On March 3, 2023, over 50 people braved a winter storm warning to attend the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust’s presentation on the Highlands Corridor at the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association Fish Hatchery.
Shelley Hunt started the evening with a lovely new slideshow highlighting the work of HHLT. Photos of the five properties we own, manage and protect were shown in addition to photos of past and present educational events and research projects. A summary of our research efforts segued perfectly into the Corridor presentation where Paul Heaven, HHLT project biologist took over.
Heaven explained the importance of the Highlands Corridor, giving an excellent overview of its ecological importance. While the audience viewed the map of the Highlands Corridor, he revealed information on the research HHLT has done on Species at Risk, wetland mapping and provincially significant wetland complexes within the Highlands Corridor. He emphasized the importance of the Corridor’s natural infrastructure in preventing flooding and maintaining biodiversity while also contributing to the area’s economy by drawing tourists all year round.
HHLT strategies for protecting the Corridor were outlined. Heaven stressed that there would be no restrictions on private land within the Corridor, other than our Partners in Conservation – a totally voluntary program initiated by HHLT to engage private landowners in good stewardship. Participating landowners have an opportunity to enroll in the Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program (MFTIP) and receive a ten-year property tax incentive for good stewardship. These landowners are crucial for helping to build connectivity between the three provincial parks within the Corridor.
Most importantly, HHLT is advocating that unceded Crown lands and waters within the Highlands Corridor be designated as a conservation reserve in order to enhance connectivity, maintain biodiversity and build resilience to climate change. As Chris Hodgson, former MPP and former Warden Haliburton County says, “HHLT’s initiative to protect the Highlands Corridor will enhance connectivity between Queen Elizabeth II Provincial Park and Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park, creating an important wildlife corridor in south central Ontario and a huge opportunity for biodiversity conservation.”
The audience was also treated to spectacular aerial views of the Corridor when the video produced by Brad Brown of UpsideBrown was shown.
At the conclusion, there were several thoughtful questions from the audience. Lillian Hall asked how the boundaries were determined. Shelley Hunt replied, “This is really a starting point for negotiations. The boundaries may be refined as we move forward in our discussions with other stakeholders.” Dave Bathe wanted to know how someone became a Partner in Conservation. Heaven encouraged people to contact him if they were interested in participating in this program and enrolling in the MFTIP or if they had an existing plan that would be complementary to the program.
The event was also a recognition of funding ($9,100) from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) to help HHLT develop a new strategic plan that addresses the need for recovery from the recent pandemic, enhances resilience to future disruptions and builds organizational capacity. Shelley Hunt, HHLT chair, thanked MPP Laurie Scott and OTF representative, Klara Oyler, for their continued support of the Land Trust.
Through the strategic planning process, HHLT confirmed its purpose of protecting lands and waters in Haliburton County for future generations and prioritized its work on protecting unceded Crown lands and waters in the Highlands Corridor.