Despite COVID-19, limited funding and volunteers, the Manitoulin Phragmites Project is being considered a success for 2020.
Judith Jones, who has coordinated the project over last few years says they have made in roads on phragmites, an invasive species of long, fast-growing tough European marsh grass that chokes out natural species.
She says different local donors assisted the project because there was no government funding available, so clearing the grass from various parts of Manitoulin Island was carried out throughout the summer months.
She was pleased to find out that the Ontario Species at Risk Stewardship Program is providing three years of funding, which will allow them to clear areas along the south shore while also protecting turtle habitats and attracting volunteers to come out and actively remove the invader.
Phragmites has been spreading aggressively on shorelines and in wetlands in our area. It is a serious threat to property values, recreation, tourism, wildlife and fish habitat, and aesthetics,” explains Jones. “Southern Ontario has lost hectares of natural habitat to this highly invasive species. The Manitoulin Phragmites Project was started to make sure that does not happen on Manitoulin.
She says the overwhelming goal is to get Phragmites down to a low level that can be maintained by
ordinary people with a little bit of annual effort.
“We have just finished our fifth summer of work. We were so fortunate to have the work continue in 202o despite the virus. We began operating week by week from donations from our supporters: Manitoulin Transport, the Gosling Foundation, Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy, and the local community.”
Jones says some of the accomplishments this year was getting the growth under control in the Strawberry Channel area from White’s Point, the Sheguiandah FN pow wow grounds; the mouth of McLennan’s Creek on South Bay; the shoreline of Honora Bay from Freer Point to M’Chigeeng; and all of the Lake Huron shoreline — although Burnt Island Bay and Blue Jay Creek still need a little follow-up.
“We also began control at the Barrie Island causeway in Julia Bay and Rozel’s Bay with the help of some awesome volunteers. In partnership with Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory continuing to work west across the top of South Bay with the Truxor cutting program, and now about two-thirds of that shoreline is under control. And all of the rest of South Bay’s shoreline is under control.”
Jones says there will be plenty of work to keep volunteers and members of the team busy.
“At least 30 more sites need work. We have not yet started work on the North Channel. In partnership with the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy, we have applied for 2021 funding to pay for work there, so we are keeping our fingers crossed we’re successful,” concludes Jones.
PHRAG ONE: Manitoulin Phragmites Project team members Joel Trudeau and Nathan Madahbee handcutting Phragmites out of natural vegetation in the shoreline marsh at the head of South Bay.
PHRAG TWO: Brush-cutting Phragmites at the mouth of McLennan’s Creek (photo Nathan Madahbee)
PHRAG THREE: Dominion Bay, 2015, before control. Bright green in middle ground is Phragmites.
PHRAGE FOUR: Dominion Bay, 2020. No Phragmites