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Restoring Wildlife Habitat
John Skakel is a local toymaker, historian and retired farmer, and has lived with his family in Chatham-Kent for as long as he can remember. Living on a farm has kept John in touch with nature. “We see things like deer and coyotes every now and then, as well as turtles,” John explains. But with the rapid and ongoing urbanization of the agricultural center, it is hard to keep up. “There used to be livestock [on the farm]… but we gradually got out of the livestock business. We had to become bigger and bigger, also with our crops. You have to become so big, but I wasn’t big enough – I only had 250 acres. I wasn’t making enough out of it so I decided to rent it out.” Unfortunately the demands of big corporations have proven themselves to be not only detrimental to John’s business, but the animals in the area as well. John and his family have seen the effects of urbanization on wildlife first hand. “Everyone complains about the crows in Chatham, everybody complains about the deer on the roads. But why are there crows in Chatham? Why are there deer on the road? Because they have no place to go,” says John. “They drive them out of the bush and then say we have to control them by shooting them. You have to look at the whole entity and what is going on. That is my concern.”
John plans to target this problem head on and is currently in the process of planning the restoration of some of his farmland into bush area to provide a better habitat for the animals that have been driven out by development. As great as it all sounds, restoration is a lot of work and according to John there is a long list of things to do. Originally the land was very wet, swamp-like almost. Some areas will be returned to that swamp-like state. Areas will naturally fill with water once drainage tiles are plugged. John also plans to plant grass, trees and meadow. “It’s not just a matter of letting it go back to bush. A lot of planning has to go into it done by people in the know,” John says. This transformation will not happen overnight. John estimates it will take one-hundred years before the area is as it was 200 years ago. “No one alive today is going to see all of the results of the work – even the very youngest of kids,” John predicts, “You can get some things in a couple years, maybe some frogs coming back and trees beginning to grow but to function as a living, working, breathing entity it takes some time.”
Despite the amount of time and work he needs to put in, John is motivated to complete his work, and asks that the community consider other areas for restoration as well.