Our ace in the hole: Skunk’s Misery

“Skunk’s Misery” consists of forest, grassland, wetland and watercourses.  It straddles three counties and links to the Thames River. The woodlands play a significant role in protecting the air, soil and water. Skunk’s Misery is one of the few places in Canada where you can find a mix of Carolinian trees, such as Chestnut, Sassafras, Tulip Tree and Flowering Dogwood, typical of more southern climates.  In the woodland and along the roadsides, is one of the country’s most diverse butterfly populations.   The site has Canada’s largest colony of endangered Acadian Flycatcher along with many other rare species such as Black Rat Snakes and Cerulean Warblers. [1]  The stories about Orville Shaw, the hermit of Skunk’s Misery, need to be written down.

Excerpt from Nov 28th Inventory

 


[1] News release from Middlesex County and Carolinian Canada, Re: Unveiling of Skunk’s Misery Plaque.  July 5, 2005.

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Wardsville Woods – SOLD!

It’s official, as of June 29th, the Thames Talbot Land Trust closed on the purchase of the parcel formerly known as Highland Hills Golf Course. It is now known as Wardsville Woods and the work to clean up and restore this beautiful 50 ace parcel is underway! A date is set for the light material/trash pickup. All volunteers welcome to help out and explore the natural abundance while we work towards a more pristine ecosystem. Meet on site at 10 AM, Sat. Nov 10th, 2012. 1km west of downtown Wardsville.

The Blain Farm Land Trust

Since its inception in 2000, the mandate of the Thames Talbot Land Trust has included the protection of both natural and agricultural features.

In March 2009, both aspects of the Trust’s mandate were advanced with the securement of the Blain Farm.  The farm, located in the Municipality of West Elgin just west of Wardsville, was purchased from Wilbert and Eleanor Blain, local residents who have farmed the land for over 70 years.

The 26 hectare property features 20 ha of productive cropland as well as 1.3 km of river frontage.  Between the cropland and the river are 6 ha of riverine forest and terraced floodplain.  The Blain Farm lies within the Skunks Misery Natural Area as designated by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.  It is located one kilometre south of Skunk’s Misery Forest, one of the region’s most important natural areas.

The riverine forest of the Blain Farm serves as a natural corridor connecting the Thames River to the core of the Skunk’s Misery forest complex.  The property features a variety of Carolinian species such as Hackberry, Sycamore, Bladdernut and Spicebush.  The site’s sandbars and other riverfront features are also likely breeding sites for rare turtle freshwater mussel species.

For the complete article and a fact sheet, go to the TTLT web-site.

Equestrian Friends of Southwest Middlesex

Join Facebook group for Equestrian Friends of Southwest Middlesex at

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=361059974137

The number of horse owners in Southwest Middlesex is growing, and that’s a good thing! The purpose of this group is to provide a virtual place where we can ask questions about our horses and the community we live in; buy, sell and trade tack and other services; organize community events and trail rides; coordinate shared transportation to horse shows and other equine events; and to share our love of horses and our community.

Shared by Vance Blackmore

Thames Talbot Land Trust will purchase, then protect lands in perpetuity

 

With Skunk’s Misery crossing the county lines of Middlesex, Elgin and Lambton counties, the Thames Talbot Land Trust  goal is to acquire new lands and protect them in perpetuity. Each new parcel is endowed with its own stewardship fund that is invested so that the annual income meets the ongoing expenses of property ownership.

Thames Talbot Land Trust has a $3.2-million grant in addition to a $500,000 donation from the estate of Beryl Ivey set aside for Skunk’s Misery. The Blain property which has been the first purchased by the TTLT in the Skunk’s Misery project, has a plan which includes the:

  • protection and restoration of old growth forest,
  • enhancing habitat for area-sensitive birds,
  • protection and restoration of tallgrass prarie and habitat for grassland species,
  • creating linkages to the Thames River and Newport Forest, maintaining and recovering viable populations for species at risk, improving water quality and habitat,
  • support and influence of local policies that support conservation,
  • promotion of compatible development and land uses,
  • enhancing community support and understanding of Skunk’s Misery,
  • promotion of community participation in conservation and
  • increasing information and monitoring of biodiversity values, natural processes and threats.

 

by Marie Williams-Gagnon.

Excerpt from Transcript & Free Press article, February 12, 2009

Thames Talbot Land Trust meets with local residents

by Marie Williams-Gagnon, Transcript and Free Press, Glencoe.  February 5, 2009

After an afternoon meeting in Bothwell, another 40 area residents gathered at the Newbury Legion on Thursday evening, February 5 to pose questions about the Thames Talbot Land Trust’s plans for Skunk’s Misery.

Stan Caveney, vice-president of the Thames Talbot Land Trust (TTLT), introduced various volunteer members in attendance including Don Craig and Terry Kepp.

Executive director Don Gordon, the only full-time employee of the TTLT, made a power-point presentation about the citizen-led conservation program in which they “mobilize private wealth for the public benefit.”

Gordon described thhe plans for Skunk’s Misery which is one of the largest and most significant forested blocks of Carolinian Forest remaining in southern Ontario. The large tract of deciduous forest and farmland situated along the Thames River has been identified as a Carolinian Canada site, Provincially Significant Wetland, an area of natural and scientific interest, an international important bird area and has been identified as a key biodiversity area within the Great Lakes.

The TTLT and Nature Conservance of Canada recently partnered to produce a strategic plan for the conservation of the area which is surrounded by the communities of Newbury, Wardsville and Bothwell.

Approximately 22 per cent of the forested lands in the natural area is owned either by the County of Middlesex or the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority with the remainder being privately owned.

Gordon outlined other areas already acquired and described methods of revitalizing trails, installing trail markers and protecting the vegetation.

With Skunk’s Misery crossing the county lines of Middlesex, Elgin and Lambton counties, Gordon described the goal to acquire new lands and protect them in perpetuity. Each new parcel is endowed with its own stewardship fund that is invested so that the annual income meets the ongoing expenses of property ownership.

Announcing that the Blain property has been the first purchased by the TTLT in the Skunk’s Misery project, Gordon described the plans for the next five years including the protection and restoration of old growth forest, enhancing habitat for area-sensitive birds, protection and restoration of tallgrass prarie and habitat for grassland species, creating linkages to the Thames River and Newport Fores, maintaining and recovering viable populations for species at risk, improving water quality and habitat, support and influence of local policies that support conservation, promotion of compatible development and land uses, enhancing community support and understanding of Skunk’s Misery, promotion of community participation in conservation and increasing information and monitoring of biodiversity values, natural processes and threats.

Hoping to secure 2,000 acres, Gordon explained that they have a $3.2-million grant in addition to a $500,000 donation from the estate of Beryl Ivey.

He described the methods of leasing retained farmlands at competitive rates while farmland taxes would continue to be paid to the municipalities. T“It’s a new economic opportunity. Ecotourism and agrotourism are growth industries,”Gordon said, adding that Point Pelee Park contributes approximately $10-million to the local economy. “Birding is one of the fastest growing pastimes in North America.”

Gordon noted that Skunk’s Misery is becoming widely recognized for its globally significant habitats in addition to being designated as an International Important Bird Area and the Great Lakes Conservation Blueprint Study by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Gordon responded to a question from Don Nisbet about stipulations from the Beryl Ivey endowment fund. He explained that this was additional funding from $1-million donated earlier for land securement projects.

He responded to other questions explaining that they have had no contact with the Trans Canada Trail at this point and that there may be a management plan outlined by property owners who sell their property.

Stressing that the Middlesex County forests will remain under county management, Gordon emphasizedhey would apply for conservation status on the remainder of the property.

“It’s that the LLTL will only have control of their own property, not being a government agency with control over neighbouring properties. “We have no authority to tell anyone what to do on their property.”

Hoping to limit the access of horses, ATVs and mountain bikes that can do a lot of damage, Gordon said that the plans don’t prohibit hunting unless the donor has made such a request. “If the ecological plan needs it, then OK.”

Defending the government spending on conservation, Gordon said that Ontario is actually lagging behind other areas that are making much larger grants.

 

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Off Road Biking in Skunks Misery

Fred Knight says….Frednuary 10, 2008 at 5:08 am Edit

I have found so much pleasure in Skunks Misery on all of my visits. The area is so peaceful and quiet and I love taking a nice relaxing ride through the area on my off road bike. I do not ride there because I want to destroy the area, I ride there because like your hobby of birdwatching, my hobby is off road riding. I would also gladly leave Skunks Misery to the bird watchers but as the local area has been closing all off road riding facilities in the area so that is one of the only areas left. How is that fair? Im not trying to destroy the area, I’m trying to appreciate it as much as you. My off road bike probably pollutes the air 5x less than the car you drove to get here. If you have any suggestions as to where to ride legally or other alternatives please suggest them but otherwise, get used to us riding in Skunks Misery because even if you do police it… you will not catch anyone with any skill on a bike.