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Grants for Ausable landowners



Habitat stewardship funding supports work by landowners to improve habitat for aquatic species at risk in Ausable River

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s habitat stewardship funding supports landowner projects, school programs, and monitoring to protect local watershed home to important species 

Landowners in the Ausable River Watershed now have a new opportunity to improve local habitat thanks to 2018-2019 funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada. 

Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA) has received $76,050, from Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk, for on-the-ground habitat stewardship projects, education and outreach, and monitoring of aquatic species at risk in the Ausable River Watershed. The funding will help to implement the proposed Ausable River Action Plan and it will support work during the 2018-2019 year. “We are very thankful to receive this funding from the Government of Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk,” said Kate Monk, ABCA Manager of Stewardship, Land and Education. “This continued financial support from the federal environment department makes it possible to improve habitat in the Ausable River and protect the nationally important aquatic species that live there.”

Grants are available for tree planting, wetlands, fencing cattle out of creeks, and cover crop planting in the Ausable River drainage area from Exeter all the way to Port Franks. “We help to make it easy for local landowners to complete a project and we also look for funding from other sources beyond the Habitat Stewardship Program grants,” said Monk. “It is often possible to cover up to 100 per cent of a landowner’s cash costs for a project.” Staff members are pleased to visit a project site and provide personal service to participating landowners, she said.

The Ausable River Watershed has one of the most diverse populations of aquatic species of any watershed of this size in Canada. At least 26 species of freshwater mussels and 85 species of fish have been found in the river system. Seven of the eight turtle species found in Ontario are found in the Ausable River Watershed. Many of these species have been assessed as Endangered, Threatened or Special Concern.

Voluntary stewardship activities help to reduce nutrients and sediment entering the Ausable River and its tributaries. Streamside vegetation helps to reduce water temperatures in the Ausable River system over the long term. 

The new funding makes it possible for staff to work with participating local landowners to plant native trees and shrubs in priority areas at up to 15 sites. The funding makes it possible as well for conservation staff to work with participating local landowners to establish cover crops on up to 300 acres (121 hectares) in priority areas. Cover crops improve soil health and water quality and reduce sediment and nutrients entering the Ausable River system. Cover crops are grown during the summer, autumn, and winter seasons when there are no commercial crops present to protect the soil surface from wind and water erosion. In some cases, cover crops can reduce nutrient and pesticide runoff by half; decrease soil erosion by 90 per cent; and reduce pathogen loading by 60 per cent.

Technical support and grant incentives for landowners will also help to restore and enhance up to six local wetlands through construction and planting. Re-establishing wetlands results in reduced levels of nutrients and sediment entering the river. It also helps to control extreme water level fluctuations by managing water running off the land and reducing the speed of the water flow. The announced funding also helps stewardship staff to work with participating landowners to fence livestock out of the Ausable River and its tributaries. This benefits critical habitat, according to staff, by reducing nutrients and sediment entering the river. 

The funding support makes it possible for conservation educators to teach students in ten local school classes about aquatic species at risk in the Ausable River Watershed. Ausable Bayfield Conservation will also provide an active outdoor learning experience, including tree planting and/or wetland restoration, at a project site to teach students about stewardship and the aquatic ecosystem. The funding support also makes it possible for Ausable Bayfield Conservation to provide three public information sessions about aquatic species at risk, stewardship grants, and opportunities for habitat improvements in the Ausable River Watershed. 

The 2018-2019 funding will also support monitoring of water quality (nutrient levels), water level, and dissolved oxygen data in the Old Ausable Channel to provide valuable information on the aquatic habitat quality conditions for fish species that are considered at risk. This provides important data for habitat management decisions for critical habitat in the Old Ausable Channel and for understanding issues that pose risk to the species there.

Ausable Bayfield Conservation plans to issue news releases and direct-mail flyers and post cards to inform watershed residents of the new funding incentive opportunities that are available for stewardship activities.

This is the third year that Canada’s environment department, Environment and Climate Change Canada, has provided this Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP) funding for a total of $228,150 in support of landowner stewardship, local education, and monitoring of aquatic species. The funding began on April 1, 2016 and continues to March 31, 2019. 

If you are interested in finding out about grants for stewardship projects or hosting a school program, you are invited to phone toll-free 1-888-286-2610 or email to find out more.

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