Land trust’s Discovery Days help people connect with nature
By Nate Smelle
Published Jan. 18, 2018
Since 2005, the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust has been working diligently to protect the ecological integrity and natural landscape of Haliburton County. To accomplish their main goal of environmental protection, the land trust practices and promotes three objectives: conservation, education and research.
Thanks to a grant from TD Friends of the Environment, they are able to run the series Discovery Days. Discovery Days is only a small part of the land trust’s mandate, which is fulfilled through their acquisition and stewardship of land, board member and chair of the Discovery Days committee Joan Duhaime said.
“We need to take seriously the threats to biodiversity, and to the land on which plants and animals live. We know that more and more people are coming to appreciate this landscape – the historic farms and fields, the shorelines, and the uniqueness of the transitional Land Between geography. Many people also understand the importance of protecting and connecting areas to afford corridors for wildlife and its contribution to biodiversity and species habitats,” she said.
Hoping to build on this existing understanding, Duhaime is thrilled that the land trust will be hosting the environmental education series again this year. She said the workshops they offer are an excellent way for people to connect with their non-human neighbours and the land they share. It is important to connect with nature, explained Duhaime, because these types of connections help people establish an understanding of how crucial it is to preserve habitat for all species that “thrive and survive” throughout the county. She said the workshops also allow people to see the “bigger picture,” when it comes to the human species’ place within the interconnectedness of nature. With population growth and land development sprawling from the cities, quickly chewing up land in Haliburton County, the significance of this awareness grows as time goes on.
“We are used to having all this land here, but it’s disappearing fast,” she said.
“We need to realize that we just cannot continue building on all the land in the world, and expect the human species to survive. At some point, we need to stop developing land. It creeps up on you unexpectedly and then one day you’re like, hey that used to be a field or that use to be a forest and now it’s houses.”
As of Jan. 1, 2018, Duhaime said the land trust now has four properties under its protection. She said each of the properties – comprising a total of 800 acres of ecologically important and diverse types of land – were donated to the land trust with the intention of keeping them protected in perpetuity.
“Land in the Haliburton Highlands is and will continue to be under threat in the coming years,” Duhaime said.
“Local and regional growth projections such as those in the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe demonstrate that the development demand for land in the Highlands region will continue to increase.”
Discovery Days will officially get underway on Saturday, Feb. 3 at Abbey Gardens, with the family-friendly workshop Paws, Poop and Other Animal Signs.
This family-oriented session will engage participants with interactive ways of learning about animal signs. A few of the other workshops in the series include Dragonflies, Discover the Dahl (Forest), Bat Box Building, Harvesting Leeks Sustainably and the ever-popular Reptiles Road Show.
Duhaime said each of the Discovery Days workshops are designed to be as hands-on as possible. When people have the opportunity to get up close and personal with species they may have previously been afraid of – such as snakes or turtles – or if they can see a dragonfly up close as they never have before, she said they often take away a greater appreciation of how and why to care for that species.
“We try to connect with people of all ages,” said Duhaime.
“It is so important that our future generations learn, from an early age, what they can do to care for our land and species. I love the wonder when someone discovers a new connection with nature or experiences something unique and exciting. We get wonderful feedback from participants which encourages us to keep working towards providing these opportunities.”
Admission for the Discovery Days workshops is by donation, and those wishing to participate are encouraged to register by calling 705-457-3700; or by visiting the land trust’s website at www.haliburtonlandtrust.ca. A complete list of events can also be found online.