax break on that portion of the property if they commit it to long-term conservation.
“We’re excited to be working with Haliburton Highlands Land Trust to tackle one of the most pressing issues of our time – climate change,” Valerie Chort, vice president of corporate citizenship for RBC said in a release. “Using our more-than-money approach, we will leverage the assets in our ecosystem to proactively bring together charitable partners, along with the required experts, to build the type of multi-partner coalitions that are needed to address and solve our shared environmental challenges.”
For more information about the land trust, visit www.haliburtonlandtrust.ca