Miller Creek Habitat Enhancement Project (2013)
The Niagara Restoration Council is happy to announce that funding has been approved for the new Miller Creek Habitat Enhancement Project. The project is possible with the support from the Ontario Government through the new Great Lakes Guardian Fund.
The Miller Creek Habitat Enhancement Project aims to restore wildlife habitat by creating corridors, enhancing core forest habitat, building vegetated buffers, and initiating garbage clean-up events along Miller Creek. This project builds on existing projects in the Fort Erie area in partnership with the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and the Town of Fort Erie. The Niagara Restoration Council (NRC) hopes to engage the community in a meaningful way. The NRC will achieve this through the planting of over 8,000 trees and shrubs, in addition to thousands of wildflowers along disturbed areas of Miller Creek.
While this creek is a natural system, which supports critical fish habitat and wildlife species, sections have been historically modified for draining surrounding lands for agriculture purposes. Restoring open areas along Miller Creek using a variety of native trees, shrubs and wildflowers will provide excellent wildlife habitat while still allowing it to maintain its drainage function. As a result, this project will restore municipally and privately owned parcels of land along the creek, which will increase and create linkages to core wildlife habitat, reduce nutrients, provide shade which is critical for many fish species and create essential habitat for riparian species providing a positive environmental benefit to the Miller Creek Watershed and throughout Fort Erie.
Update: Protecting biodiversity for future generations
Courtesy Cathy McCabe
“It’s really hard to protect something if people don’t know what it is.”
The Niagara Restoration Council (NRC) has been working with Sandy Vant and Bruce White, of Fort Erie, for about two years to plant native trees and increase biodiversity on their land. Vant and White, who live near Miller Creek on a 33-acre property, invited volunteers from the NRC to plant 3,891 native trees, shrubs and wildflowers on their property last spring as part of the Miller Creek Habitat Enhancement Project. More than a dozen bluebird boxes were also installed there.
Vant said she and White enjoy working with the NRC. “All of the volunteers who came were nice. They showed up and worked their butts off.” White said their property includes about 25 acres of pine trees because the previous owners began a Christmas tree farm. “It’s all one species of tree out there, which isn’t natural.” White cut down about 150 trees to make room for the NRC to plant different species. The species included walnut trees, hickory, oak, dogwood and red maple. White said, because of what was planted, the acreage has become a more natural forest and it will become a habitat for different species.
Vant and White said the area has a great amount of diversity. They have seen muskrats, minks, weasels, raccoons, skunks, possums, snapping turtles, deer and coyotes on their land. Although some landowners complain about the coyote population, White said, “We’ve lived in complete peace with the coyotes. We’ve got chickens and ducks, but we haven’t had a single problem with the coyotes.”
White said he has seen about 70 different bird species on the property. They have seen songbirds, hawks, herons, Eastern Screech Owls, Great Horned Owls, Long-eared Owls and even Bald Eagles. White said, “The owls, I could talk forever about the owls.” He says when he and Vant first moved there, he set up an owl box; soon after a pair of Screech Owls moved in and had young. “I hooked up a video camera, infrared, and for two years, we’ve watched them on the television.”
Vant said they have lived on that property for about nine years and they have already noticed changes in number of wildlife. She said when they first moved there, seeing 40 or 50 turkeys a day was common, but lately “we don’t see even seven or eight turkeys at a time and not that often anymore.”
Vant said she and White were raised with having a sensitivity towards nature. She said, “The reason we moved here was so that we could just enjoy nature and try to enhance where we can and do what we can; do our part.” In the past, they invited a grade seven class to come learn about biodiversity and to plant trees. Vant said, “Because Bruce and I have always been growing up around nature, we take it for granted because we know it, but when we had these kids from the school, - Niagara Falls inner-city kids coming out here with their phones – they were just thrilled to see a bug.” Vant said education about the environment has to start young. “It’s really hard to protect something if people don’t know what it is. If they have never seen a turtle, then why would they want to save it?”
Completion of Project
The Niagara Restoration Council (NRC) has completed their Miller Creek Habitat Enhancement Project, as of December 2013. The project, which is part of the larger Naturalizing Fort Erie’s Creek Drains Project, received a $24,999 grant from the Ontario Government’s Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund. The NRC received $10,999 at the beginning of the project, $10,000 after the first progress report and $4,000 after the final report was submitted.
The NRC created a Work Project plan with 13 tasks that needed to be completed by specific dates. They included selecting a site, developing plans for planting, ordering plant material, recruiting volunteers, planting and monitoring the plants, having a community litter clean-up and holding a seminar to explain the significance of the project.
There were 135 people who volunteered over the course of the project and seven groups or organizations were involved. During the cleanup phase, over 350 pounds of garbage was collected over a 23,000 square meter area.
The NRC hosted a workshop for the community on November 3rd, at the Fort Erie Conservation Club, where people could learn how to make bird boxes. One hundred and seventy bird boxes were built and they were installed in the habitat.
From the beginning of the project to its completion, 8,065 seedling trees and shrubs, 361 potted stock trees and shrubs, 3,960 plugs of wildflowers and grasses, and 10kg of seeds were planted at the Miller Creek Habitat. In total, 14 square kilometres of land was restored.
The NRC wishes to thank all of the volunteers involved in the Miller Creek Habitat Enhancement Project for their hard work and dedication.