Manitoulin Phragmites Project deemed a success in 2020

Phragmites grows tall and thick enough to block out natural plants and animals from their natural environment. However, it can be defeated with a lot of hard work.

MANITOULIN – Despite concerns at the start, and with limited funding and volunteers anticipated, the project coordinator of the Manitoulin Phragmites Project said the 2020 project was definitely a success.

“We’ve done really well,” stated Judith Jones, last week. “Considering our concerns it was a good year.”

Ms. Jones explained, “this is the fifth year we’ve been working on this project. We had put out notice to our local contacts that we wanted to raise hopefully about $2,000 and we blew this figure out of the water.”

Ms. Jones said the project has made inroads on phragmites, an invasive species of long, fast-growing tough European marsh grass that chokes out natural species. She pointed out different local donors assisted the project as there was no government funding available.

“Our goal is to get phragmites across our landscape down to a low level that can be maintained by ordinary people with a little bit of annual effort,” she wrote in a report of the 2020 project. “The project started 2020 with a very uncertain outlook. We could not begin work until July 1 due to COVID-19 and had no confirmed government funding, so we began operating week by week from donations from our loyal supporters: Manitoulin Transport, the Gosling Foundation, Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy, and you, our local community. Thanks to you, we were able to work this summer.”

Ms. Jones outlined that among accomplishments for 2020 included, “under control are Strawberry Channel from White’s Point to Sheguiandah First Nation powwow grounds; the mouth of McLennan’s Creek on South Bay; the shoreline of Honora Bay from Freer Point to M’Chigeeng; and all of the Lake Huron shoreline, although Burnt Island Bay and Blue Jay Creek still need a little follow-up. We began control at the Barrie Island causeway in Julia Bay and Rozel’s Bay with the help of some awesome volunteers. In partnership with Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory (WUT) we continued working west across the top of South Bay with the Truxor cutting program, and now two-thirds of that shoreline is under control. All of the rest of South Bay’s shoreline is under control.”

“Phragmites is under control at 54 sites and totally eradicated at another 38,” reported Ms. Jones. “So far, 50 people are volunteering to keep watch on finished sites. If any phrag comes back, they know what to do and can get on it right away. This is very important so that five years of work are not wasted.”

Ms. Jones further explained, “in late August we found out we were granted three years of funding from the Ontario Species at Risk Stewardship program. This will allow us to follow up on the south shore, assist WUT to finish the top of South Bay, continue work in turtle habitats, and get more phrag watchers set up. At least 30 more sites need work. We have not yet started work on the North Channel, in partnership with the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy (EBC), we have applied for 2021 funding to pay for work there.”

“Our partners have helped so much,” continued Ms. Jones. “Manitoulin Streams helped us with fundraising and kept the project afloat. Streams staff spent a huge amount of time controlling phragmites both in the field and in the office. The Gosling Foundation offered us an additional $2,000 if we could match it, so we put it out to you (the community), and you gave us three times that amount! Manitoulin Transport and EBC provided much-needed cash which covered mileage and wages. Several municipalities assisted by having their public works crew pick up big piles of cut phragmites we left on shore. Ontario Parks has taken over maintaining control in the parks, and Nature Conservancy Canada is working on a landscape-wide management plan to help everyone strategize about phragmites together. Being able to work together is part of what makes this Island so special.”