Manitoulin Phragmites Project receives financial support for Island project

ONTARIO—The province of Ontario is investing approximately $4.5 million to the 2017-2018 Species at Risk Stewardship Program to support 53 new stewardship projects and 15 new research projects, including the Manitoulin Phragmites Project.

“Our government understands how important it is to conserve and restore our natural ecosystems and biodiversity,” said Kathryn McGarry, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. “We do this by supporting communities and organizations who are championing these important causes across the province. I am always struck by the dedication of Ontarians who take part in actively helping to protect and recover species at  risk.”

Now in its eleventh year, the Species at Risk Stewardship Program helps find solutions to problems such as reversing the decline of pollinators in Ontario, preventing the spread of White Nose Syndrome among bat populations and determining what kind of artificial habitats can be installed to host barn swallows, 105 projects are receiving support this year. The provincial funding support includes funding for the Manitoulin Phragmites Project led by Winter Spider Eco-Consulting.

The Recorder was unable to contact Judith Jones of Winter Spider Eco-Consulting prior to this week’s press deadline. However, as published in the January 11, 2017 edition of the Manitoulin Expositor, it was reported The Manitoulin Phragmites Project has been hard at work preparing for its new fight against the invasive reed that has emerged on Manitoulin’s roadways, wetlands and shorelines. The group has applied for funding to continue its work cutting back and controlling phragmites and is planning an island-wide Phragmites week for July.

“We have applied for funding from both provincial and federal funding pots and good matching funding will be provided from local communities such as the municipalities, local volunteers, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Friends of Misery Bay and Manitoulin Streams,” said Judith Jones, project coordinator with the Manitoulin Phragmites Project. “The funding will be used to hire three people to work on the problem and hire contractors to do some of the major work.”

She also said the funding would allow the group to use the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservations “floating cutting device” which can handle deep water and large areas of phragmites.

Ms. Jones said this  is an Island-wide project, from Wikwemikong to Cockburn Island.

Ms. Jones said she began to notice phragmites becoming a problem in 2000 while monitoring Pitcher’s Thistle on Manitoulin’s beaches.

“I started tracking it (phragmites) with GPS logs in 2011 and that’s when I started getting alarmed with its growth,” said Ms. Jones.

Last year the Manitoulin Phragmites Project was able to hire three employees thanks to funding from Habitat Stewardship Fund through the Ministry of Environment and Climate Control.

“We set out to work on three sites and ended up working on over 30,” Ms. Jones said. She explained, “we followed best management practices and used manual labour to remove the phragmites and techniques such as cutting and drowning it, digging it up with a shovel, cutting off the seed heads and runners and disposing of it in such a way to prevent growth. We also used herbicide in a few selected cases with Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry approval, but it is not appropriate to

use everywhere.”

Ms. Jones said the goal of the group is to control the spread and growth of phragmites on Manitoulin and to get it back to a low level.

“Regardless of funding, we are planning

a Manitoulin-wide phragmites week the last week of July,” said Ms. Jones. “It will include events, demonstrations and we will offer help to people trying to remove phragmites from their property. Manitoulin is a unique place where we can work together on a problem like this. I don’t think we will ever be able to totally eradicate it, but together we can cut it back and hopefully

control it.”