By MPP Toby Barrett
A case can be made for our area as the birthplace of Canadian conservation. When the Long Point Company purchased the point in 1866, Canada was not yet a country. There were no national parks, no hunting regulations.
After the formation of the Long Point Company, logging ended and hunting restrictions were introduced. These were likely the first hunting regulations in the country, designed to conserve waterfowl. There is little doubt the Long Point Company’s purchase of the point saved one of the most important environments in North America.
Fast forward a hundred-plus years to the 1970s. Ducks Unlimited Canada had been in existence since 1938, but mostly as a habitat and science organization working with American-raised dollars. Hazard Campbell, a Buffalo resident and hunter with the Turkey Point Company, convinced Canadian members and some friends to attend a Ducks Unlimited dinner in the States. They were so impressed they came home and held the first Canadian dinner at Tillsonburg in 1974. That chapter later moved to Port Rowan and was chartered as chapter #1. Since then, DU and other conservation organizations have used that model to raise millions of dollars for wildlife.
Our marshes, rivers and uplands remain hotbeds of conservation supported by a myriad of outdoors organizations.
There are now several DU chapters throughout the riding. Norfolk’s Delta Waterfowl Chapter is one of the top Canadian fundraisers for that organization while Long Point Waterfowl has made huge strides to become a top research organization.
The success of conservation groups isn’t limited to wetlands. The Big Creek National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) chapter has earned many awards for its work – Ontario’s turkey reintroduction program started north of Port Rowan in 1984. A new NWTF chapter hatched just this year in Hagersville. Also in forest habitat, our local Ruffed Grouse Society chapter has made its mark in the uplands.
Local fish and game clubs serve an important role in habitat restoration. These clubs include: Long Point Fish and Game, Long Point Bay Anglers, Simcoe Fish and Game and Delhi District Anglers, Dunnville Hunters and Anglers Conservation Club, Caledonia Hunters and Anglers.
Area visionaries played an integral role in the formation of the Norfolk Field Naturalists in 1962 – over 50 years of bird counts and education.
Long Point was named a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1986 with a hard-working committee. Bird Studies Canada, which started as the Long Point Bird Observatory in 1959, is headquartered in Port Rowan and has become a national authority on bird conservation issues.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada has recognized the uniqueness of Long Point country and purchased large acreages for conservation.
More recently, the Norfolk Federation of Agriculture and Norfolk Land Stewardship Council led the formation of ALUS in Ontario to financially assist farmers with converting secondary land to create cleaner air and water. This followed up on habitat work done by both Haldimand and Norfolk Land Stewardship Councils. The Norfolk and Haldimand Woodlot Owners are another growing force. And let’s not forget the decades of tree planting by Scouts and other volunteers.
Conservation has a strong tradition in the riding –one that will continue through our many great organizations, too numerous to mention all, that work together. If you have an interest – get involved!