A wetland north of Napanee that the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has long sought to conserve was officially designated a protected area on Wednesday.
Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson announced the protection of the 124-hectare (306-acre) Hodgson Nature Reserve, 30 kilometres northeast of Napanee. The property falls on the border of the Menzel Centennial Provincial Park.
“By working with the Nature Conservancy of Canada and private donors like the Hodgson Family Foundation and Dieter Menzel, we are making progress toward conserving a quarter of Canada’s lands and a quarter of its oceans by 2025,” said Wilkinson. “In conserving this land, NCC is helping protect habitat for wildlife, including species at risk such as the snapping turtle, the midland painted turtle, the Eastern wood pewee, and the Canada warbler. We are proud to support this conservation project through the Canada Nature Fund’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program.”
A collection of fen, swamp and upland forest habitats, the Hodgson Nature Reserve is a parcel that connects lands protected within Menzel Centennial Provincial Park. The reserve is also part of the provincially significant Westplain Mud Lake Fen Area of Natural and Scientific Interest.
For more than 25 years, the national, not-for-profit, private land conservation organization worked to ensure the area was conserved. NCC started acquiring lands in the area in 1993, thanks to the generous support of Dieter Menzel, who made many donations to NCC to honour his late wife, Oivi. His support led to Ontario Parks establishing the 914-hectare (2,258-acre) Menzel Centennial Provincial Park in 1997, on the 100th anniversary of the Ontario provincial park system. This latest acquisition of the Hodgson Nature Reserve fills in an important gap at the western edge of the Menzel Centennial Provincial Park, thanks to contributions from the Hodgson Family Foundation, whose members have been involved in wildlife conservation in the Napanee Plain for many years. Thanks to these donors, the important Mud Lake Fen is now almost completely protected on all sides.
“I’d like to thank the Hodgson Family Foundation for making this conservation milestone possible and for demonstrating the essential role that private donors — like Mr. Menzel himself — can play in conservation,” said Mark Stabb, program director for the NCC, central Ontario east. “I’d also like to recognize the Corrigan family, who recently chose to sell the property to NCC for conservation instead of putting it up for sale on the open market. It takes collaboration to make projects like this happen.”
The NCC says wetlands are important because they mitigate floods by absorbing and holding water like a giant sponge, and they improve drinking water quality by filtering nutrients and removing sediment and even bacteria. They also provide habitat for many species of birds, waterfowl, turtles and rare plants.
This land conservation project was made possible thanks in part to funding from the Government of Canada’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Fund. The Hodgson Family Foundation, Dieter Menzel, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and many additional generous donors, matched these funds.
“I am very grateful to the Nature Conservancy of Canada for keeping this acquisition in the forefront for years to complete the nature reserve,” said Dieter Menzel. “I am thrilled that the entire Westplain Fen and its water sources are all in permanent protection for wildlife, trees and plants and that the area is now out of danger of being developed. I want to thank the Ontario staff at NCC for their patience and diligence in making this nature reserve a reality.”