Earth Watch

PROTECTING GRASSLAND IN FORKS OF THE CREDIT

S ometimes, all you have to do is ask. That?s what the Halton/North Peel Naturalist Club (HNPNC) discovered when its members urged the Ontario government to preserve grassland habitat in Forks of the Credit Provincial Park (FCPP). Ontario Parks, which oversees the management of the Caledon-area park, recently announced plans to convert a significant portion of the park?s open grassland into a forest. The grassland currently supports a number of species at risk, including bobolinks, eastern meadowlarks, bank swallows and monarch butterflies. It also provides habitat for the frost aster, a native wildflower that is locally rare. HNPNC members were afraid that the proposed change would harm species already threatened by habitat loss. ?We don?t have a lot of grassland habitat left in southern Ontario,? says HNPNC president Don Scallen. ?If Forks of the Credit?s grassland is transformed into woodland, we risk losing the vulnerable species that depend on it.? Scallen sent a letter to FCPP superintendent Jill Van Niekerk expressing his group?s concerns. He pointed out that the park?s stated management goals include protecting FCPP?s natural, cultural and recreational environments, and stressed the importance of maintaining the open fields as habitat for the frost aster. In response, Van Niekerk agreed to preserve some of the park?s open fields, a decision that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry supports. She also invited HNPNC to help park staff monitor the land. In June, club members visited FCPP to record its grassland birds and plants. Scallen is cautiously optimistic about the future of the habitat and species. ?The park superintendent listened to our concerns,? he says, ?and that was an important first step.? Visit the HNPNC?s website (hnpnc.com) to learn more about the group?s efforts to preserve the FCPP grassland. ?Lisa Richardson ,Responsive leadership: Halton/North Peel Naturalist Club prompts Ontario Parks to maintain grassland habitat.

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