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We Need To Support Biodiversity

At Peter's Woods, near Centreton, a tree is allowed to grow, mature and die in a natural sequence of events to enhance biodiversity. Terry Sprague photo

The owner of the farm near Stirling has had several offers to harvest the trees on his property, but he has declined each time. He has no issues with tree harvesting, and knows that responsible logging contributes to sustainable forests. It’s just not for him. His property, some 64 acres, is a retreat and he treasures the natural processes of nature that take place daily on his property. He realizes the importance of having a few areas set aside where nature can carry on, uninterrupted by humans, where a tree can grow, mature, die, fall down and decay on the forest floor in a natural sequence of events. And we are just silent observers.

Natural areas encourage biodiversity – a coined word from the term biological diversity. Provincial parks and even conservation areas have failed somewhat in their ability to provide this, but it is through no fault of their own. Their areas are advertised as being open to the public, and with society today refusing to assume responsibility for much of anything, the safety of the public is paramount. So, trees that dare lean in the direction of walking trails must be removed, potential hazards need to be signed, and pathways must be kept in reasonably good shape for those who cannot lift their feet and who might stumble over obstructions. The public’s refusal to accept that trees and branches will sometimes fall in a forest has resulted in some “natural” areas that I have walked about as far removed from a truly natural area as one could possibly get. But, such is society today. 
We need more areas like the one a group of us walked last week at Stirling, where the last thing on everyone’s mind was who we could sue if a low hanging branch swatted us in the face, and the primary objective was basking in the parade of brilliant sumacs that cascaded down the drumlin, and the mysteries surrounding a large granite erratic and what its importance may have been to early natives, for surely there were some suspiciously shaped smaller stones around its base.  Managed woodlots are necessary, even crucial, as the need for forest products increases. We certainly cannot sit back and refuse to admit our own involvement in that need. But we need to balance it with areas that are set aside as examples of what raw nature is all about.
The Menzel Provincial Nature Reserve on Roblin Road, north of Deseronto, is one such area where Dieter Menzel thoughtfully made possible the purchase of this 2000-acre parcel in memory of his wife who always urged him to get out of the office and enjoy natural areas. A trail exists, even a boardwalk, that takes you over an alvar, through a flooded swamp, across a moraine, over a fen, through a deciduous woods, ending at a secluded lake. However, there it ends. Except for some interpretation material and a picnic table, little else exists, just mysteries beyond the trail, and that is the way Dieter wants it. “We help not only nature but ourselves – the health of these pristine ecosystems is a barometer of how well we look after the overall environment our children will have to live in,” is a frequently used quote from Dieter.
Peter’s Woods, north of Grafton,  is the gift of massive glaciers that, eons ago, scraped and jostled bedrock and soils into what is now the Oak Ridges Moraine. Peter’s Woods remains a virtually untouched maple-beech forest. Its large trees provide a glimpse of how our woodlands would have appeared at settlement. It was acquired almost 35 years ago through joint action by the Willow Beach Field naturalists Club and the Ministry of Natural Resources, and is named after the late A.B. “Peter” Schultz of Port Hope.  It is a remarkable area where I have gone several times to simply lose myself emotionally and spiritually among the towering giants that probably have great stories to tell of how they were missed by early logging efforts in the area. 
As our human population continues to burgeon to increasingly high levels, we need managed woodlots to sustain us, but sustainability is also about natural areas, as we cannot survive as a human species without the presence of biodiversity. Like it or not, humans are mammals and mammals are wildlife, and we need to be part of that interconnectivity. And we need to get past the xenophobia – on both sides.

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About the Author: Terry Sprague became interested in nature at an early age. "Growing up on the family farm at Big Island, 12 miles north of Picton, on the shore of the beautiful Bay of Quinte, I was always interested in the natural world around me. During my elementary school days at the small one-room school I attended on Big Island, I received considerable encouragement from the late Marie Foster, my teacher in Grades 6 through 8. Her home was a short distance from where I lived and through the years she was responsible for developing my interest in birds. The late Phil Dodds, a former editor with the Picton Gazette, also a great nature enthusiast, suggested I undertake a nature column - a column I have submitted weekly since 1965. The column has since expanded to the Napanee Beaver and the Tweed News. Life has been good, and through the years I have enjoyed working with such nature related agencies as Glenora Fisheries Research as a resource technician, Sandbanks Provincial Park as a park interpreter and Quinte Conservation as a naturalist and outdoor events coordinator. As a nature interpreter, currently working from my home office, I now create and lead numerous interpretive events in the area and offer indoor audio/visual presentations to interested groups. Could one who is interested in nature have enjoyed a more exhilarating period in the work force?" Terry's website is

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  1. Louisa says:

    We do have many natural ‘untouched’ areas set aside in conservation lands, but not many considering the amount of land that is ‘touched’. It’s so nice to hear of people setting their own home areas up naturally. Sometimes, it feels as if it will take many centuries more before the human race sees the part they play in the world and on earth; that we are part of it rather than separate from it, living on different planes. This would mean leaving it alone to do what it does best. In the meantime…

    We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. ~ Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

  2. Almost a carbon copy of our two acres. After we sold our farm in 1975, we retained two acres which was essentially where a field of oats and a field of hay met. Nary a bush or tree in sight. Today, after planting numerous native trees and shrubs and watching them multiply, there is wildlife everywhere and it is difficult to determine what has attracted who. It is very satisfying to sit back now and watch biodiversity at work, on its own and unassisted. Still, there are those who view wildlife as the enemy, and stark green manicured lawns, drenched in herbicides and fertilizers are a sign of merit. We need to have a better attitude about those things that share the world with us, and how we are all interconnected.

  3. Chris Keen says:

    We bought an 1860’s farmhouse on 1.25 acres in the mid- 1990s that had only grass and a couple of trees. A very barren spot. I found a fellow south-east of Ottawa who sold bare root tree and shrub stock for a few dollars per item. Over several years, we planted 50+ native trees and shrubs and then marveled at how the environment changed. Over time we were the happy stewards of a property now visited by dozens of species of birds, frogs squirrels and chipmunks. Biodiversity is critical to life in the County, and elsewhere, and each of us living in this most amazing environment needs to do our part.

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