Restoring Niagara’s Short Hills Project (2010 to 2012)
While the Short Hills represent one of the largest areas of Carolinian forest in Niagara, much of it has been fragmented due to agriculture, resulting in low species diversity (flora and fauna) and reduced interior forest cover. This project aims to restore former agricultural fields with native tree, wildflower and grass species, which will significantly increase biodiversity, reduce ‘edge’ habitat, and prevent the establishment of exotic species into the fallow fields. The Restoring Niagara’s Short Hill’s Project has several objectives: restoring biodiversity, protection and conservation of ecological values, habitat protection, public education, community outreach and habitat clean-up.
Various types of restoration strategies will be used for this project. At least 50,000 native trees and shrubs will be planted during the project as well as several thousand wildflowers and grasses in order to restore approximately 25 hectares of land into forest, meadow, and prairie. As a result, a 60 hectare parcel of interior forest habitat will be created and preserved, which will be one of the largest in the area. For surrounding landowners, the project will promote different methods of long-term forest protection, such as conservation agreements, easements, and tax incentives such as the Managed Forest Tax Incentive Plan (MFTIP), and Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program.
Another component of this project will be to provide environmental education to students and the public, teaching them the importance of biodiversity. This will be done through several volunteer planting days, demonstration days, and information sessions. The students and other volunteers will be taught about forest ecology and how to properly plant trees, acorns, and wildflowers.
Several organizations will be involved with this project, with Ontario Parks, Friends of Short Hills Park, and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) being the main partners. These organizations are committed to the long term protection and preservation of the newly restored lands. Working with the NPCA, we have designed a project that will not replicate the issues and efforts of current restoration initiatives. The knowledge and experience gained through the NRC’s successful Wildlife Corridor Enhancement of the 15, 16, and 18 Mile Creek Watershed and the Thorold-Lake Gibson Naturalization projects, will also enhance our ability to effectively and efficiently complete this project. We believe that this project will protect and restore biodiversity in Niagara, make each organization stronger, improve our collective ability to interact with the public, and have a positive impact on environmental health and habitat in Niagara.