Ontario Nature (Federation of Ontario Naturalists)
Regional meetings of the Ontario Nature Network provide an opportunity for naturalists to exchange ideas and report on successes and failures of programs they have undertaken, discuss natural heritage issues of concern, and seek advice from the Ontario Nature (ON) staff. ON staff representatives give an update on the organization’s Nature Network and ON’s conservation, youth, educational, and advocacy programs. Through these meetings, Nature London (NL) is able to keep abreast of regional and provincial matters relating to natural heritage. Member groups are the “grassroots” of the federation, and the McIlwraith Ornithological Club, an earlier name of Nature London, was one of the FON’s founding member groups in 1931.
ON continued to operate its programs through the pandemic this year, with all staff working from home. It moved its Toronto office to a smaller space, at the new address Ontario Nature @Centre for Social Innovation, 720 Bathurst Street, Toronto, ON M5S 2R4.
With the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions preventing in-person meetings, Nature London (NL) attended the 2021 Fall Carolinian West Regional (CWR) and 2022 Spring CWR meetings of the Ontario Nature Network by Zoom video conference calls on October 30th and March 26th, respectively. The fall meeting was hosted and chaired by Lisa Richardson, Nature Network Coordinator for Ontario Nature (ON), and the spring meeting was hosted and chaired by Lesley Rudy, the new ON Nature Network Organizer for the CWR. Virtual guest presentations at the fall regional meeting were given by 1) Climate Legacy’s Roy Culpeper on the “Climate Legacy Initiative” project, and 2) ON’s Jackie Ho on “Protected Places Campaign”. Virtual guest presentations at the spring regional meeting were given by 1) ON’s Caroline Schultz on “Vote for Nature—Provincial Election on June 2, 2022”, and 2) ON’s Kristen Setala on “Birding in Candidate Protected Areas”. President Gordon Neish and Ontario Nature Representative Anita Caveney represented NL at the fall and spring meetings. Attendance at both these meetings had dropped off slightly during the pandemic because some member groups were in abeyance. Reports of these regional meetings were published in the Winter 2022 and Summer 2022 issues of The Cardinal.
ON’s 91st Annual Gathering was cancelled due to pandemic restrictions, but the AGM was held virtually on June 11th, 2022, and the Conservation Awards were presented virtually during the meeting. NL was represented at the AGM by Gordon Neish, Anita Caveney, and some other joint NL/ON members. The citations for, and photos of, the award recipients were posted on ON’s website and published in the Fall 2022 issue of ON Nature magazine.
Nature London-Ontario Nature collaborations during the year are listed below:
- NL contributed $3,000 towards ON’s purchase of 100 acres adjacent to its Sydenham River Nature Reserve (SRNR) in SW Ontario, to increase the size of the latter. Some NL members also made personal donations towards this purchase.
- Under the guidance of ON staff, some joint NL/ON members participated in tree-planting events at the Sydenham River Nature Reserve on September 25th and 26th, 2021, and an ON celebration of the additional land acquisition at SRNR on May 15th, 2022.
- Emma Horrigan, ON’s Manager of Community Science and Nature Guardians Youth Programs, presented a virtual talk by Zoom video conference on the topic “Prescribed Burn Project at Stone Road Alvar Nature Reserve”.
- The NL Board endorsed ON’s submission to the Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO) expressing concerns about the delayed protection for the at-risk-pecies Black Ash.
- The NL Board endorsed ON’s letter to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) supporting the proposed amendment to Ontario Regulation 315/07 under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, 2006 to create a conservation reserve along the South Shore of Prince Edward County.
- The NL Board endorsed ON’s letter to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing requesting that changes to Ontario’s Building Code incorporate provisions requiring bird-friendly construction.
- The NL Board endorsed ON’s joint letter to provincial party leaders to address biodiversity loss and climate change in their June 2022 election campaigns, after the NL Board had requested amendments to include broader consultations with local communities and Conservation Authorities.
- NL endorsed an ON letter to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing concerning violation of the public consultation requirements of the Environmental Bill of rights 1993.
- NL supported the ON Youth Summit with funds for the weekend event, held on September 25th and 26th.
- NL gave an Eco-Grant to the Thames Talbot Land Trust to support its first year of a snake-monitoring project, as part of an ongoing long-term Ontario Nature snake-monitoring program.
- Several NL members, some of them also Ontario Nature members, submitted comments during the year to the Ontario Government to express individual concerns about, or opposition to, proposed policy changes and funding cuts that would weaken environmental protection of certain species at risk and natural heritage features.
One highlight and three major concerns of the year for ON are listed below:
- ON purchased 100 acres of land adjacent to the SRNR to expand the Reserve and held a celebration event at the SRNR on May 15th, 2022.
- ON and Environmental organizations opposed the Ontario Government’s plan to construct a Highway 413 ring road around Brampton and Vaughan, which would cause negative environmental impacts, increase dependence on cars, and encourage residential sprawl. It would harm sensitive natural areas, including the Greenbelt, and would harm 2,000 acres of farmland, cut through 85 waterways, and damage 220 wetlands, as well as disrupt the habitats of 10 species at risk. The environmental organizations were also strongly opposed to a proposed Bradford By- pass, a 16-km connection between Highways 400 and 404, which would also harm sensitive environmental areas.
- On September 23, 2021, the MECP posted a notice on the ERO outlining the proposal to selectively extend the conditional exemptions to newly listed species.
- MECP in April 2022 of changes made under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 to selectively extend existing conditional exemptions to eligible activities that could impact species newly classified as threatened or endangered in 2018 and 2022. These amendments were made on April 8, 2022 and came into force on May 31, 2022.
Ontario Nature issues Action Alerts about threats to the natural environment to its members, member groups, and others who have signed up to be Advocates for Nature for the organization. Nature London also issues Action Alerts for threats to local and regional natural environments. Nature London members who are concerned about threats to sensitive natural heritage features should consider becoming Advocates for Nature for both Nature London and Ontario Nature.
Anita Caveney, Ontario Nature Representative.