Protecting natural environment a concern in Merrickville-Wolford

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A presentation made to the Merrickville-Wolford Environmental Advisory Committee has pushed them to look at their overall strategy for protecting the natural environment of the Municipality. At the meeting of July 27, Robbie Giles came to the Environmental Advisory Committee to express his concern about the spraying that occurred near his home in Merrickville Estates. He told the committee that he was afraid the pesticides would affect the rare Blanding Turtles that live in the area. He also believes that his dog got sick because of the chemicals.

Co-chair of the Environmental Advisory Committee, Anney de Gobeo, says that Robbie’s presentation came at an opportune time. The committee has been part of the Municipality’s strategic planning process and are looking at creating a comprehensive strategy for protecting the natural environment in Merrickville-Wolford. “We need to be proactive about this stuff,” she says.

Creating a plan, moving forward, is not an easy task, as there are many different environmental concerns that need addressing. Robbie Giles’ presentation highlighted the importance of identifying where endangered species live before spraying chemicals that may hurt them and their habitat. At the same time, the invasive species that the spraying was meant to kill (like poison parsnip) also need to be addressed. “We need to figure out how to deal with the invasive species, while taking into consideration the native ones,” says Environmental Advisory Committee co-chair Gary Brown.

The Committee is also looking at creating a tree-planting program to replace trees, like the Dutch Elm and the Emerald Ash, that have been killed by disease and pests. “Something like 60% of our forests are Ash, and they are dying,” Gary says.

The biggest hurdle for the Committee is a lack of resources. The committee is made up of volunteers and, while they are all very passionate about the cause, none of them are experts in how to deal with invasive species, protect native ones, and maintain habitats and natural environments. Their plan is to look at utilizing programs offered by organizations like the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority and the Ministry of Environment. They are also hoping to find expertise within the community that will guide them in the right direction. The goal is to develop some sub-committees that will focus specifically on areas like endangered species identification and tree repopulation.
Community engagement will be integral to this effort. While the Municipality can take care of municipally owned land, they do not have the ability to look after privately-owned properties. The Environmental Advisory Committee is planning on holding a tree awareness workshop in the Fall, which will focus on informing landowners about how to identify native species, and to encourage people to protect them.

“The natural beauty of our area is one of the most important things identified in our strategic plan,” Gary says. “The less we take care of our environment, the more issues we are going to have to deal with.”

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