Scott Young, executive director of Muskoka Conservancy, attended Gravenhurst council on March 21 to give an overview of the organization and some of their programs and upcoming events.
Throughout Muskoka, the conservancy has 51 properties under its protection, including 37 nature reserves and 14 conservation easements that have been acquired since the early 1990s.
“Thirteen properties are located in Gravenhurst, including some of the newest acquisitions south of Kashi Lake and a 70-acre tiered wetland complex near Doe Lake,” Young explained.
Coun. Penny Varney asked how the land was acquired. “We’ve acquired property in numerous different ways, “said Young. “For years it was only by donation…more recently we have been getting into two different areas, one is just straight-up purchasing land. In the last eight years, we realized there are more people out there with money and fundraising for money is more common than trying to find people with land that they want to protect…it’s actually a little simpler that way and it gives wider access to a pool of properties.”
The second way is through a “split receipt,” when a landowner wants to protect their property but cannot afford to just outright donate it. “So we will fundraise to buy a portion of it and they will donate a portion of it and that will help offset their capital gains and generate a tax receipt.
Young wanted to emphasize that the Conservancy isn’t just about acquiring land but offering programs such as the Little Sprouts Eco Club, founded by current councillor Christina Hunter. “It’s one of our strongest programs, a real feather in our cap.” There are also expert guided hikes offered through the Nature Quest program on most properties, a “great way to experience nature and meet people.”
Native Plant Sale
He also wanted to get the word out about some upcoming events. A Native Plant sale is being held May 6. The whole point, he said, was to encourage people who garden to avoid mistakenly introducing invasive species. The majority of invasive species that are in Muskoka now were accidentally introduced by gardeners, and the impetus for the sale was to help people find native plants. The plants do need to be ordered in advance on their website and said that they always sell out, so those interested should visit https://www.muskokaconservancy.org/ to pre-order.
Young mentioned that there is a demonstration garden at their Bracebridge office to “show people what kind of garden you can have with just native plants.” While it is still covered in snow, Young encouraged people to come out in the summer to get inspired by the garden with only endemic species, and many of them from the Muskoka region.
Electric Vehicle Event
A new electric vehicle (EV) program in partnership with Climate Action Muskoka has been formed and they will be holding an event on May 27 at the Bracebridge Fairgrounds. EV makers will bring vehicles to Muskoka for visitors to learn about, ask questions and take for test drives.
The annual Michael Foster Photography Contest is open, with this year’s theme being “The Forest is Alive.” The winner will receive a mounted copy of their photo and be named at Muskoka Conservancy’s annual general meeting as the recipient of the Michael Foster Photography Award winner for 2023. Please submit your photos to [email protected] by April 30 for consideration.
Coun. Sandy Cairns asked if there were still phragmites removal programs in action, saying she remembered years ago doing that with Young and a group of volunteers near Huntsville, noting that there are phragmites in Gravenhurst now. Young said that “it is very labour intensive to pull phragmites, it’s everywhere, it’s coming north, you can see it marching north along Highway 400.” He said they have been researching removal methods, that they don’t think spraying is the answer and that volunteers are key. “If you have a group of volunteers, we can help organize and compliment.”
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