Past and Potential for Ontario's Natural Heritage - Page 7Restoring the prairie landscape in southern Ontario - As it is one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America, the imperative to conserve and restore tallgrass communities is clear. While concerted efforts have been going on for some 60 years in the U.S., prairie restoration on a large scale is a relatively new activity in Ontario. However, there has been a recent upsurge in interest and activity, including the development of a region-wide recovery plan (Rodger 1998) and the organization of the Ontario Tallgrass Prairie and Savanna Association to help provide coordinated leadership to achieve the recovery plan goals. Projects range from reintroducing fire regimes on degraded remnants to "start from scratch" prairie plantings in school yards and parks, and on retired farmland and roadsides. While it's widely recognized that efforts to create a prairie will at best result in a very simplified ecosystem, this work is an important addition to efforts to conserve isolated remnants in an effort to re-build a functioning regional system of tallgrass habitat.
It is vital to save all remnants since so little native grassland remains. It is also important to restore, to the best of our ability, authentic tallgrass habitat in order to develop expanded wildlife preserves. Opportunities for creating such preserves exist in parks and on lands owned by conservation-minded organizations and individuals. However, we are faced with realities of a high population, much intensively used land, and private land ownership. It is impractical to think that southern Ontario can or will be converted to many extensive tracts of "untouchable" wilderness. Finding practical solutions to bringing back native grassland will involve incorporating it into our working landscape. Getting many involved will have the added benefit of reacquainting people with the native flora and hopefully increasing interest in the natural world.
Rural Lambton Stewardship Network
program staff working on a restoration project on Highway 401 near Ridgetown.
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