Turtle leads on-line tour of biosphere

Forest designationed as Ontario’s first Priority Place for conservation investment

Maya the turtle is giving tours around Long Point. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

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A turtle is giving tours around the Long Point biosphere.

You can join Maya the Blanding’s Turtle for a tour of her home in the southwestern area of Norfolk County that was chosen as a top priority for conservation investment by the federal government over the next three years.

Designated as the Long Point Walsingham Forest (LPWF) Priority Place, Maya’s home is one of 11 such Priority Places in Canada and the only Priority Place identified in Ontario to date.

The LPWF Priority Place includes the Long Point Biosphere’s core areas on Long Point and Backus Woods, its buffer zone that includes the Big Creek National Wildlife Area and Turkey Point marshes and its zone of cooperation in the southwestern portion of Norfolk County.

It was selected by Environment and Climate Change Canada because of its high biodiversity, large number of species at risk, the highly engaged local conservation community and the significant environmental threats. Since 2018 ECCC has been working with over 23 organizations to complete and implement a conservation action plan for the Priority Place.

Maya can explain why her home is such a special place and the three top threats it faces.

The top three threats are the invasive species phragmites, the loss of tallgrass prairie habitat, and road mortality.

But Maya also says there’s an opportunity to work with local farmers in supporting sustainable agriculture practices and reducing agricultural runoff. Much progress has already been made as farmers work with Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) program to sustain agriculture and natural spaces.

In addition to telling Maya’s story, the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve Foundation has collaborated with the Canadian Wildlife Service, Norfolk County, the local conservation community and universities to create and host a single “one stop” database for sharing research and conservation information about the Long Point Walsingham Forest area and all of Norfolk County.

“Sharing access to this information will help all participants to be more effective in tackling the threats this Priority Place and find better ways to preserve it for Maya, her friends and the rest of us,” said Rick Levick, president of the LPWBRF, in a press release.

The federal government has earmarked up to $15.6 million to be spent on species at risk conservation through the program.

Maya’s interactive video tour has been posted on Long Point World Biosphere Reserve Foundation’s website www.longpointbiosphere.com.

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