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Ontario Trillium Foundation Great Grant Award

Ontario Trillium Foundation’s 2007 Great Grant Award Winner – Environment Sector

Hamilton-Halton Watershed Stewardship Program

This two-time OTF grantee has made great strides in protecting and restoring watersheds. With the help of a four year $140,000 grant in 2004, the program continues to reach some 4,000 landowners, educating and encouraging them to make environmentally wise choices for their land.

When pollutants enter our soils and streams, they eventually end up in our drinking water and in the air we breathe. We can not afford to keep polluting our environment and expect to live free of sickness and disease.

The Ontario Trillium Foundation great grant for the environment is the Hamilton-Halton Watershed Stewardship Program. This program was created in May 1994 to protect, enhance and restore environmentally significant natural areas. Ontario Trillium Foundation has provided two instrumental grants to support the staff and this work.

The work under this particular grant was started in 1999, when the Hamilton Conservation Authority and Conservation Halton signed a memorandum of agreement to expand stewardship activities to watersheds outside the Hamilton Harbour Watershed.

Through developing an educated and empowered group of private landowners, over 4,000 landowners in Hamilton and Halton are aware of how to make wise choices about protecting and restoring the natural areas, creeks and streams they own.

As an example, landowners are taking steps to leave unmowed buffers along their creeks, thereby preventing fertilizers and pollutants from leaching into our streams. This program promotes land stewardship with a focus on watershed health and has received National awards for negotiating Stewardship Agreements with both public and private landowners.

The broader community has also been involved in protection watershed health through workshops and initiatives that support the enhancement and restoration of local land and water resources. The project focuses on natural areas and streams and the habitat associated with those natural features.

This program is an excellent fit with Healthy Ontarians – preserving our environment. It is also considered a provincial model for landowner and community participation in stewardship, and staff regularly share what they have learned with other interested organizations.

Private land stewardship is an essential component of any modern watershed management program, and the actions of individual property owners are generally key determinants of the health of creeks and streams. The program involves outreach and education being undertaken not only by project staff, but also by local landowners.

The level of interest and participation by local landowners is high. One landowner involved in the Program said that it “is a catalyst for bringing the community and private landowners together and involving them in something that can actually make a difference”.

Program staff and its advisory group are very knowledgeable about the issues of Watershed Stewardship and have been very effective at raising awareness of the linkages between the conditions in Hamilton Harbour and Lake Ontario and the activities of landowners miles upstream.

Hamilton Harbour and Lake Ontario is linked to the economic prosperity of the entire region. It supports major industries and links them with the Great Lakes and the oceans of the world. The watershed also provides recreation opportunities. The mix of industries, residences, parks and natural areas along it shores create a community identity. Cleaning up our watershed and the Lake and Harbour will draw tourists, naturalists, sailors and anglers, who will help to boost the area’s economy

This grant contributed to increased participation of public and private landowners and community volunteers by having a better informed public with a heightened awareness of the importance of environmental stewardship. By having staff directly visit landowners, there has been increased interest and participation in the Watershed Stewardship Program by over 1,500 local private and public landowners and an expansion of the Stewardship Program to the broader community and geographic area of western Lake Ontario, within Hamilton and Halton Conservation Authority watersheds.

To further encourage people to get involved and increase participation in community life, staff funded by Ontario Trillium Foundation have arranged ongoing recognition, education and encouragement to citizens for their participation in the protection, enhancement and restoration of natural areas by:

  • increasing number of group presentations and workshops, in addition to ongoing 1:1 work with local citizens
  • linking landowners and the community to sources of information and local initiatives related to watershed stewardship
  • linking landowners to sources of funding to assist with the cost of water quality and habitat restoration projects
  • two Stewardship Award Ceremonies held each year to award participation in the program by landowners
  • newsletters produced to encourage involved in best land management practices.
  • landowners have been provided with advice and guidance on the implementation of rehabilitation activities on their properties
  • landowners have made a stewardship agreements protecting natural areas, streams and streamside
  • new wildlife and streamside habitat created
  • new rural/urban neighbourhood and other community groups have become involved

The ongoing development and implementation of strategies like watershed studies, source protection planning and natural heritage strategies will continue to involve collaborations and partnerships with local organizations to involve landowners and the community in protection, rehabilitation and monitoring activities in watersheds of Hamilton and Halton Regions (i.e. western Lake Ontario)

The program involves strong, cross-sectoral partnerships including government, environmental groups, local businesses, local landowners (both individual residents and businesses) the Conservation Authorities in both Hamilton and Halton. Both Conservation Authorities provide direction, funding, and in kind supports.

The program was initiated by the Bay Area Restoration Council of Hamilton and Halton Region (BARC) in partnership with the Hamilton Conservation Authority and Conservation Halton and operates under the direction of an advisory committee comprised of the Hamilton Region Conservation Authority, Conservation Halton and BARC. The Hamilton Conservation Authority, Conservation Halton and BARC have worked together to raise funds to support the work and continue to accept any donations on behalf of the program.

The impact of the positive behaviour of landowners will impact generations to come with restored environment and a clean watershed.