Category Archives: Focus on Conservation

The Return of Wildlife: Wetland Restoration at Conservation Halton

Written by: Karlee May, Digital Media Coordinator, with contributions from Chelsea McIsaac, Watershed Restoration Technician

Wildlife is coming back. Volunteers and staff of Conservation Halton were busy this past fall restoring protected wetlands. We need to protect our wetlands because healthy wetlands are resilient in the face of climate change and development. Staff at Conservation Halton  are dedicated to preserving and protecting our natural heritage through shoreline planting, wetland planting, and building fish habitat on our protected wetlands like Kelso Quarry Lake.

This past autumn the Watershed Restoration team and volunteers worked together on four separate occasions to restore wetlands in order to encourage biodiversity to thrive.

Their efforts are already paying off! An Eastern Newt, in eft stage, was recently spotted by staff on the shoreline of Kelso Quarry Lake. Newts aren’t necessarily an indicator species, but they are a healthy sign of high quality water. Newts breathe through their skin which means that newts will not thrive in a less-than-ideal wetland environment.

At Kelso Quarry Lake, Conservation Halton staff and volunteers have been busy building fish habitat structures. A natural lake, in this area, would have features such as fallen trees, stumps, branches, and leaves within the lake and on the shoreline. Since Kelso Quarry Lake isn’t a naturally formed lake, we have to introduce those missing features, in the form of habitats, into the lake. The habitat structures, built by volunteers and staff, will provide places where spawning fish can lay their eggs, and juvenile fish can hatch. Thirty volunteers came out to create the structures by building log cribs out of cedar logs, brush, and Christmas trees. Instead of letting  Christmas trees go to waste, we put them back into use in nature. The log cribs are stood up vertically. This placement is necessary to provide different heights for different fish uses. We will install the structures at a later date near areas where fish spawn.

Did you know a ‘shoal’ is a collection of rocks and sand where fish lay their eggs?

Volunteers also planted 1300 trees and shrubs on the Kelso Quarry Lake shoreline. Trees provide cover and also keep the temperature of the water cool. The trees help more wildlife than just the fish taking cover in the water. Other wildlife will hide from predators under the tree branches, and drink from the water. The trees also naturally support the food chain. Invertebrates eat on the fallen leaves and twigs and then the fish feast on the invertebrates. Shoreline vegetation is so important and supports the overall health of the ecosystem.

Shoreline planting, and fish habitats are not the only measures to restore the wetlands. The wetlands need aquatic plants to feed and shelter juvenile fish, and other critters like the Eastern Newt. Before the volunteers and staff planted the wetland with over 3000 aquatic plants, the wetland was dominated by an invasive and aggressive species: the Common Reed (also known as phragmities). It was a monoculture, and monocultures are bad news for biodiversity. Now the wetland has ten different native species. We used a special matting made of coconut fiber to hold the plants in place during the winter. Not only does the matting provide the plants with stability, the coconut fiber is biodegradable and will decompose over time. It was amongst these plantings that staff discovered the Eastern Newt mere months after the wetland was planted.

There are profound and real benefits to wetland restoration, especially in the face of climate change. By taking care of our wetlands, they will take care of us. Wetlands absorb the water from severe storms and are a major component of the groundwater system: the fresh water we drink and use every day.  Clean, high quality water affects Eastern Newts, and us.

Thank you to the wonderful volunteers and staff who work so hard to restore our wetlands.

Funding for this project has been provided by Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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Become a Citizen Scientist With Us


Written by: Karlee May, Digital Media Coordinator, with contributions from Cory Harris, Water Resources Engineer

Conduct a scientific study in your own backyard. By setting up a rain gauge on your property, you can measure the precipitation throughout the year. Gardeners will love being able to see how the rain affects their gardens; farmers will be able to better predict when rain falls on the crops, and landowners will develop a greater awareness of the environment they live in. If you set up a rain gauge, you can also participate in a large data collection, data that even we use here at Conservation Halton. The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) is a non-profit organization that collects and provides high quality weather and precipitation (rain, hail and snow) data through a network of volunteers. As a volunteer, you’re directly contributing to a public information resource for education, science, and policy. It’s participation through precipitation!

Local volunteers, like yourself, set up rain gauges, and the gauges are connected to the CoCoRahs network. Measurements are taken using these rain gauges and the precipitation information is entered into a large database of a network of rain gauges on the web. By setting up your own rain gauge, the data you collect will be made available online to all members of the public and is presented in a map or table format. You’ll immediately be able to see the measurements and trends online! Similarly, the data that others enter is also shared and made available to you. Eventually, the data collected through the network will likely be used in important studies related to climate change. It’s crowd-sourcing the collection of precipitation information for the benefit of all.

Conservation Halton supplements our rainfall data with the data collected from these rain gauges. The more rain gauges out there in the watershed, the more information we can use for our storm models. Engineers are better able to predict the impacts on the wetlands, creeks and flood prone areas within the watershed. The original rain gauge network we built was based on the assumption that the most severe storms we would be forecasting for would be hurricanes. Because of climate change, we’re now seeing a difference in the types of storms in the watershed. Storms previously dispersed across a broader area; but, now the data shows that storms have become more convective in nature. More storms of a convective nature mean that rainfall is more localized and intense, and harder to predict. Having a higher density of gauges in the area allows us to record more rainfall data to confirm and assess the spatial distribution, and also the severity of various storms.

Staff at Conservation Halton set up a rain gauge this past week. Families, Teachers: this is a great way to connect education and the environment! Students and children will learn every time it rains, and develop a greater awareness of the environment and weather patterns. They’re also truly contributing to a growing body of data with real-life implications.

Learn more about the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network at this link here:

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Halton Children’s Water Festival celebrates ten years of water education

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“The great aim of education is not knowledge but action,” Herbert Spencer (English philosopher).

Written by: Norm Miller, Communications Advisor

The Halton Children’s Water Festival (HCWF) was launched in 2006 with the intent to teach elementary school children about water, and also inspire them to be stewards of this most precious resource. The water festival does this by teaching children about water through activities which engage them in a fun and interactive way.

This past week (September 30 to October 2) the HCWF celebrated its tenth year with 2,700 students in grades 2 to 5 participating over three days at Kelso Conservation Area in Milton. (The festival is normally four days however organizers had to cancel a day due to weather). The HCWF has seen more than 34,500 elementary students attend since its launch.

The majority of the activities at the festival are led by high school students. This experience provides the high school students with a leadership opportunity, presentation experience, and teaches them about water at the same time. The HCWF features 60 activity centres which incorporate four main water-related themes:

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Water Conservation and Protection
  • Water Health and Safety
  • Water and Society

One of the neat aspects of running a festival for ten years is that you witness the beginning of the legacy. Students who attended as elementary students return a few years later as high school students to lead activities. The students who attended the first Water Festival in 2006 as grade 5 students are now in university and may even be studying something related to the environment. What will be seen is the positive impact created in our community by the HCWF by teaching these children about water and instilling in them the desire to take action to conserve and protect it.

About the Halton Children’s Water Festival

The HCWF was first held in 2006 and was launched with the assistance of a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The Festival is co-hosted by Conservation Halton and Halton Region in partnership with, the Halton District School Board, the Halton Catholic District School Board, the City of Burlington, the Town of Halton Hills, and the Town of Oakville. Conservation Halton Chairman John Vice and Regional Chair Gary Carr serve as the Festival’s honorary co-chairs.

The Festival is sustainable thanks to in-kind and monetary support from organizations in the Halton community. Thanks to the following community businesses for their support of the HCWF:

Thank you also to Aird & Berlis LLP, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, City of Burlington, Town of Halton Hills, Me to We, Nalco Canada, R & M Construction, R. V. Anderson Associated Limited, Terrapure, Thomson, Rogers.

For more information on Festival supporters visit the HCWF supporter page,

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Thank you to our Partners!

Written by Craig Machan, Area Manager for Mount Nemo, Rattlesnake Point, and Hilton Falls

Recently I was asked by the Ontario Access Coalition to write them a letter in support of the great work they have done with Conservation Halton.  After writing the letter, it got us thinking about all the great organizations and companies we work with, who love the outdoors and value the experiences we have in our great Parks.

Conservation Halton have worked with the OAC for over 10 years!  The OAC is a volunteer, not-for-profit group of great people who work with land managers, like Conservation Halton, to keep climbing areas open in an environmentally responsible manner.  Along with the Alpine Club of Canada, the OAC is instrumental in the installation of the bolting project at Rattlesnake Point.  They organize the annual Crag Stewardship Day each spring at Rattlesnake Point where volunteers from the climbing community come and help control invasive species and clean up the garbage left behind over the winter.  They are an expert group, and resource for our staff.

The Bruce Trail Association and the Halton Agreement Forest Trails Association are other groups of hardworking volunteers whom help us maintain Halton Parks, so that our parks are open and ready for the enjoyment of park users.  The Bruce Trail Association was instrumental in getting the trails open after the ice storm in 2013.  HAFTA is a great link for us with the mountain biking community.  They educate and inform mountain bikers about how to do it in a responsible manner.

Not only do we get to work with great volunteer groups but also corporate partners as well.  Whether it is the climbing schools like Zen Climb or One Axe Pursuits who teach and train people to become knowledgeable, responsible and safe climbers at Rattlesnake Point or Devinci who sponsors the weekly Mountain Bike Race Series at Kelso, we couldn’t succeed without their support.

We are lucky to work with our partners, and to have their support.  Everyone who visits a Halton Park benefits from their support.

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A look back at the August 4, 2014 Burlington flood

By Cory Harris and Norm Miller

The QEW and Walkers - August 4, 2014

One year ago, on a sunny, holiday Monday (for most of Southern Ontario), Burlington was hit by a storm which dropped large amounts of rain in a short period of time. This storm delivered up to 192 mm of rain in total according to one rain gauge on Palmer Avenue (near Walker’s Line), while just minutes away in the Tyandaga area (near Brant Street and Dundas Street), rain gauges recorded 48 to 54 mm of rain.

Affected Areas of Burlington from the August 4th, 2014 Flood

Affected Areas of Burlington from the August 4th, 2014 Flood

The August 4, 2014 storm rolled through in two waves, the first just before 2 p.m. with the rain lasting for only a few minutes, and the second saw rain fall in varying amounts between 3 and 7 p.m. The storm extended from roughly Mountsberg Road in the north to Lake Ontario in the south, Burloak Drive in the east, and Brant Street in the west. The elliptically shaped area had a length of approximately 25 km and a width of approximately 9 km, with the storm area being approximately 200 km². The watercourses most impacted were Tuck Creek, Shoreacres Creek, and Appleby Creek.

Due to the intensity, the storm generated significant runoff in a short period of time (flash flood) which flooded homes, businesses, parks, overtopped watercourse crossings, closed roads, and flooded motor vehicles.

Itabashi Bridge

                         Itabashi Bridge

The August 4, 2014 storm was a severe weather event and is typical of the storms we are beginning to see more of recently. These storms can pop up quickly and are shorter in duration and more intense in terms of rainfall. They can also be highly localized as evidenced by our rain gauge data.

North Service Road, QEW, August 4th, 2014, Burlington

North Service Road, QEW, August 4th, 2014, Burlington

As part of our flood forecasting and warning service, Conservation Halton issued flood warning messages, monitored weather and river conditions, and issued updates as necessary to the City of Burlington, emergency services and the media. These organizations then take the necessary action to protect the public, for example closing roads which are flooding or alerting people in their homes.

The following day (Tuesday, August 5), after the storm had ended, Conservation Halton staff began conducting field investigations in areas of the City of Burlington affected by riverine (creek-based) flooding to document damages and the extent of flooding. The investigation took staff the better part of a week as they examined debris patterns, high water marks and spoke to residents in areas near creeks and streams.

It is very important to understand how the watershed responds during a severe storm event in order to guide future development and improve flood plain management. Conservation Halton staff put together a detailed report, in consultation with Halton Region and the City of Burlington, which was presented to the Conservation Halton Board of Directors in April and released to the public on May 1st. The complete report can be found on the Conservation Halton website at

The most important finding, with further details available in the Flood Report, is that the areas in the City of Burlington where Provincial and Conservation Halton flood plain planning policies were applied during development, were the least affected during the August 4, 2014 Storm event. These areas (typically developed after the mid 1970’s) experienced the least amount of erosion and flood damage in comparison to areas of the City of Burlington that were developed before these policies were put into place. Proper planning, which involves not putting people and property in potential harm’s way, is Conservation Halton mandate, which we have been providing to the community for the past 40 years. Conservation Halton staff work hard to address natural hazards through the application of science-based regulation and planning policies.

Conservation Halton’s Burlington Flood Report also contains four recommendations based on the experience from the flood. These recommendations identify the need for better protection measures for Burlington from the effects of future storms, and also identify the need to improved monitoring and the sharing of information.

It is also important to draw a distinction between urban versus riverine flooding. Urban flooding can be defined as nuisance flooding of streets, underpasses, basements and other low-lying urban areas usually due to poor drainage or limited drainage capacity of urban systems (i.e. stormwater). Riverine (creek-based) flooding is flooding that occurs when surface runoff causes a river to swell causing the water to breach the river’s banks. The water then overflows into the river’s flood plain area(s).Conservation Halton is responsible for riverine flooding which is where our flood plain mapping and regulations come in to play. These maps help determine where development can occur and keep people out of harm’s way.

Conservation Halton and Natural Hazards

Natural events that can pose a threat to humans, their property, or the environment are given the term ‘natural hazards’. Natural hazards are often equated with extreme rainfall or snowmelt, fog events, snow/ice storms, forest fires, tornadoes, and earthquakes but the term can also include flooding and erosion associated with creek and river systems.

Conservation Halton has two primary roles when it comes to flooding. The first is flood protection through a water control and flood warning program. Water control is in the form of dams (Hilton Falls, Kelso, Mountsberg and Scotch Block) and flood control channels (Milton, Morrison-Wedgewood and Hager-Rambo) which effectively hold back and divert water from flood prone areas during storms. Flood duty staff monitor weather forecasts from Environment Canada, local weather conditions, and water levels. When flooding is possible or about to occur, Conservation Halton issues flood warning messages to municipal emergency management officials and the media. The municipal officials would then take action to warn local residents. Flood warning messages fall under three categories.

The second role Conservation Halton plays is natural hazard management as part of the land use planning process. This service supports development decisions which safeguard human life and property while protecting the natural features of our watershed. Conservation Halton’s Watershed Management Services Division review development proposals to determine how the proposed works may impact upon, and/or be impacted by, natural hazards. Conservation Halton has the regulatory responsibility to ensure that development is not permitted in areas of natural hazards in order to prevent the loss of life and property. Key in this is preventing home construction and other development projects within ravines, flood plains, shorelines, wetlands, etc.

Conservation Halton’s Regulations, which guide development in and around creeks and watercourses, are intended to keep people and property from natural hazards such as flooding and erosion, and protect against creek or riverine flooding. They are intended to safeguard against the effects of a Regional Storm, such as Hurricane Hazel, which struck Southern Ontario on October 15, 1954.A Regional Storm is the standard to which Conservation Halton regulates. Hurricane Hazel pounded the Toronto region with winds that reached 110 kilometres per hour (68 mph) and 285 millimetres (11.23 inches) of rain in 48 hours, killing 81 people in the process. The damage impacts of Hurricane Hazel cost taxpayers more than $1 Billion in today’s dollars. See for more information.

The work that Conservation Halton does keeps people and property safe from natural hazards such as flooding and erosion and also provides a significant benefit to taxpayers by preventing loss of life and damage to property. The Conservation Authority model is unique to the Province of Ontario and is one of the only natural hazards management models that emphasize prevention and sound planning as the key elements in encouraging development that is in synergy with the natural environment when it comes to natural hazards.

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The Games of Kanata

Piece by Rene Mishake, currently exhibited in the Deer Clan Longhouse, Crawford Lake

by artist Rene Meshake, from the Running with the Deer exhibit

In 1907, Tom Longboat (Cogwagee) ran uphill, in the snow, passing numerous competitors, and even a train to set a new record at the Boston Marathon.    Cogwagee, an Onondaga from Six Nations, began his running career as a child, playing with his siblings, and later running to escape a residential school.   Cogwagee won numerous races around the world and participated in the London Olympics.   He served in the Canadian military and competed as a professional runner. Cogwagee has been recognized as one of the top Canadian heroes of all time, and as a role model for aspiring Aboriginal athletes.

What does it mean to be an Aboriginal athlete in Canada?  Cogwagee encountered many obstacles throughout his racing career; obstacles, which unfortunately continue to greet many Aboriginal athletes today.    Numerous Aboriginal athletes have represented Canada at the Olympics and beyond, yet racism and lack of inclusion are among the barriers that Canadian Aboriginal athletes may face.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action detail several recommendations regarding sport, including:

We call upon the federal government to amend the Physical Activity and Sport Act to support reconciliation by ensuring that policies to promote physical activity as a fundamental element of health and well-being, reduce barriers to sports participation, increase the pursuit of excellence in sport, and build capacity in the Canadian sport system, are inclusive of Aboriginal peoples” (89) 


We call upon all levels of government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, sports halls of fame, and other relevant organizations, to provide public education that tells the national story of Aboriginal athletes in history.” (87) 

It is our hope at Crawford Lake, that through our new Games of Kanata exhibit we can support the reconciliation process.  This exhibit recognizes and celebrates the immeasurable contribution of Canadian Aboriginal people to sport in our nation.   Rene Meshake’s “Running with the Deer”, poetry and images will inform and inspire you, as will the stories of our 3 amazing athletes.


The Games of Kanata exhibit also includes archery, lacrosse presentations and special guest lectures.  Please visit the Conservation Halton events calendar for more information.

With great thanks to:  Rene Meshake, Mary Spencer, Darren Zack, Richard Peter, Wheelchair Basketball Canada and the Government of Canada Community Celebration Fund. Crawford Lake gratefully acknowledges the Government of Canada and the Community Celebration Fund for their support of this project.

Canada EN-FR

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An Alternative Approach for Controlling Invasive Species: The Way to Goat

Photo by Tom Omorean

Photo by Tom Omorean

Written by: Kestrel Wraggett, Stewardship Technician, Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System

On June 23rd, 2015 the first Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System Watershed Stewardship Award was presented to Wayne Terryberry and Dr. Manon Tougas for stewardship efforts to control invasive species on their property using domestic goats.

Wayne and Manon were recognized for implementing this innovative approach to invasive species control in Dundas. When they discovered dense populations of Japanese Knotweed and European Buckthorn on their new property, they purchased four goats instead of spraying with herbicides. The grazing goats suppressed the populations of both species within a short period of time.

Goats are an effective solution because they defoliate the plants (eat the leaves and seeds), and then the seeds are destroyed in their digestive tracts. This allows their droppings to fertilize the ground as they graze, thus preventing the spread of unwanted seed. Wayne and Manon’s four goats soon turned into fifteen goats and are now valued members of their family.

An invasive species is a non-native species that grows and spreads quickly when introduced into a new environment due to a lack of predators and environmental constraints. Invasive species tend to displace native species resulting in negative impacts to the entire ecosystem. Tackling the ever-increasing amounts of invasive species is a concern throughout the entire Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System.

Both European Buckthorn and Japanese Knotweed were introduced to North America from Eurasia in the 1800s as ornamental plants. Once either of these species is established, they aggressively colonize an area and are difficult to control and eradicate.

The Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System is a partnership of ten local government and non-profit agencies to protect, connect and restore natural lands and open space between the Niagara Escarpment, Cootes Paradise and Hamilton Harbour at the western end of Lake Ontario. The Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System partners are excited to be recognizing the positive impacts that landowners and community members can have in this unique, biologically rich ecosystem.

For more details on this award or advice on how to manage invasive species on your property, please contact:

Kestrel Wraggett, Stewardship Technician, Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System

905-336-1158 ext. 2285

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