NAPANEE, Ont. – The Nature Conservancy of Canada says it’s expanding a conservation area in eastern Ontario to help protect an endangered songbird rarer than the panda.
The non-profit conservation group has purchased 31 hectares of key eastern loggerhead shrike habitat north of Napanee, Ont.
John Lounds is the president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy of Canada. He says the protection of the land purchased will be a boon for many facets of the Napanee area.
“It’s important to the community, it’s important to rural economies, it’s important for tourism and it’s extremely important to a particular bird called the eastern loggerhead shrike.”
In 2017, biologists saw five young shrikes fledging from their nest on the property — part of the longest-occupied eastern loggerhead shrike nesting area in the Napanee Plain.
The NCC says the shrike is one of the fastest-declining bird species in North America and is an example of an “area-sensitive species.”
The bird requires large areas of open terrain before it is comfortable enough to nest – few protected nesting areas remain for the eastern loggerhead shrike.
Hazel Wheeler is the lead biologist with the loggerhead shrike recovery program. She says the addition of this particular land could be key to the species’ survival.
“The numbers in the wild are still small, so we’re not out of the woods yet, but there are some things to celebrate,” said Wheeler.
It is believed that there are less than 30 breeding pairs remaining in the wild in North America, and Wheeler said that 15 per cent of that population lives on Nature Conservancy property, including the property that was recently acquired in Napanee.
Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna was in Napanee on Wednesday to show support for the new protected land, which the federal government helped secure by providing a third of the funding. The Nature Conservancy of Canada would not provide the amount the land was purchased for.
“Our government was elected to protect the environment and grow the economy — and so we have been doing that since day one, whether it’s tackling climate change or doing what we’re doing today where we’re expanding protected spaces.”
The property is also home to the rare alvar habitats, so it will be named the Irene Ockenden Alvar Tract, also due to a financial donation from Dr. Kenneth Ockenden, as an honour to his late wife’s memory.
With files from Mike Postovit and Alexandra Mazur