Closer look at nature reserve planned

Neebing, Ont. — A newly-purchased nature reserve in the Municipality of Neebing received a financial boost last week.

The Ward Lake Nature Reserve, purchased by the Thunder Bay Field Naturalists in December, received a portion of the $11.7 million in funding provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The funding went to the local group through the Ontario Land Trust Alliance as part of the Nature Smart Climate Solutions program.

Thunder Bay Field Naturalists nature reserves committee chair Sue Bryan said the money went towards paying off expenses for the Ward Lake property.

“For us, the main purpose was to help pay for the property which we obviously had to fundraise for, but we also appreciated the benefit of this grant,” said Bryan, who was president of the group in 1986-87.

“It helped pay for the legal costs of acquiring it and the appraisal and a few other incidentals.

“We have an endowment fund which we put money into that basically the money sits there earning interest and the interest pays for the ongoing costs of the property.”

The Ward Lake resource is the 21st conservation ecosystem area that the local group has acquired and they try to visit each of them annually.

“We try to get out to each one every year, but we don’t always manage to,” Bryan said. “Some of our properties are on very remote sites and we have some out on Michipicoten Island (southwest of Wawa) out in the middle of (Lake Superior), you have to take a boat or a helicopter to get out there.

“Others are out in the national marine conservation area on different islands on the far-out parts, roadless parts of Black Bay Peninsula.

“Some of these remote, roadless places we don’t get to access every year, but we try to keep in touch with them, go when we can. The ones closer to town like Williams Bog or Pictured Lake we visit quite regularly.”

Bryan said the naturalists are looking forward to taking a closer look at the Ward Lake property this spring and summer.

“We’ve been in there a few times at the time it was for sale last fall to look at the property and it was a reasonable walk in, although a little tougher in the winter,” Bryan said. “We managed to get in there in October and November. We’re looking forward to spring again and learning more about it once the weather is better.

“There’s two fellas who have taken on the leadership, stewardship of the property and they’ll be heading out there shortly to put up some trail cameras where we hope to record some passing species, mammals of different kinds out there. It’s in the range of the gray fox which is one we’re hoping to catch on the camera.

“We’re also going to be taking a birding group in there to do with the Breeding Bird Atlas in the spring. Some members and some other individuals to do some recording of breeding birds on that property. I expect there will be a public offering of a hike into the property in the summer months.”

Besides contributing to the Breeding Bird Atlas, the naturalists group also takes part in the Christmas Bird Count and the Great Canadian Birdathon as well as numerous hikes on their properties during the year.

John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal