Magnetawan First Nation’s Environmental Stewardship & Anishinabek Land Management Conference

On Wednesday February 18th the Magnetawan First Nation, located about an hour north of Parry Sound, was host to the Environmental Stewardship & Anishinabek Land Management Conference.

Adopt-A-Pond was honored to be invited to this event to learn more about wildlife protection initiatives the Magnetawan community is leading for the Species at Risk (SAR) living along a busy stretch of Hwy 69.

This conference brought together a number of supporters and partners to discuss ideas that can protect land and wildlife while balancing road development. Biologists, planners, local experts from many levels of government, NGO’s and other First Nation communities were all present for this informative day. Adopt-A-Pond was very proud to see its sister program, Turtle Island Conservation, doing what they do best by speaking about their excellent resources and environmental stewardship opportunities available to First Nation Communities across Ontario.

Road surveys along Hwy 69 in Magnetawan have been taking place for a little over half a decade. Biologist Ryan Morin, currently leading the wildlife surveys and data analysis, is hoping the information on how turtles and snakes are being affected on this stretch of road can be used to create safer, more wildlife friendly roads in the future. Sadly, his current findings show that an average of 20-30 SAR turtles and snakes are hit per kilometer on this 6 km stretch of highway, meaning up to 100-300 turtles and snakes are hit annually; a huge loss to populations already on a downhill slope.

SAR monitoring and movement tracking is very important in this area because there is a proposed four lane expansion of the existing highway. Without data about the number of animals crossing the road, mitigation techniques, such as installing eco-passages, might never have been considered.

In a local publication, the Anishinabek News, community member and biologist in training, Terry Jones says it perfectly the “highway is expanding and they are coming right through our reserve. We are going to use some of this information to help the turtles and help the snakes so they can (locate) where the highway should be and what kind of preparations should be there, like culverts.” You can read the full article Here

Highways can act as barriers to population movement, which results in fragmented habitat and population pockets. This is especially true for slow moving reptiles like turtles and snakes, and amphibians with small home ranges like salamanders and frogs. Wildlife being killed on the road not only reduces the number of animals in a population, but can also prevent genetic flow from one side of the road to the other. Genetic isolation can weaken a population by hindering its ability to adapt to or fight off pressures of a new threat such as the introduction of an invasive species, new disease or a new predator. There are also a number of less obvious effects on wildlife from roads including increased noise, light and chemical (eg. road salt) pollution, and providing easier access for more development, which ultimately leads to more roads.

You can help contribute to the science behind mitigating wildlife road mortalities by reporting sightings of turtles on the road to Adopt-A-Pond’s Ontario Turtle Tally. These sightings will aid biologists in locating road crossing “hotspots” and add weight to implementing eco-passages or other wildlife crossing structures when road improvements are made.

We would like to thank Environment Canada’s Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk for sponsoring Turtle Island at this event and Magnetawan First Nation for their warm welcome into their community.

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