Nature lovers are celebrating after a government announcement that promises to protect at-risk wildlife along the St. Lawrence River.
The hope is that birds, turtles and other animals who have had their habitats destroyed will be able to make a comeback.
“When it comes to the environment, we have to think globally but act locally,” Canada’s Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said.
One of the creatures that will be helped by the new money is the bobolink, a small black and white bird whose song is celebrated by bird lovers for how unique, and almost robotic, it sounds.
“It sounds like R2D2 from Star Wars,” said Barbara Frei, director of the McGill Bird Observatory, who has studied the bobolink extensively. “It’s such a beautiful, incredible song.”
Bobolinks live in grasslands, one of the most threatened habitats on earth. In Quebec, their preferred homes have been replaced by farms on a massive scale.
“It used to be a very, very common bird and it’s disappeared,” said Frei.
On Tuesday Guilbeault announced $1.5 million of taxpayer money will be going to Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) projects along the St. Lawrence River.
Conservationists believe the new government funding gives them the power to help the bobolink and at least 21 other species.
“It means habitat protection, restoration, outreach and more planning,” said Carine Deland, the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC) director of conservation.
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She added that the new money will fund NCC activities until 2026.
The NCC says the new money will go toward initiatives to restore habitats, including on Ile aux Grues near Quebec City.
“On the ground, these experts will help to restore, to protect and sometimes acquire land to ensure that they’re there for generations and generations,” said Guilbeault.
For example, tarps on the ground help stop the spread of invasive plants like phragmites.
Efforts in the area will help creatures whose populations have sharply declined, like the short-eared owl, the bobolink and more.
“It’s a very special and unique habitat that inhabits a lot of endangered flora species, plants that are unique in the world,” Deland told Global News.
In the case of the bobolink, the funding will permit environmentalists to work with farmers to help give the birds a better shot at survival and breeding. Frei, the bird scientist, explained that sometimes having farmers delay cutting their hay crops by just a few weeks can be the difference between bobolink growth and complete annihilation.
“It doesn’t mean no agriculture, it just means good agriculture at the right place,” said Deland.
The government says this initiative is part of a pledge made by 195 nations at the recent COP15 Biodiversity Conference in Montreal.
“We agreed collectively that we wanted to protect at least 30 per cent of our lands and oceans by 2030 and work to restore the other 70 per cent that has been degraded over time,” said Guilbeault.
Frei says biodiversity and ecosystems are like a Jenga puzzle.
“You can start pulling blocks and see no difference at all. You go on your merry way. But we never know when that one block is going to be too much,” she said.
Those trying to put blocks back into the tower need all the help they can get.