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South Nation Conservation to Deliver Grassland Stewardship to Support Declining Bird Population

South Nation Conservation (SNC) is delivering a new program on behalf of Grasslands Ontario, in partnership with ALUS Ontario East; an innovative community-developed and farmer-delivered program that produces, enhances, and maintains ecosystem services on agricultural lands operating within the Raisin Region and South Nation Conservation Authorities’ watersheds in Eastern Ontario.

The Grassland Stewardship Initiative is a habitat restoration program implemented by Grasslands Ontario, a division of Forests Ontario, aimed at supporting the conservation and recovery of Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark populations through the management and protection of high-quality grassland habitat.

Grasslands provide critical habitat for species at risk birds such as Upland Sandpipers, Short-Eared Owls, and Kingbirds. They also foster pollination, seed dispersal, and pest control.

“This initiative will rely on voluntary landowner participation and will promote greater public awareness about grasslands”, explained SNC’s Stewardship Lead, Michelle Cavanagh. “Funding is available to create, maintain and enhance grassland habitat through management practices and activities within suitable areas in Ontario,”

Applications are being accepted until January 19, 2022. Grasslands Ontario will provide between 35-100 percent of eligible project costs based on proximity to core breeding ranges for Bobolink and/or Eastern Meadowlark, recent sightings, and the ability to dedicate 4ha or more of land that is not owned by Provincial or Federal government agencies to grasslands and/or bird friendly hay cropping.

“It’s important to protect these unique ecosystems and the many benefits they provide,” said Cavanagh. “We are pleased to be offering this program with our partners and look forward to working with landowners to help with the recovery of grassland bird populations.”

Cavanagh reminds landowners that if they don’t meet program eligibility requirements, that funding is still available from ALUS Ontario East to help farmers with projects such as wetland restoration and enhancement, riparian buffers, shelterbelts, afforestation and native prairie grass restoration.

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