Geneva Park hosted the Ontario Land Trust Alliance Gathering, an annual three day conference that brings together land trust members and others that are dedicated to protecting land. Each year, well over one hundred people attend. What an amazing feeling it is to be in a room with other people that are dedicated to a similar mission – to protect nature.
There were a number of workshops to attend at the conference that range from a discussion on invasive species to engaging youth in nature. Many of the workshops are led by other land trusts such as Bruce Trail Conservancy and Ontario Nature. Experts in their field and tax specialists also guide land trust members through changes to take advantage of. One of the aspects that I particularly enjoy at the Gathering is the opportunity to share information and learn lessons from each other so that we can all do better in our important work.
In Ontario there are over 40 land trusts that collectively protect and steward over 80,000 acres of land. Of the other land trusts, The Couchiching Conservancy is one of the largest and oldest, with the exception of the Bruce Trail Conservancy (turning 50 years old!). Many of the other land trusts either have no staff and are run by volunteers or have a very small number of staff. You can learn about other land trusts in Ontario on the OLTA website (olta.ca) and go to Member Map. The Couchiching Conservancy started from the same point, and 21 years later, we have four full-time and two-part time staff. And our biggest accomplishment to date? We now protect an area much larger than the entire City of Orillia.
According to the Ontario Biodiversity Strategy, there are 15 targets to work towards, one of which is to conserve more land. “By 2020, at least 17 percent of terrestrial and aquatic systems are conserved through well-connected networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.” You can read the all of the goals at the Ontario Biodiversity Council website.
The Couchiching Conservancy is also planning for the future. Our 2014 – 2019 Strategy Plan outlines a number of goals for the future, one of which is to protect an addition 2,500 acres by 2019. By partnering with other organizations, we are making a difference.
I’d just like to say a personal thank you to OLTA for their work and supporting land trusts – it’s so wonderful that so many people are taking action today to ensure that the beautiful natural spaces that make Ontario unique are protected for future generations to enjoy.
Written by Tanya Clark.