We have degraded, fragmented and paved over the majority of natural lands, and the RBG is nobly trying to preserve what they have managed to save. As we have noted before, conservation isn't enough, we need restoration. As population density increases, these natural lands will become further degraded. By focusing on limiting trails to save the remnant, we miss the opportunity to re-evaluate the larger context of roads, parking lots, and unsuitable development in natural areas.
RBG protects endangered speciesTrails reworked, protection areas created
Eric McGuinness, The Hamilton Spectator, March 11/10
The Royal Botanical Gardens wants to preserve the few remaining green spaces large enough to support endangered plants, amphibians and predator animals such as bald eagles and bobcats.
To do it, four special protection areas are being created in Cootes Paradise and Hendrie Valley, part of a natural lands stewardship program unveiled at an open house last night.
Tys Theysmeyer, head of conservation, says the need is urgent in an already heavily populated area expected to attract 500,000 new residents in the next 25 years.
"The pileated woodpecker generally needs a minimum of 200 hectares of older forest, which is hard to come up with around here. There are only three places left -- Borer's Creek Valley, the north shore of Cootes Paradise and Dundas Valley. It's the same with the bald eagle," he said, referring to a pair that appears to be nesting for a second year in Cootes.
To make the protection zones work, gardens staff are closing one trail near the eagles' nest and one in Hendrie Valley, while reopening three on the south shore of Cootes. They're also building boardwalks, lookouts and viewing platforms so visitors can watch eagles flying to and from their nest tree and gaze over the new Pasture Swamp special protection area in Hendrie Valley.
"It's boring to go somewhere that people have driven everything else out," he said. "It's better to stand on a platform and see a place that's full of stuff."
He hopes that giving names to former blank spots on the gardens' map will help educate people about the importance of sanctuaries to save endangered species.
People think of the Rock Garden and Arboretum, but Theysmeyer says they don't always realize the RBG owns 900 hectares of natural land in Hamilton and Burlington, areas that cost a lot to maintain with 27 kilometres of trails, seven boardwalks, 17 bridges and seven parking lots -- land that is home to more than 800 plant species and more than 250 bird species as well as fish, amphibians, reptiles and 37 mammal species.
"We need to remind people of the need to support the gardens financially through donations, bequests and especially memberships. We have to raise at least half of our meagre budget, and we have to fulfil our mission as a botanical garden as well as maintain the natural lands."
Theysmeyer said the gardens will spend $800,000 this year on species monitoring and infrastructure work in the natural areas, about as much as it costs to maintain one of the formal garden areas.