Maitland Conservation welcomes new board members, outlines key priorities

WROXETER – Maitland Conservation (MC) held its 2023 annual general meeting (AGM) on Feb. 15 at the Wroxeter Community Hall, welcoming new and past members, local dignitaries, and visitors in attendance to hear about upcoming plans and ongoing conservation efforts.

Chair Matt Duncan introduced the 2023 MC board of directors: Alvin McLellan (Huron East), Sharen Zinn (Morris-Turnberry), Myles Murdock (Goderich), Andrew Fournier (Perth East, West Perth), Evan Hickey, second vice-chair (Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh), Anita van Hittersum (North Huron), Ed McGugan, first vice-chair (Huron-Kinloss, South Bruce), Alison Lobb (Central Huron), Ed Podniewicz (Mapleton, Minto, Wellington North), and Megan Gibson (Howick).

The new board re-elected Duncan to the position of chair, McGugan was also re-elected as first vice-chair, and Hickey was elected as second vice-chair.

Duncan opened the meeting with a brief speech highlighting MC’s accomplishments in 2022.

“I’ve had the honour of serving as Maitland Valley’s chair for the past year. It’s been a privilege and an honour to work with the members over that time,” said Duncan. “We have accomplished a lot and we have developed a strong plan for the future.”

Highlights included developing a service and programs agreement with 14 out of 15 municipalities, which allows MC to plan its work for the next four years, Duncan said.

Other highlights included flood and erosion safety services, shoreline mapping services, conservation authority services, and watershed stewardship services, including the Huron County Clean Water Project and Wellington Rural Water Quality Program.

Maitland Conservation Foundation chair Kriss Snell updated members and visitors on the “We are Inspired by Nature” fundraising campaign.

Snell spoke of the Restoring Nature’s Place initiative, which will aid with the restoration of floodplains, river valleys, stream buffers, streams, and forests throughout the watershed to build resiliency to the impacts of climate change. The initiative will also assess and identify ways to improve the health of the forests in the watershed. The Foundation’s support of the ongoing Forest Health Assessment Project will help Maitland Conservation identify priority sites for restoration efforts.

Recently, the Foundation supported the reconstruction of a bridge at Naftel’s Creek Conservation Area. The Foundation has also recently launched a campaign to raise funds for a picnic shelter with accessible washrooms and storage at Wawanosh Valley Conservation Area. The picnic shelter is envisioned as a community gathering area and will facilitate special events at the site. The goal is to raise $140,000.

Snell also touched on the Memorial-Celebration Grove, located at the George Taylor Conservation Area south of Walton. For a donation of $100, a large-stock deciduous tree will be planted in memory of a loved one or celebration of a milestone event. Smaller donations are also gratefully accepted. Individual trees in the groves are not identified with names; however, donor and memorial names are listed on a kiosk at the site. A tree-planting ceremony was held in September 2022.

To donate a memorial or celebration tree, please call the Foundation at 519-335-3557 ext. 246, email

Additionally, Watershed Ecologist Erin Gouthro made a sobering presentation to the group about the ongoing forest health study that provides some concerning data for consideration by all living in the Maitland Conservation watershed area.

The data gathered builds on work undertaken in 2000 that revealed local forests were at risk because of limited species diversity and uniform small size and age.

The plot assessments will help us to identify the challenges impacting local forest health. In addition, this information will assist forest managers and landowners in determining how forest health can be improved.

Initial data analysis shows a wide variety of forest disturbances are impacting local woodlots, including invasive plants, insects, disease, pathogens, tree cutting, trails, and soil compaction.

The results of the Forest Health Assessment will be released in 2023.

2023 key priorities

MC identified four key priorities for 2023:

- reduce the risk of loss of life and community damage from flooding and erosion;

- keep soil and nutrients on the land and out of watercourses;

- ensure conservation areas are safe for visitors and showcase best management practices; and

- develop a watershed strategy under the updated Conservation Authorities Act. This process will include opportunities for public review and comment.

Updates to the three-year work plan and budget/levy forecast for 2024-26 will outline the activities and projects MC plans to undertake and the budget/levy requirements needed for the work identified.

MC will be contacting local First Nations and Métis to determine their interest in working together on issues and projects of common interest. These communities need to be consulted with respect to the watershed strategy.

To find out more information on any of MC’s ongoing conservation work, email or call 519-335-3557.

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times