A large wetland in Haliburton County has been deemed provincially significant protecting the biologically diverse breeding ground from development.
The Milburn Wetland Complex is comprised of some 640 hectares and includes 62 linked wetlands which are home to a wide array of the county’s flora and fauna.
Biologist Paul Heaven oversaw the application process performing about a month’s worth of field work during the summer of 2017.
“One of the objectives of these things is to find out where the wetlands are in the county and how we protect them” Heaven told the paper. As Heaven explained the evaluation process uses a points system that looks at four criteria – hydrological biological social and special features.
“It’s dominated by exposed bedrock and white pine” Heaven said of the landscape which is largely untouched. The area which is bisected by Milburn Road is 20 per cent wetland. To compare most of the rest of the county contains about 10 to 12 per cent wetland. Biologically diverse it’s home to species such as the whip-poor-will barn swallow common nighthawk little brown myotis bat olive-sided flycatcher the eastern hog-nose snake smooth green snake milk snake and five-lined among many others.
“It’s a core area for the Blanding’s turtle” Heaven said of the threatened species found only in Ontario and part of Nova Scotia.
“We need to protect our wetlands” Heaven said adding that while local wetlands are in pretty healthy condition “we don’t have good wetland mapping in the county.”
Heaven said the bulk of wetland mapping that exists for Haliburton County was completed by Ducks Unlimited back in the 1990s.
The Milburn Wetland Complex is among the largest of the county’s wetlands and is comprised largely of Crown land. Being declared a provincially significant wetland means the area is protected from development in perpetuity and that any development planned for within 120 metres of its boundaries is subject to an environmental assessment.
Wetlands are important not only because of the wealth of wildlife they provide habitat for put also help protect against flooding something that’s occurring with more frequency and severity in the county.
Full of peat and moss sometimes as thick as 15 feet wetlands soak up floodwaters essentially acting as giant sponges.
“The wetlands themselves are actually designed to handle it” Heaven said adding that without them runoff simply diverts directly into streams and rivers causing flooding in communities such as Minden.
Heaven hopes to do other such projects in the county.
“We really do have to get our wetlands properly protected” he said.