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S. Ont. farmers eligible for wetland funding

Ontario’s natural resources ministry (MNR) and Ducks Unlimited Canada will put up $1 million over two years for a plan to help rural southern Ontario landowners with protection and upkeep of wetland habitats.

Under the Ontario Wetland Care program, announced Friday as part of the “Healthy Wetlands, Healthy Communities II” partnership agreement, the province has budgeted to set up 96 conservation agreements and 60 land stewardship plans to “enhance and protect” up to 6,000 acres in total.

MNR and Ducks Unlimited Canada, which have each pledged $500,000 for the program, will work with conservation organizations to contact landowners whose land includes waterfowl habitat.

Ducks Unlimited said it has already formed 17 partnerships with local conservation groups across the region to help deliver the program.

“Rural landowners are the key to protecting habitat for waterfowl and
other species of wildlife in southern Ontario,” said Jamie Fortune, director
of operations for Ducks Unlimited Canada, in the province’s release. “Research
shows that they are keenly interested, but they need help to get started.
That’s where we come in.”

“Some landowners need help with the costs of restoring or enhancing wetlands,” the province said. “Often they require only technical advice to get started and someone to call for further guidance as their work progresses.”

To that end, workshops, demonstration sites, educational materials and “personal site visits” with conservation staff will be set up for landowners to learn more details about protecting habitat. Staff will work with landowners to prepare customized stewardship plans for their properties, the province said.

Also under the plan, landowners who agree to restore and protect wetlands and other habitats on their land over the long term will be eligible for funding of half of the total cost of restoration and stewardship projects, the province said.

Conservation agreements are written agreements between landowners and Ducks Unlimited that ensure the wildlife habitat on privately held wetland will be maintained by the landowner for specified periods — ideally 25 years, the province said in its release.

Natural area stewardship plans are customized plans to sustain wildlife habitats on private property.

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