Land Acquisition and Conservation
The Haliburton Highlands Land Trust (HHLT) owns and manages 250 ha of land in the Highlands Corridor, consisting of two properties known as the Dahl Forest and the Fred and Pearl Barry Wetland Reserve. The Kawartha Land Trust owns and manages another 40 ha identified as Vincent Woods. Through the ownership and management of these properties, the Land Trusts protect provincially significant wetlands, species at risk, and biodiversity. As the properties are located adjacent to unceded Crown land, the Dahl Forest, Barry Wetland Reserve and Vincent Woods enhance landscape connectivity thereby building ecological and climate change resilience.
The HHLT analyzed landscape connectivity and wildlife movement in the Highlands Corridor. Through this analysis, the HHLT was able to identify private properties in the Highlands Corridor that maintain connectivity, biodiversity and build climate change resilience. HHLT reached out to these private landowners to inform them about the Highlands Corridor and twelve landowners became HHLT Partners in Conservation. HHLT worked with these landowners to develop and implement property management plans with actions targeting the protection and restoration of another 1578 ha.
The Haliburton Highlands Land Trust is committed to the following:
- Integrating the protection of the Highlands Corridor into the HHLT strategic plan for land acquisition and conservation by targeting lands that represent critical gaps in habitat connectivity, support biodiversity, and/or build climate change resilience.
- Developing partnerships with private landowners with a common goal of conservation.
- Continuing efforts to raise public awareness and community support for the protection of the Highlands Corridor.
- Seeking opportunities to engage with affected First Nations to understand their interests, rights and responsibilities.
- Developing partnerships with upper and lower tier municipalities for protection of the corridor.
- Working with other NGOs to raise the profile of the Highlands Corridor at the provincial level.
Public Awareness and Community Support
Ontario Nature, a provincial conservation organization, convened discussions with representatives of several community groups as well as members of local First Nations to identify priority candidate protected areas in the Peterborough area. The Highlands Corridor emerged as a priority site from these discussions. Ontario Nature has highlighted the Highlands Corridor in ON Nature magazine and on an online Story Map as one of several priority candidate protected areas across the province.
At the county level, HHLT has garnered strong community support and engagement for its conservation efforts to protect biodiversity and habitat connectivity in the Highlands Corridor. The trails at Dahl Forest have been enjoyed by thousands of people over the years and are monitored regularly by community volunteers. Dahl Forest has also been the location of several research projects and many community members have participated in HHLT environmental education programs that have included guided walks focusing on the property’s biodiversity.
Other publicly accessible natural areas enjoy similar popularity, indicating the community’s appreciation for natural habitats and the local demand for nature-based recreation. Snowdon Park, a large nature reserve owned by the Municipality of Minden Hills, is located in the Highlands Corridor and is a popular destination for hiking and snowshoeing and often hosts large public events such as Hike Haliburton.
Over the years, many private landowners have allowed HHLT access to their properties to conduct species at risk inventories and/or map and delineate wetlands in the Highlands Corridor. In addition, every year since 2007, community members have reported their species at risk sightings to the Land Trust. As of May 2021, 309 observers have contributed to the HHLT SAR database that now houses 3250 SAR records. In 2017, HHLT was awarded the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce, Warden’s Choice award for their work in protecting natural heritage and their successful efforts in environmental research, education and community engagement in Haliburton County.
Two Highlands Corridor projects undertaken by the HHLT, that required an exceptional level of community support and involvement are profiled below:
Turtle Road Mortality Mitigation Project
Through a three-year project funded by the Province (Ontario Species at Risk Stewardship Fund), the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust tested the effectiveness of a unique design of barrier wall and aquatic underpass in reducing turtle road mortality. The project involved the installation of a turtle barrier wall in the Highlands Corridor and required over 5500 volunteer hours to monitor three test sites as part of a rigorous scientific study. The project was a success, and the results were published in the primary literature here and contribute to the field of road ecology at the global level. The barrier wall and underpass continue to enhance connectivity in the Highlands Corridor.
Dahl Forest Bioblitz
The Haliburton Highlands Land Trust hosted the first bioblitz in Haliburton County at the Dahl Forest in 2017. This 24-hour event involved 45 scientists, naturalists, and local nature enthusiasts, and catalogued 716 species. In total, volunteers contributed 885 hours to this event.
The Haliburton Highlands Land Trust, Ontario Nature and Glenside Ecological Services Limited have conducted extensive research, assessment and evaluations in the Highlands Corridor to inform conservation efforts. Efforts in the Highlands Corridor have included the following:
- Evaluation of seven provincially significant wetland complexes totaling 4,362 ha.
- Mapping and classifying all wetlands in the geographic townships of Lutterworth, Snowdon and Glamorgan to understand carbon storage and flood attenuation.
- Three-year Before-After-Control-Impact (BACI) study of a unique design of a turtle barrier wall and underpass and its effectiveness in mitigating turtle road mortality.
- Circuit theory analysis to model wildlife movement.
- Development of a species at risk database to document and assess biodiversity.
- Two-year assessment of Bats at Risk.
The HHLT and Glenside Ecological Services Limited are currently evaluating the Marigold Wetland Complex in the Highlands Corridor.