As per the County’s invitation to the public for input regarding the long term plan for the County I would like to add my comments for consideration.
I am a Board Member of the Thames Talbot Land Trust (www.ttlt.ca). As such, I was part of team which created the Conservation Blueprint for the Greater Skunk’s Misery Forest complex. This is a joint venture with the Nature Conservancy Canada or the NCC (www.natureconservancy.ca) and being partially funded by the Ivey Foundation and The Federal Government of Canada (through the NCC). The Blueprint has been in development for over a year now and a formal announcement is due shortly. This plan has identified Skunk’s Misery and the surrounding land as ecologically significant land that needs to be protected in perpetuity. The Land trust will be working to purchase and secure land for this purpose.
This national recognition should be leveraged by the County. The County should consider improving its Tree Cutting by-law to restrict harvesting in sensitive areas, create a Heritage Tree designation to protect mature “seed” trees which will continue to propagate its genetic strengths if protected, and consider restricting access to the County Woodlots by ATVs and “4 wheelers” who trespass on the County forests and damage sensitive soils and disturb rare nesting birds and mammals as well as deposit invasive species seeds from other areas the vehicles have been prior to entering our County Forests. The Land Trust is stopping this trespassing on its other protected lands by hiring the Upper Thames Valley Conservation Authority to implement sporadic day-long “blitzes” with their ATVs and policing the area and by organizing local organizations to police the area as well and call in the OPP when needed.
As urban pressures develop more farmland, the Thames Talbot Land Trust is one of very few land trusts in Ontario which protects farmland from development.
By embracing the ecological value of the County, we can leverage our ecological wealth by encouraging more day trippers to the area for bird watching and hiking. The trails in the County forests (80% of which are in SWM) have been GPSed by The County of Middlesex and now only require detailed trail maps and maybe a visitors centre on one of the County’s forest edges entering off Concession Drive, west of Newbury. Once the trails have trail guides and markers, the area could be advertised in nature related magazines. Tourism dollars are a integral part of the prosperity of many destinations in Ontario, and with the support of organizations such as the NCC and Ontario Nature, this area could be recognized as one of the key natural areas in SW Ontario to visit. In time businesses to support the tourism industry here in SWM such as bed and breakfasts, motels, restaurants, equipment sales& rentals and others will be a natural progression to the increased traffic into the area generated by the forests.
It is time that the County forests be seen as more valuable standing than as timber. But it will take time and investment to move from the volatile resource based farming community to an integrated farming and ecological haven. This will require vision on behalf of the County of Middlesex and the County of SW Middlesex. This kind of vision spawned “My Wardsville” by several local residents of Wardsville who have started a grassroots network as they seek to guide the town back to a path of pride and prosperity.
I would be happy to discuss this with any Counselors or members of the public should they wish to do so.
1514 Longwoods Road