Located in northern Lake Huron, Manitoulin Island’s Vidal Bay region encompasses some of the highest quality habitat in the world. The internationally significant island is peppered with sand plain forests, wetlands, sand dunes, and undeveloped stretches of the Niagara Escarpment, which altogether provide home to a wide range of species including Species at Risk (SAR): Blanding’s turtle, Massasauga rattlesnake, and Kirtland’s Warbler.
According to the International Alvar Conservation Initiative, the alvars of western Manitoulin Island are the best remaining examples of this type of globally rare habitat in North America, where the limestone layers and thin soils set the stage for a unique combination of rare and endemic plant species. With support from partners, public and private donors, and now Ganawenim Meshkiki’s Eastern Georgian Bay Initiative, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is acquiring land in the Vidal Bay region to protect this high quality and SAR-supporting habitat for generations to come.
With the support of Eastern Georgian Bay Initiative funds in 2021, the NCC successfully acquired and protected a 18,800 acre property which allowed NCC to create a protected area of more than 248 square kilometres – the largest of its kind south of the Canadian Shield in Ontario. Through this conservation, NCC has ensured that this region will continue to provide habitat for significant species in need, including SAR, while also providing broader regional benefits and ecological services to the plant, animal, and human communities that inhabit the area.
Next steps regarding the property acquisition in 2022 include plans to finalize the Property Management Plan, which will include work with local First Nation communities, Ontario Parks, the Manitoulin Nature Club, local experts, and community members, to guide stewardship activities over time. NCC also plans to engage a contractor to help document occurrences of SAR as well as to engage local communities in this effort, as part of building local capacity for conservation and stewardship initiatives. Additionally, NCC plan for this contractor to help to identify priority areas in need of succession management to ensure suitable habitat exists for Massasauga and Kirtland’s Warbler, through providing recommendations on how to best complete this management.