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Habitat Creation Initiative Begins for the Endangered Kirtland’s Warbler in Northumberland.

March 27,2024 — The Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust and partners have officially embarked on a crucial habitat restoration initiative in Northumberland County, Ontario, which focused on the preservation of the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler. This stunning songbird historically bred around the Great Lakes and is particularly discerning about its nesting sites, favoring a high-density of native Red and Jack Pine aged between five (5) and fifteen (15) years.



Video of a male Kirtland's Warbler singing from the top of a young pine. Video courtesy of Peter Burke.


Fire suppression and land conversion had dire consequences for Kirtland’s Warbler and the other species adapted to fire ecosystems. By 1971, only 201 pairs remained globally. Intensive conservation efforts in Michigan have been pivotal in their recovery, with controlled burns and careful planting of Jack Pine forests playing a crucial role. Today, there are over 5,000 Kirtland’s Warblers worldwide, all residing within Canada and the US.

Despite their successful recovery in the United States, Kirtland’s Warbler remains endangered in Canada. The Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust is committed to reversing this trend by restoring young pine-oak habitat in Northumberland, providing suitable breeding grounds for these birds.


This restoration effort is not just about supporting Kirtland’s Warbler; it extends to benefiting at least 30 other rare and at-risk species, including the Eastern Whip-poor-will, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Hog-nosed Snake, Yellow-banded and American Bumblebees, Bobolink, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Short-eared Owl – all of which are listed as Species at Risk in Ontario.


The start of the seeding of over 80 native species to launch the restoration at the MapleCross Featherstone Nature Reserve. Photo Credit: Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust


In the fall of 2023, the Trust planted over 220 kg of Black, Red, and Bur Oak acorns, hickory, and Canada Plum. Additionally, 80 different species of native grasses, shrubs, and wildflowers were seeded on the 11.8-hectare field, sourced in part from a volunteer seed collection project engaging local Northumberland residents aged 55 or older. Once the diverse understory of native plants is established in the next year or two, Red and Jack Pine trees will be planted. Over the next few years, an additional 30 hectares will be restored, for a total of 42 hectares.


Furthermore, the restoration of pine oak habitats contributes significantly to carbon sequestration, which is crucial in mitigating the effects of climate change. These restored habitats act as carbon sinks, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in trees, soil, and other vegetation. By enhancing carbon sequestration through habitat restoration, the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust not only protects biodiversity but also helps combat climate change, creating a more resilient and sustainable environment for both wildlife and humans alike.


The success of the restoration and the greater recovery project is a testament to the dedication of staff and volunteers. Our partners on this project include Fleming College, School of Environmental and Natural Resources Sciences, Mary Gartshore, The Nature Conservancy of Canada, GEI Consultants, Birk’s NHC, American Bird Conservancy, and the US Kirtland’s Warbler Conservation Team, which have been instrumental in this effort.


“Our government commends Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust's efforts to restore habitats for at-risk species including, the Kirtland Warbler in Northumberland through the Greenlands Conservation Partnership. This project is another great example of public and private partnerships to protect nature,” said Andrea Khanjin, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. “Together with conservation leaders, we have safeguarded more than 420,000 acres of land – more than two and a half times the size of the City of Toronto.”

Those interested in contributing to Kirtland’s Warbler conservation and other threatened species are encouraged to get involved through volunteer opportunities like the seed collection program. Together, we can ensure a future for these endangered birds in Ontario.


The Kirtland’s Warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii). Photo Credit: Christine Mason


ABOUT: 

The Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust, a registered charitable organization, was formed in 2000 by citizens interested in protecting the Moraine.

 

The Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust works to ensure a healthy and thriving ecosystem in and surrounding the Moraine. The Land Trust ensures significant Moraine, Greenbelt and Simcoe properties are protected for future generations through agreements with landowners, protection of private lands and on-going stewardship. To date, the Trust has protected over 2,132 ha (5,269 acres) of land on 67 properties. 

 

Over $11.7M in funding will be provided from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC)’s Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund (NSCSF) to the Ontario Land Trust Alliance to support nature-based projects that promote carbon storage and capture while providing important habitat for species at risk and/or species of cultural and local importance. This is part of the $1.4 billion that Canada has invested in the Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund. These funds will be matched from other sources including individual donations and foundation support, as well as other levels of government. 

 

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 $38 million has been invested to date by the Ontario government. Additional match funds are raised from other sources, such as individual donations and foundation support through the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Ontario Land Trust Alliance, and other levels of government.

 

The Kirtland’s Warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii). Photo Credit: Dianne Doran

 

 

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