Enbridge donations helps Walpole Island Land Trust preserve natural heritage

Enbridge and a First Nation environmental organization are teaming up to protect fragile wetlands within the St. Clair River watershed in southern Ontario.

 
Walpole Island Trust

Enbridge’s donation to the Walpole Island Land Trust will help it conserve the natural habitat of a 171-acre wetland marsh.

In May 2011, Enbridge awarded $20,000 to the Walpole Island Land Trust through the company's Natural Legacy Program, which supports community environmental initiatives along the pipeline rights-of-way. 

The donation will help the Land Trust conserve the natural habitat of a 171-acre wetland marsh on St. Anne Island, just south of Sarnia. Through this partnership, Enbridge and the Land Trust will also be supporting the goals identified under the St. Clair River Remedial Action Plan by protecting additional acres of fragile habitat within the river watershed.   

"A donation likes this one will go a long way to helping us begin to restore the marsh's ecological functions and enhance the wildlife diversity while taking steps to control invasive, non-native plants," said Clint Jacobs, President of the Walpole Island Land Trust.

The Walpole Island Land Trust, the first Aboriginal land trust to receive charitable status in Canada, was formed in 2008 to conserve and protect the land and natural resources of the Walpole Island First Nation  or "Bkejwanong," meaning "where the waters divide" in Ojibwe. The region includes some of the most biologically diverse areas in Canada, including 17,000 acres of wetlands.

"Our area is considered one of the largest freshwater deltas in the world. It's an important area for migratory birds," explained Jacobs, a local naturalist.

Enbridge's donation will support a pilot project to conserve and restore the marsh area which was dyked more than a hundred years ago by duck hunting clubs. So far, the Land Trust, in cooperation with various community partners, has leased the marsh area on the island for a 10-year period and has begun pumping water into the marsh to maintain water flow and encourage suitable habitat for fish spawning. The Land Trust has also mapped invasive species such as the Common Reed at the site, and is exploring ways to control this plant from spreading throughout the marsh.

"We want to restore the site to its old glory so that it's not only a good spot for ducks but a rich environment that supports other wildlife, including muskrats, bullfrogs, turtles and fish," said Jacobs.

Another goal is to use the project to educate Aboriginal youth about traditional culture, including how to fish and hunt in the marsh in a sustainable way.

"We want to bring our elders, hunters and youth together, so that we can mentor our youth regarding good hunting practices and help them to better understand the value of the marsh to our traditional way of life," said Jacobs, whose grandfather once used the marsh for hunting and fishing.

"My grandfather was a hunter, fisherman and trapper and lived his entire life out on the marsh. He used to call the marsh his 'grocery store' because it provided for his family."

The Land Trust also plans to train members of the First Nation community on how to conduct wildlife surveys and water quality assessments.

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