By Canada-Ontario Agreement Project, Great Lakes Branch, Ministry of Natural Resources, Peterborough, Canada
The Ontario government is enriching Ontario’s natural heritage by partnering to protect Strawberry Island’s rare habitat, Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay announced today. “Located in Lake Huron’s North Channel, Strawberry Island is home to extremely rare natural habitats, as well as vast expanses of unspoiled shoreline and coastal wetlands,” said Minister Ramsay. “By working with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to preserve this beautiful and biologically rich natural area, we are safeguarding important natural heritage features, including nesting areas for bald eagles, habitat for at least six provincially rare plant species and significant plant communities.”
This project is a partnership between the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Ontario government. The conservancy acquired 912 hectares of the 1,040-hectare island for $1.6 million. The province contributed $250,000 towards the purchase price. Future plans include establishing the island, which is located off Manitoulin Island, as a nature reserve class provincial park. Purchase of the island also supports Canada/U.S. efforts to conserve biologically diverse islands throughout the Great Lakes basin.
The island is home to a unique natural habitat, called an alvar. Alvars are sparsely vegetated rock barrens that develop on flat limestone bedrock with shallow soils. Globally rare, alvars are found only around the Great Lakes and the Baltic Sea, and support an extraordinary diversity of hardy but rare plants, animals and invertebrates. “Protecting Strawberry Island is part of our continuing effort to conserve some of the most pristine alvar and coastal wetland communities in the Great Lakes,” said John Grant, Midwestern Ontario Program Manager for the Nature Conservancy of Canada. “NCC and partners have acquired 9,500 hectares of land throughout the basin to protect alvar habitat in places such as Manitoulin Island, the Carden Alvar northeast of Lake Simcoe and the Stone Road Alvar on Pelee Island.”
Since 1996, more than 16,000 hectares of land valued at over $20 million have been protected to secure provincially significant lands that will be managed as part of Ontario’s parks and protected areas system. The purchase of Strawberry Island is also one of more than 160 projects that the Ministry of Natural Resources is undertaking this year to restore, protect and better understand the environment of the Great Lakes basin through the Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem (COA).
For more information please contact: Steve Payne, Ministry of Natural Resources, at 416-314-2103. Or visit Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources website: http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/.