Submitted by the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust
HHLT is pleased to announce that we have received $61,750 in funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s 2021-23 Habitat Stewardship Program. This grant will help HHLT in its efforts to build climate change resilience and improve habitat connectivity for wildlife in Haliburton County, with a focus on the Highlands Corridor.
The Highlands Corridor is a broad swath of land in southern Haliburton that connects 3 provincial parks (Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands, Kawartha Highlands, and Silent Lake). The area is rich in natural forests, rock barrens, wetlands and lakes, and home to a diverse community of wildlife including species at risk such as Blanding’s Turtle and Whip-poor-will. Wildlife needs to be able to move safely across the landscape in order to thrive, and so it’s critical not only to protect these habitats, but also to maintain their connectivity. Climate change adaptation also relies on nature-based solutions such as protecting forests, wetlands, large natural areas and natural corridors, to help us to build the resilience that is an important part of Canada’s climate plan. Natural solutions can help to mitigate impacts like flooding and drought, conserve biodiversity, protect ecosystem services, connect landscapes and capture and store carbon. Canada has committed to protecting 30% of our landscape by 2030. In Ontario, only 10.7% of our landscape is currently protected.
HHLT and partners such as Ontario Nature have been working hard to study and document the ecological values of the Highlands Corridor. This has included the evaluation of 3300 ha of wetland, mapping and classifying wetlands in the townships of Snowdon, Lutterworth and Glamorgan, modelling wildlife movement between the provincial parks, and building a database of Species at Risk observations. Much of the land within the corridor is unceded Crown land that is in need of greater protection, but private landowners have an important role to play as well, through good stewardship of their own land.
HHLT has identified high-priority private properties within the Highlands Corridor, and has reached out to these landowners with the offer of a free management plan that will allow them to enroll in Ontario’s Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program (MFTIP). Funding allowed HHLT to offer five plans. Enrollment in the program reduces property tax rates in exchange for managing private, forested land with the environment in mind. This can include sustainable harvesting, or managing for wildlife or recreation, or a combination of land uses. HHLT is pleased to announce that five landowners representing 965 acres within the Highlands Corridor have signed up for these free management plans.