Chatham-Kent has many plant and animal species at risk and the number seems to be increasing, says the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority.
The authority is holding an event called Our Local Species at Risk on Saturday to raise public awareness in Chatham-Kent. The presentations, on what these species need to survive, why they’re important and how people can help, will start at 1 p.m. at the Barn Pavilion of the C.M. Wilson Conservation Area.
At-risk species are plants and animals that are very low in number and can be designated as threatened or endangered depending on their population numbers in certain areas.
The presentations will focus on reptiles and the habitat requirements they need to survive, said LTVCA community conservation educator Jerry DeZwart.
“That really affects a lot of other organisms as well that also do well in the habitats that these animals thrive in,” he said. “If we can protect certain types of habitat, that means if it’s good for one type of creature, it’s good for all sorts of other creatures.”
The focus is on reptiles because the subspecies is being threatened throughout the province. DeZwart said every turtle species in the province is designated as being at risk.
“Hopefully we can get these species back on track and get a healthier environment for everyone,” he said.
The presentations are geared toward landowners and naturalists, but everyone is welcome. The presentation also includes life-like models of the at-risk animals, a biologist showing what landowners can do to improve habitats in their yards and a question and answer session.
The LTVCA hopes more public awareness on these issues can lead to government funding for enhancing habitats.
This spring, the Ford government proposed major changes to the Endangered Species Act that would allow companies to pay a fee and bypass protections for endangered species, which critics called “pay to slay” legislation.
“If the government hears the people speaking out then changes can be made,” DeZwart said.
Rehabilitating habitats – such as turning unproductive farmland into wetlands – has benefits for people as well. DeZwart said wetlands are great for conserving wildlife, purifying water and reducing flood intensity. Native bees, which are three to four times more productive pollinators than honey bees, thrive when there’s more natural land and therefore can increase agricultural crop production, DeZwart added.
Habitat destruction caused by humans is putting “more and more species on the list,” DeZwart said. A United Nations report this spring identified more than one million species that are threatened with extinction in the next couple decades, a rate never seen before in human history. DeZwart said it’s tough for people to connect with these massive reports they see in the media.
“A more local impact will often open peoples’ eyes and give them a positive outlook, it’s not hopeless,” he said.