What a year, indeed. At this time last year, the Thousand Islands Watershed Land Trust launched an ambitious project, the Thousand Acre Challenge. The goal: to protect at least 1,000 more acres of wetlands and forests. The response was rewarding. You care. By early spring, we were able to purchase a keystone property near the top of the watershed of the Thousand Islands, on Leeders Creek at Mackintosh Mills. These 206 acres not only have a Provincially Significant Wetland through which Leeders Creek flows, but four more creeks both originate and flow through the property, into Leeders Creek. The forest is exceptional in its diversity. And, there are three small hayfields fronting on Marsh Road where we work with a farmer to manage and encourage conditions for endangered grasslands birds.
Why focus on Leeders Creek? Leeders Creek is key to the environmental health of this region, for several reasons. It is a giant sponge, bordered with rich forest habitats. As the climate continues to express change here with big rain events whether winter or summer, along with exceptional periods of droughts and heat, a sponge-effect is to hold back excesses of precipitation and release water stored, over time. Leeders Creek is the largest tributary into Charleston Lake. Its wetlands not only stabilize water flow, but filter those trillions of liters of water, keeping the lake safe. And, those wetlands host an astounding richness of wildlife, creatures and plants that are the vibrant life that brings our environment alive.
Much of the Leeders Creek Wetland complex is Crown Land – a provincial designation to keep lands and wetlands in the public domain, recognizing the contribution to environment. TIWLT has chosen to work on conservation initiatives with willing landowners that border on this wetland complex, to try to preserve undue intrusions on its environmental integrity. The purchase of the property this spring was a first step. TIWLT will complete conservation easements on another 185 acres of lands on properties along Leeders Creek, for some 385 acres conserved, in total this year, a first big step in the Thousand Acre Challenge. We will follow on in 2021 with further conservation work.