Nestled deep in the heart of Southern Ontario, the St. Williams Conservation Reserve is 1085 hectares of reclaimed Carolinian forest. In the early 1900’s the settlers had cut down the original forest for timber and the light sandy soil had begun to erode without the tree roots and forest floor holding it in place. The area was quickly becoming a desert when pioneering conservationists began replanting trees to bring back the forest. That is the short story of how the St Williams Conservation Reserve came into existence.
In 2007 the St Williams Conservation Reserve was established under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves act to protect the extraordinary biodiversity and unique cultural and natural heritage of the site. A not-for-profit Community Council oversees the day to day management of the Reserve and works in partnership with the MNRF to protect and restore the lands contained in the Reserve.
The Reserve is home to many different types of birds, animals, reptiles, and insects, many of which are Species at Risk in Ontario. St Williams Conservation Reserve is also home to the globally rare oak savannah ecosystem. The restoration of the degraded oak savannah is a primary objective of the reserve. The Council works closely with MNRF staff to ensure that these species and habitats are protected.
The SWCR provides a refuge for species at risk and also provides a location perfect for researchers, scientists, citizen scientists, and the public who are interested in studying the flora and fauna that call this southernmost part of the Carolinian zone home.
This blog post is the first in a series which will educate the public about the purposes of the conservation reserve and the council, the natural history of the area, and also highlight the activities that go on in the CR during the year.