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Who will stand up for wetlands?

Credit: Rusty Clark

Pickerel weed in wetland, credit: Rusty Clark CC BY 2.0

Since I began volunteering for Ontario Nature last year, I have learned a lot about Ontario’s species at risk. Recently, I discovered that more than 20 percent rely on wetlands for survival.

Habitat loss is the key driver of species decline, and wetlands have been hammered by development over the last century. In fact, southern Ontario has lost more than 70 percent of its wetlands – with losses increasing to 85 percent in southwestern Ontario, Niagara, Toronto and parts of eastern Ontario.

Fortunately, the Government of Ontario is developing a Strategic Plan for Ontario’s Wetlands and is seeking public input on its related discussion paper. This feedback, which must be submitted by October 30th, will inform development of the plan that will guide government action over the next decade. This is an excellent opportunity to help protect wetlands and the species that call them home.

Wondering which at-risk species depend on wetlands? Here is a sampling:

Prothonotary warbler 

This brilliant yellow-orange bird inhabits mature deciduous swamp forests in southwestern Ontario. Classified as endangered, it is threatened primarily by habitat loss.

Credit: Laura Gooch

Prothonotary warbler, credit: Laura Gooch CC BY NC SA 2.0

Eastern ribbonsnake

This brightly striped snake is found in marshes with forested shorelines. It is listed as a species of special concern and is very susceptible to habitat loss.

Credit: Joe Crowley

Eastern ribbonsnake, credit: Joe Crowley

Hine’s emerald

This green-eyed dragonfly lives in groundwater-fed wetlands. Classified as endangered, it has been reported in Ontario only in and around the Minesing wetland, near Barrie.

Hine's_emerald_dragonfly_409px-Somatochlora_hineana_2010-1 sm

Hine’s emerald dragonfly

Eastern prairie fringed-orchid

This rare and endangered orchid inhabits fens and swamps in southern Ontario. It is threatened by habitat loss and possibly by a decline in the number of insect pollinators.

Credit: Joshua Mayer

Eastern prairie fringed-orchid, credit: Joshua Mayer CC BY SA 2.0

Olive-sided flycatcher

This boreal forest inhabitant, which frequents wetlands, can be recognized by its distinct three-note call “quick-three-beers!” It is classified as a species of special concern. Threats are uncertain, though possibly include habitat loss and degradation and declining insect prey.

Credit: Kaaren Perry

Olive-sided flycatcher, credit: Kaaren Perry CC BY 2.0

American eel

Wetlands provide important overwintering habitat for this highly endangered fish, once extremely abundant in the tributaries of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Habitat fragmentation and degradation are a key threat. Learn more about the American eel in “A perilous journey(ON Nature summer 2013).

Credit: Mike Laptew

American eel, credit: Mike Laptew and Laptew Productions

Spotted turtle

This small endangered turtle lives in ponds, marshes and bogs in southern Ontario. The most serious threats to this species are habitat loss and poaching for the pet trade. (Spotted turtles are too cute for their own good!)

Credit: Joe Crowley

Spotted turtle, credit: Joe Crowley

If we continue to destroy and degrade wetlands, the list of species at risk will lengthen. With more than 200 already on the list, this is an unacceptable outcome. To ensure that the Government of Ontario’s strategic plan results in strong protection for and restoration of wetlands, get involved!

Who will stand up for wetlands? I will – and I hope you will join me.

Visit Ontario Nature’s wetlands campaign page to learn more and get involved.

[emailpetition id=”4″]

Ron Corkum full sizeRon Corkum is a dedicated Ontario Nature volunteer with a keen interest in conservation issues.


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  1. Greg Nemeth

    I have been trying for years to save a wetland. This wetland is the Big Creek wetland. This particular part of the Big Creek is the upper Big Creek. North of county road 16, east of Thomas road, south of Texas road and west of Fox road. It has been an ecosystem gold mine but because of abuse in many ways and not a bit of upkeep it is dying. Really, really sad to watch. The MNRF honestly just moves to slow. It has did a 2009 Big Creek study apparently and has made many recommendations and not one applied. Believe me I have 28 specie at risk in this block. The All Terrain Vehicles are destroying the terrain and the noise must be devastating and this is only a part of the problem. HELP PLEASE. In the last five years the phragmites has become very obvious and steps should be taken. Steps that could potentially harm flora and fauna but now there is no choice. Decisions need to be made quickly please or another five years this section of Big Creek could be only a memory. Is that what the MNRF would like ? Would the Ministry like to know the species at risk recorded ? I very seldom ever receive a return email from the OMNRF. Is the OMNRF actually serious about saving wetlands? Honestly I don’t know.

    • Ontario Nature

      Hi Greg,

      Thank you for expressing your concern about the Big Creek wetland. It is through actions of concerned citizens like yourself that we can hope to make inroads on the goal of preserving our valuable wetlands in Ontario. As you may be aware, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) has invited public input on a new Strategic Plan for Ontario wetlands. For further information please see our webpage ontarionature.org/protect/campaigns/wetlands.php Ontario Nature shares your concern for wetlands and will be making a submission to the MNRF regarding wetland preservation. We encourage you to engage in this process by also making a submission expressing your particular concerns. Other avenues could be contacting your local MPP and town councillor. Perhaps you would be interested in attending a meeting of our affiliate, the Essex County Field Naturalists’ Club essexcountynature.com.


      Ron Corkum

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