WEB ONLY: Taking stewardship seriously

They’re not exactly ‘tree-huggers’ per se, but members of Wellington County’s Stewardship Council obviously care about the landscape.

Marsha Paley and Mark Van Patter spoke to municipal council recently about the need for stewardship.

Van Patter said he and Paley were at council to tell them of the work of the local stewardship council and to garner support for that group. That is part of efforts to meet with local councils and organizations.

Van Patter is the founding chairman of the local stewardship council in Wellington.

He said Paley is a relatively new member, “but we’re thrill­ed to have her.” He said it has always been difficult to get members from the northern part of Wellington.

“There’s a tendency to get a bunch of people from Guelph, which is what we don’t want,” he said – explaining the intent is to have representation from across the county.

Van Patter said the “idea of stewardship to us is basically taking care of the land.”

It also means taking responsibility for actions today that influence future generations.

He noted the group is a volunteer organization.

Van Patter said it is affiliation with the Ministry of Nat­ural Resources, and the MNR provides a staff member and a small amount of seed money, $10,000 per year, to assist the council. From that,  council partners with different groups to do various stewardship projects.

“Part of what we do is trying to leverage time and funds from other sources.”

A lot of of the work educational. There are also all kinds of forest related projects.

Van Patter said there are 43 stewardship councils in the province.

“We’ve been at it now for almost 10 years. One of the things we’re trying to stress is that we take a reasonable ap­proach to stewardship; we’re not off on one side … perhaps being too idealistic … We try to be realistic.”

He said, “We live in a system where people exploit re­sources,” so the idea is to find wise resource management to work with people and hope to improve the landscape.

He said some of the things done through the council are workshops, tours, courses, and providing educational materials. The council also provides support to other groups, such as Wellington’s Green Legacy Pro­gram.

In terms of project values, Van Patter offered the following estimates.

– 2008, $1,158,800;

– 2007, $1,230,000;

– 2006, $1,100,000;

– 2005, $850,000;

– 2004, $745,000;

– 2003, $760,000; and

– 2002 -$685,000

The steward council averaged a value return of 11.2% over the past five years, based on a $90,000 annual MNR $10,000 seed money, plus staff and administration support.

Paley spoke of the projects  the council undertakes.

Before moving to the area, she had been a stewardship council member in Halton-Peel. She had heard a number of wonderful things about the Wellington group.

Paley cited Trees for Mapleton, which received fund­ing from the Trillium Foundation.

“It is a model that other are looking towards,” she said.

Other projects include:

– Green Legacy tree planting workshops;

– Support of the MTO living snow fence program; and

– participation in the Grand River Envirothon and the Youth Outdoors Day.

Work on maintaining forest health includes:

– farm woodlot tours;

– skidder bridge loan program;

– sustainable harvest training course;

– support to woodlot owners association;  and

– a forest pest workshop.

Other projects are:

– Osprey nesting platforms

– the Mapleton Gate Way project;

– aggregates forum;

– trails linkage workshops;

– pond workshop and video;

– University of Guelph endowment;

– stewardship forum;

– family and kid’s fishing days (Guelph & Belwood);

– stream recognition sign program;

– Marden and Bell’s Creek Rehabilitation (a portion of Bell’s Creek is located in Minto);

– Middle Maitland project; and

– an aquatic renewal stewardship training  program.

“The interesting part is we’re not here to ask you for money. We’re asking for your participation.

She said of the little money that the group gets, “We make it grow. We end up building that $10,000 into a $1-million worth of projects.”

She said if there is any project that can be done in Minto, “please let us know.”

Van Patter noted that in the recent county budget, Well­ing­ton County has included $25,000 for Wellington’s stewardship council to improve water quality.

Mayor David Anderson offered assurances that he would speak with his council to find a way to participate more and get more from the north.

“I think it is very important to support you and your group.”

Councillor Rick Hembly added, “Thank you for not asking for money