Barrie: Ducks Unlimited Canada has acquired one of the few remaining coastal wetlands on Lake St. Clair in southwestern Ontario, a decisive conservation success that ensures the long-term protection of habitat in a critical region for migrating waterfowl and other birds.
St. Luke’s Marsh is 488 acres (197 hectares) and includes a coastal shoreline, provincially significant coastal wetlands, and other mixed wildlife habitats.
The marsh is adjacent to the publicly owned, 882-acre (357-hectare) St. Clair National Wildlife Area, which shelters more than 60 species of birds and 35 federally listed Species at Risk such as king rail, least bittern and eastern foxsnake.
These habitats also support migrating monarch butterflies. Lake St. Clair is in a priority region for conservation where Ducks Unlimited Canada has invested in restoring and managing wetland projects since the 1970s.
Research* conducted by Ducks Unlimited Canada shows that all but 1.5 per cent of wetland habitats around the lake have been converted to other land uses.
The lake is on the border between Ontario and Michigan, which connects two Great Lakes (Lake Huron and Lake Erie), and receives waters from major rivers—including the St. Clair River, Thames River, Sydenham River and Clinton River—which then pass to Lake Erie, making the health of this lake an important ecological goal for both Canada and the United States.
Permanent protection of ecologically precious lands requires strong partnership based in trust. The St. Luke’s Marsh project is supported by the Government of Canada through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program (NHCP), part of Canada’s Nature Fund.
Ducks Unlimited Canada is participating through a generous bequest from the late Louise Gendron, and international contributors including Ducks Unlimited Inc., the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and state agencies through the Fall Flights Initiative (including Ohio and Michigan which directly border Lake St. Clair).
This project is a clear demonstration of how a shared vision leverages a greater impact for conservation such as this oncein-a-lifetime conservation opportunity to protect the biodiversity at St. Luke’s Marsh.
Supporting Canada’s conservation goals
The purchase of St. Luke’s Marsh supports the Government of Canada’s target of conserving 25 per cent of Canada’s lands by 2025 and its objectives for the recovery of wild species listed under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). St. Luke’s Marsh is one of 22 conservation properties held by Ducks Unlimited Canada within the Great Lakes watershed, accounting for almost 7,000 acres (2,833 hectares) of protected habitat.
“I would like to congratulate Ducks Unlimited Canada for its success in acquiring St. Luke’s Marsh, an ecological link between Canada and the United States. Wetlands provide clean water, flood mitigation, important wildlife habitat, and play an important role in the fight against climate change. It’s thanks to partners like Ducks Unlimited Canada, that we are working towards conserving a quarter of lands and a quarter of oceans in Canada by 2025.”
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change “Years of effort are behind this conservation success. Protecting a wetland as significant as St.
Luke’s Marsh is deeply rewarding, and it’s only possible with committed partners and supporters whose vision for healthy future matches ours, to protect and restore waterfowl habitats which are part of the natural infrastructure that underpins Ontario’s working landscape.”
Karla Guyn, CEO, Ducks Unlimited Canada Ducks Unlimited Canada delivers wetland conservation that benefits every Canadian. We keep the water in your lakes and rivers clean. We protect your community from the effects of flood and drought. We save wildlife and special natural places. We use science to find solutions to the most important environmental issues of the day and we collaborate with people who are helping create a healthier world.
The wetlands we save aren’t just for ducks; they’re for all of us.
In early December the Ontario government announced that it would be providing $30 million to help conservation organizations create and restore wetlands in priority areas across the province. The new Wetlands Conservation Partner Program will focus on restoration projects in the Great Lakes watersheds and support municipalities with stormwater management.
In the first year of the fiveyear program, the province will partner with Ducks Unlimited Canada, an internationally recognized wetlands restoration organization, and provide $6 million to support wetlands projects in the Lake Ontario and Lake Erie drainage basins.
Ducks Unlimited has a suite of over 60 projects that are fully scoped and ready to be implemented immediately.
“We’ve been clear that Ontario can lead Canada’s economic recovery while also protecting our environment, public health and safety – and this $30M program is just one example of that,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
“The Wetlands Conservation Partner Program funding will build on our government’s commitment to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, including our wetlands.”