Government of Canada funding announcement to protect and enhance three critical natural spaces in Ontario


Ecological corridors pilot project: Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System - $3,552,120

Located at the far western edge of Lake Ontario, the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System stretches to the Niagara Escarpment. The escarpment connects with the Bruce Trail, and north to Tobermory and Bruce Peninsula National Park. It is a critical ribbon of green natural spaces, and presents a key ecological corridor, connecting wildlife and people across the landscape of southwestern Ontario.    

The EcoPark System is a voluntary alliance of diverse agencies and landowners who collaborate to preserve and enhance biodiversity, advance stewardship, and protect ecosystem services while allowing people to connect with nature. The region is complex, with rich biodiversity in a highly fragmented landscape of human development. The EcoPark System is home to the only remaining undeveloped terrestrial ecological corridor between the Niagara Escarpment and Lake Ontario coastal wetlands. It is surrounded by 700,000 residents and is within two hours of 8 million other residents of the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

The Royal Botanical Gardens plays a vital role in the EcoPark alliance and the region by protecting and preserving nearly 2,200 hectares of environmentally sensitive lands adjacent to Lake Ontario and beyond to the Niagara Escarpment. Other key collaborators on this project include the City of Burlington, the City of Hamilton, the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club, Halton Region, McMaster University, the Bruce Trail Conservancy, Conservation Halton and the Hamilton Conservation Authority.

The Royal Botanical Gardens is the largest botanical garden in Canada, a National Historic Site, and part of the Niagara Escarpment UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

Parks Canada is providing approximately $3.5M over two years to the Royal Botanical Gardens and its partners in the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System, as a pilot project under Parks Canada’s National Program for Ecological Corridors. This funding will support activities including land securement, habitat restoration, landowner engagement and participation, and engagement of Indigenous communities through direct participation and knowledge sharing. Through these activities, the project aims to maintain and enhance ecological connectivity in a highly populated and urbanized area.

Frontenac Arch Biosphere Protection - $3,500,000

Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) owns and protects land in the heart of the Frontenac Arch Natural Area. New hectares purchased would be left undeveloped for the benefit of nature and would add to NCC’s nature reserve in the Loughborough Wilderness Block. This project comes from NCC’s three-year funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund, including $3.5 million for projects in Ontario.

With over 72 per cent forest cover, the Frontenac Arch is a strip of rocky outcrops, wetlands and forest that connects the northern forests of Algonquin with the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. It forms an important habitat linkage between the hardwood and mixed forests of Ontario with the Appalachian Mountain chain of eastern North America. This serves as a vital corridor that allows wildlife to move over long distances, rather than being cut off in isolated pockets.

The wetlands in this area are listed as provincially significant. At-risk species on the property include the cerulean warbler (Endangered), a forest songbird with an estimated population of 1,000 in Canada and the grey ratsnake (Threatened), Ontario’s largest snake reaching up to 2 metres in length and is non-venomous. They are threatened due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Over 200 bird species have been documented in the Frontenac Arch Natural Area by researchers at the Queen’s University Biological Station.  

Algonquin to Adirondacks (A2A) road ecology study - $49,718

Parks Canada is providing approximately $50,000 under its National Program for Ecological Corridors for a road ecology study led by the Algonquin to Adirondacks (A2A) Collaborative. The A2A corridor is a significant ecological corridor for wildlife movement between two major protected areas: Algonquin Provincial Park in eastern Ontario and Adirondack Park in upstate New York. Both parks are linked via the Frontenac Arch to other smaller protected areas in eastern Ontario (for example, Charleston Lake and Frontenac Provincial Parks).

Linear barriers like Highways 401 and 2, the Thousand Island Parkway and major county roads pose a significant threat to the safe movement of animals, particularly reptiles and amphibians between these protected areas.

Home to a vast array of plants and animals, the corridor is one of the last large-scale, intact forest and wetland linkages left in eastern North America. It provides the best remaining potential for wildlife movement across the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence system.  

Between 2020 and 2022, the Algonquin to Adirondacks (A2A) Collaborative has worked together with partners at Queen’s University and others to investigate the impacts of wildlife/vehicle collisions in the A2A corridor. This road ecology work has relied solely on volunteer time but requires further research and reporting to finalize. In addition, discussions with United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, and other partners have stressed the need for a study of county roads to determine interactions with turtle habitat. These funds will support the development of a plan that specifies appropriate road mitigation measures with a focus on areas with the highest risk of turtle-vehicle collisions.

The Meadoway connection to Rouge National Urban Park - $1.05M is being provided to support the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA)

This investment will expand urban greenspace by supporting projects that improve connectivity to Rouge National Urban Park and across the Greater Toronto Area.

Stretching from the Don River Ravine in Toronto to Rouge National Urban Park, The Meadoway will become a vibrant expanse of urban greenspace and meadowlands as it develops over the next three years. It will connect 4 ravines, 15 parks, 34 neighbourhoods, over 500 acres and more than 1,000 diverse species of flora and fauna. The Meadoway will connect schools, businesses, hospitals, and underused parks and trails across Scarborough, for the benefit of locals and visitors.

Forming a key segment of Toronto’s cycling network, The Meadoway will provide an enhanced opportunity for access to alternative modes of transportation in a rapidly urbanizing setting, facilitating connectivity within and between communities, as well as to the local environment through the restoration of naturalized greenspace throughout the hydro corridor. As one of the largest linear habitat restoration projects in Ontario, The Meadoway will serve as a model for how to successfully revitalize and repurpose hydro corridors across the Greater Toronto Area and abroad.

This contribution is being provided to support the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) to better connect The Meadoway to Rouge National Urban Park. This investment will implement improvements to the east end of the existing Meadoway multi-use trail and build new connections, ensuring Canadians have access to greenspace where they live, work and play.

The Meadoway, led by TRCA, is transforming a hydro corridor in Scarborough into a vibrant 16-kilometre stretch of urban greenspace and meadow habitat that will allow Canadians to travel from the heart of downtown Toronto to Rouge National Urban Park, in nature, via a safe, accessible, and naturalized multi-use trail network.

It will also connect with Rouge National Urban Park’s Zoo Road Day-Use Area, which is the site of the future visitor, learning and community centre.

This funding builds on a previous contribution of $150,000 that was put towards the design of the project.  

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