Internationally Significant Habitat Protected On Saugeen Bruce Peninsula

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The shoreline and inland alvars at Baptist Harbour support many at-risk species, such as Hill’s thistle (flowering plant), dwarf lake iris (flowering plant) and eastern Massasauga rattlesnake.

Earth Week Highlighted By Major Win For Nature Near Tobermory

News Release

 Tobermory, ON (April 21, 2023) – The Saugeen Bruce Peninsula supports some of the best examples of globally rare alvars in the world, and more of this habitat has just been protected along the Lake Huron shoreline. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and its supporters have conserved an internationally significant site on the northern tip of the Peninsula. The announcement was made to mark Earth Week (April 16–22).

The 24-hectare Baptist Harbour Alvar property is located near Tobermory and supports several unique alvars. Alvars are naturally open and flat habitats with little or no soil. They cover either limestone or dolostone bedrock and are very harsh ecosystems that experience periods of flooding, drought and extreme fluctuations. Despite these inhospitable conditions, alvars provide habitat for a distinctive set of rare or at-risk species that have adapted to life here.

The shoreline and inland alvars at Baptist Harbour support many at-risk species, such as Hill’s thistle (flowering plant), dwarf lake iris (flowering plant) and eastern Massasauga rattlesnake. The property protects over a kilometre of Lake Huron shoreline, along with diverse coniferous forests and inland wetlands, and is home to over 230 different species of birds.

The Saugeen Bruce Peninsula, with its soaring cliffs, clear turquoise water and stunning shorelines, has been increasingly recognized as a place to explore and live. Ever-growing development pressures, habitat fragmentation and invasive species pose a significant threat and, like most Great Lakes shorelines, the opportunities for conservation have become few and far between. Baptist Harbour Alvar is strategically located within a wildlife corridor that allows larger animals, such as black bear, deer and fisher (member of the weasel family) to roam freely.

The 24-hectare Baptist Harbour Alvar property is located near Tobermory and supports several unique alvars.

This land conservation project was funded in part by the Government of Canada, through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Fund. It was also supported by the Government of Ontario, through the Greenlands Conservation Partnership, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bruce Power and many generous donors and foundations. 

Conservation projects such as Baptist Harbour Alvar highlight how NCC is accelerating the pace of conservation in Canada. In the past two years alone, NCC has influenced the protection of more than 1 million hectares (almost twice the size of Prince Edward Island), coast to coast to coast. Over the next few years, the organization will double its impact by mobilizing Canadians and delivering permanent, large-scale conservation. In the face of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change, nature is our ally. There is no solution to either without nature conservation. When nature thrives, we all thrive. 

The Saugeen Bruce Peninsula is the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON), comprised of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and Saugeen First Nation. With gratitude and respect, we acknowledge the significant, ongoing role of Indigenous Peoples on these lands. NCC and SON have been working together since 2014, and we look forward to continuing to work together to steward these lands to ensure they continue to support the people and wildlife that they are intertwined with.

“The Saugeen Bruce Peninsula is a very special place that supports extraordinary biodiversity, and the alvars, forests and wetlands at Baptist Harbour Alvar are no exception. Adjacent to existing conservation lands, this property expands a critical movement corridor used by wide-ranging mammals, such as American black bear and over 230 bird species. While significant for nature, these forests and wetlands also clean our air and water to ensure people can continue to thrive.”

– Esme Batten, Program Director – Midwestern Ontario, Nature Conservancy of Canada

“Conserving the ecology of important natural areas like the Baptist Harbour Alvar is a wonderful marker and reminder of the importance of Earth Week – working together to support a healthy environment for generations to come. This is why in this year’s Ontario Budget we are committing $14 million to protect critical habitat like Baptist Harbour. We thank the Nature Conservancy of Canada for their work to protect this area, a unique ecosystem that protects the biodiversity of many important species at risk, like the Massasauga rattlesnake, that are dependent on this habitat.” 

David Piccini, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks

Facts

In North America, almost 75 per cent of alvar habitats are in Ontario. Globally, alvars are restricted to the Great Lakes region, small regions in Saskatchewan, the Interlakes in Manitoba, islands off the coast of Sweden, the eastern European Baltic region, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Conserving the Baptist Harbour Alvar wetlands and forests protects the fragile karst ecosystems in the area. The wetlands and forests filter water into Lake Huron and supports spawning and foraging habitat for many different fish species, including lake whitefish..

NCC has been working in this natural area for more than 20 years and has helped conserve almost 5,900 hectares of ecologically significant habitat here.

About 

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the country’s unifying force for nature. NCC seeks solutions to the twin crises of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change through large-scale, permanent land conservation. As a trusted partner NCC works with people, communities, businesses and government to protect and care for our country’s natural areas. Since 1962, NCC has brought Canadians together to conserve and restore more than 15 million hectares, including over 243,000 hectares in Ontario. To learn more, visit natureconservancy.ca.

The Government of Canada’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program (NHCP) is a unique partnership that supports the creation of protected and conserved areas through the acquisition of private land and private interest in land. To date, the Government of Canada has invested more than $440 million in the Program, which has been matched with more than $870 million in contributions raised by Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, and the country’s land trust community, leading to the protection and conservation of more than 700,000 hectares of ecologically sensitive lands.

The Greenlands Conservation Partnership helps conserve ecologically important natural areas and protect wetlands, grasslands and forests that help mitigate the effects of climate change. Through the Greenlands Conservation Partnership, a total of $50 million will be invested over four years, including $20 million from the Ontario government, and another $30 million from other sources, such as individual donations and foundation support through the NCC and the Ontario Land Trust Alliance, and other levels of government.