Since 1984

The Big Picture Network: Lambton County

The Lambton Picture

Natural Lambton County has 8 core natural areas connected by numerous waterways, woodlands and hedgerows, as you can see on the centrefold map.   The county is remarkable for its diverse landscapes. Extensive lakeshore dunes, wetlands and major river valleys offer internationally important bird and aquatic habitat.   Large woodlands provide a critical mix of upland and bottomland sloughs and swamps.   Often overlooked as ‘marginal', prairies, wet meadows and scrubland are natural ecosystems home to many rare wildlife and plant species.   Public parks and reserves have been created in most Lambton core areas, thanks to the concerted efforts of local communities and conservation partners. However, less than 1% is formally protected in Carolinian Canada. Hundreds of natural areas are stewarded by caring private landowners who are enhancing local landscapes.   Natural cover in the county is currently 13%, far below the 30% recommended by experts to maintain a healthy environment.   Planting habitat is a critical step towards restoring a natural “Big Picture” balance on the landscape. Thanks to many active and committed landowners and their conservation partners, Lambton County will be a healthy place to live for many generations to come.

Also available is the 'Caring for Nature in Lambton County' factsheet, part of a Carolinian Canada wide series. This factsheet is an excellent overview of Carolinian Canada habitat restoration and conservation work being done in Lambton. The Lambton factsheet is available for download here (PDF 2.1 MB).

Aamjiwnaang First Nations

Location: south of Sarnia near St. Clair River

Dates: 1850 - present

Partners: Aamjiwnaang First Nations

This 1,352 ha First Nations land on the St. Clair River retains 70% of its natural forest cover, and is therefore a significant natural core area in Lambton County. It has been designated as a Regional Life Science Area of Natural and Scientific Interest. Over 150 years of stewardship on the part of Aamjiwnaang First Nations has left this legacy for our generation.

American Chestnut Recovery

Partners: Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee, DeGroots, Burford Tree Nursery, Grand River Conservation Authority

The American Chestnut (Castanea Dentate) was once one of the most abundant tree species (25%) in the Carolinian Forest in Southwestern Ontario, as well as across the Eastern US. In 1904, the Chestnut Blight fungus was introduced into North America on nursery trees from Japan. By 1920, the Blight had reached southern Ontario, and by 1950 the American Chestnut population was essentially elimintated in forests in Eastern North America.

The Chestnut Blight leaves the tree roots intact, so that the trees survive by resprouting. As a result, if you walk through older growth forests in Southern Ontario, such as Backus Woods, you will see small American Chestnut trees growing. But only trees with built-in resistance to the Blight survive past 5 metres (16 feet) tall. A few of these still remain, and a small group of dedicated scientists and naturalists are working to bring back the American Chestnut by breeding trees with better resistance and researching ways to naturally reduce the strength of the Blight (excerpt take from "The Recovery of the American Chestnut", a Grand River Conservation Authority Publication by Bruce Graham).

Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee is helping with the effort to bring back the American Chestnut by planting hundreds of young trees every year in gardens and remnant wild spaces around Sarnia. SUWC buys bare root seedlings from Burford Tree Nursery outside of Brantford. They bring them to Sarnia and a grower at DeGroots pots them and keeps them for a year. SUWC then sells them to the public for $10.00 a tree.

What Can You Do?

You can help by contacting the Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee if you have a place in your backyard for an American Chestnut. They can grow to a height of about 100 feet, and the chestnuts are delicious. More information about these wonderful trees can be found here. E-mail if you are interested at

For more information on the American Chestnut and the recovery project, visit this link.

Annett Stream Rehabilitation

Location: Haggerty Creek along the Sydenham Corridor


Partners: Rob Annett, St. Clair Region Conservation Authority

Rob Annett has fenced the banks of Haggerty Creek where it runs through his property, and with help from the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority, has put in buffer vegetation along the strip. ‘I did it mainly for streambank stabilization’ says Rob, ‘but it has the additional benefit that it keeps the cattle from the creek and cuts down on pollution.’ Rob has also fenced his bush off from the cattle ‘for better woodlot management’.

Art Teasell Wildlife Refuge

Location: Sarnia, on Blackwell Road east of Murphy

Partners: Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee

Until recently, this was the site of a gravel pit, and then a construction landfill. Since activity on this site has ceased, Mother Nature has moved in, slowly restoring the area to a more wild state. Many small birds and animals now call this place home. SUWC members are working to enhance this habitat for wild creatures by planting more native species of trees and shrubs, and by encouraging human visitors to walk softly and leave the area undisturbed. In 2005, in honour of one of the founders of the Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee, the site was renamed the Art Teasell Wildlife Refuge. It was previously known as the Blackwell Road Refuge.

Bickford Oak Woods Conservation Reserve

Location: 50 km south of Sarnia near St. Clair River

Dates: 2004 - present

Partners: Sydenham Field Naturalists, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ministry of Natural Resources, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Rural Lambton Stewardship Network

Bickford Oak Woods (BOW) is the largest inland clay forest in the Carolinian life zone outside of First Nations lands. The site, under the name of Clay Creek Woodland (for the watercourse that runs through it), is designated as a regional Life Science Area of Natural Scientific Interest (ANSI) and is recommended as a Provincial ANSI by the MNR. It is the best representation in the site district of Clay Plain Forest, with more significant species recorded than other district designated clay plain woodlands. At 300 hectares (741 acres), BOW provides interior forest habitat that is rare in Southern Ontario. The combined sloughs, swamps, marshes and swamp thickets create a naturally occurring ‘sponge’ that retains both surface and ground water. The site contains good quality Maple-Beech forest, Oak-Hickory slough forest, Buttonbush and Silver Maple swamps. The forest communities have medium aged trees, widely spaced on gently undulating topography with standing water in the depression sin the spring. Slight changes in micro-climate between the plateaus and depression s create a variety of vegetation communities on the ground. BOW is a birder’s paradise. The Cerulean Warbler is one of Canada’s most beautiful birds and finds a home high in the super-canopy treetops of the BOW. The extensive interior forest is a vital nesting area for Wood Thrush, Veery, White-breasted Nuthatch, Yellow-throated Vireo, American Redstart and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Provincially rare and Carolinian species include the Tufted Titmouse and Carolina Wren. Reptiles and amphibians are common here, including Butler’s Garter Snake, a species of Special Concern and the Fox Snake. Larger mammals like the beaver thrive here.

Bright's Grove Lagoons

Location: Bright's Grove, Lakeshore Road east of Waterworks

Partners: Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee

One of the few remnants of relatively unaltered woodlands in the Carolinian Life Zone is found at this site. In the spring, hundreds of trilliums, trout lillies, jack in the pulpits, and other ephemerals bloom on the forest floor. The site is opened annually for a Sunday afternoon tour when the flowers are at their peak, sometime in mid-May. Shorebirds and warblers stop here on their annual migration, while other birds find good nesting habitat around the Lagoons.

College Park Horticultural Gardens

Location: Sarnia, 231 College Street North

Partners: Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee, City of Sarnia

The Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee has developed a demonstration native garden in the southeast section of this park on College Street. Bruce Strangway, with help from his wife, has planted over 40 species of wildflowers, shrubs, and trees. These plants will be labelled so that visitors can see the variety and growth habits of indigenous species.

Dennis Rupert Prairie

Location: Sarnia, West of Brigden Road between Lakeshore and Michigan

Partners: Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee, City of Sarnia, Shell Environmental Fund, Nature Conservancy of Canada

This 8 hectare (19 acre), located west of Brigden Road between Lakeshore and Michigan, was obtained through the efforts of the Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee with donations from the Rocca family, the Shell Environmental Fund, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the City of Sarnia. Two threatened prairie species, Riddel's Goldenrod and Sullivant's Milkweed are found in this wet prairie ecosystem. It is one of the last of its kind in Lambton County. The site was named after Dennis Rupert, a local naturalist who first recognized the presence of these rare plants on the property.

Dow Wetlands

Location: St. Clair River south of Sarnia

Dates: 2000-2006

Partners: Dow Canada, St. Clair Region Conservation Authority,

Dow Canada Sarnia Site has worked with St. Clair Region Conservation Authority to create 80 acres of wetland, woodland and meadow. The work was funded jointly by Dow Canada and the Ontario Great Lakes Renewal Foundation. The project involved planting trees and tallgrass prairie, the creation of wetlands and the completion of woodlot management plans for existing woodlots. The habitat area includes a section that with public trails. With additional funding from Dow, staff from St. Clair Conservation provides outdoor education classes to school groups and other organizations.

Dwarf Sandcherry

Location: Sarnia, Great Lakes Shoreline

Partners: Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee

Through the efforts of the Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee, this small shrub, native to the Great Lakes shoreline, is being reintroduced to local beaches. SUWC and DeGroots Nurseries raise more than a thousand seedlings each year. These are shared with partner groups like Friends of Pinery Park, and are available for private properties to help with shoreline rehabilitation.

If you live along the beach and are interested in planting species that will help stabilize the sand, please contact SUWC and they will gladly provide you with Sandcherry plants for your property. Contact them at

Ferguson Woodlot and Wet Meadows: Sustainable Management

Location: just north of Alvinston

Dates: 1940-2006

Partners: Ralph and Dave Ferguson, Rural Lambton Stewardship Network, Lambton Woodlot Owners Association

Ralph and Dave Ferguson have harvested the 100 acre woodlot on their property in a sustainable manner for over 60 years. They take good quality timber for sale and low quality trees for firewood and do much of the timber removal themselves to reduce habitat damage. The Fergusons also closely supervise any loggers that they bring in for the bigger harvests. They leave dead trees with small cavities for wildlife, but not the larger cavity trees. These generally become homes for Racoons, which prey on songbirds nests and do $2500 of damage per year to their corn crop. Their woodlot harbours Blue Ash, Rock Elm and Chinquapin Oak, all rare in Lambton County. Dave ‘likes to see diversity in his bush’ and hand plants acorns from local sources because he is concerned about the loss of species such as American Chestnut, Elm, and Butternut. ‘And now the Ash and American Beech are also threatened.’ says Dave. The Ferguson farm is 400 acres in size. Hardy Creek, a tributary of the Sydenham River, runs for 2.2 kilometers through the property. The Ferguson Farm Demonstration project profiles a number of alternate pasturing options for local cattlemen to use to keep cattle out of the stream, to lessen soil erosion, and improve water quality as well as improving aquatic and wildlife habitat. Previously, the pastureland was grazed freely and cattle had open access to the stream. Now, a rotational grazing system using warm season grasses to provide high quality forage during summer months is in place. As well, solar paneled water pumps were installed to provide a clean source of drinking water for cattle and a low level crossing was established to lessen the impacts of cattle on streambank stabilization.

Haig Reforestation

Location: Sydenham River near Alvinston

Dates: 1990-2006

Partners: Bob Haig, St. Clair Region Conservation Authority

Bob Haig purchased 100 acres of marginal farmland on the Sydenham River about 16 years ago. He has been working hard to reforest it ever since. Donald Craig of the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority has provided assistance in the form of knowledgeable advice and identification skills. Bob is also a member of the Lambton County Woodlot Owners Association through which he has obtained valuable information.

This type of project improves the water and habitat quality of the Sydenham River by greatly reducing soil erosion on the banks of the River, holding more moisture in the soil under the regenerating woodland, and providing shade over the river itself to keep it cooler for native aquatic species. Vegetation along the river bank also helps to filter fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides that are in the water running off neighbouring fields. Bob is also protecting a good stand of the rare Blue Ash, with mature trees and lots of seedlings on his property. ’I bought marginal land and planted the trees because I am interested in maintaining and sustaining woodlots on the landscape where it makes sense. I also find it very rewarding to see the woods evolve, every year they change and it is gratifying to watch.’ says Bob.

Highway 40 Prairie Restoration

Location: North of Wallaceburg on Highway 40

Dates: 2000-2006

Partners: Ontario Ministry of Transportation, Rural Lambton Stewardship Network

RLSN partnered with Ministry of Transportation (MTO) to establish roadside prairies and wildlife shrub corridors along Highway 40 from Wallaceburg to Sarnia. This project is modeled after a highly successful program from the United States that indicates that roadsides can play a major role in providing successful nesting sites for ground nesting birds. This project will also act as a living snow fence that will be beneficial to both human and wildlife populations and reduce roadside NPS pollution. To date, 72 acres of tallgrass prairie and 28,500 trees have been planted including the creation of 15.2 km of riparian habitat along Highway 40.

Huron Shore Flyway

Location: Sarnia, Lake Huron Shoreline

Partners: Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee

The Lake Huron shoreline is located on a major migration route for many species of birds. These birds depend on this area for food and shelter on their difficult journey to and from their summer nesting grounds. The habitat along the shoreline in north Sarnia is particularly vulnerable to alteration because of the high concentration of human activity.

Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee is identifying land which might be preserved as larger refuges for these weary travellers to rest and recharge. The Art Teasell Wildlife Refuge is an excellent example of this type of habitat. A map of the flyway is available here.

What Can You Do?

The Committee is also working to encourage residents to maintain their yards and gardens in a manner which is friendly to migrating songbirds. They have compiled a list of native plants that are beneficial for migratory birds as well as other native wildlife. If you own property within the migratory route as indicated on the map, consider planting some of the native species found on the list.

The list can be viewed online here. For more information about these plants, contact your local nursery.

Karner Blue Sanctuary Pine Oak Savanna

Location: Port Franks

Dates: 1988 to present

Partners: Lambton Wildlife Incorporated

This 14 ha (35 acre) site on the inland dunes of Lake Huron has good examples of remaining Pine-Oak savanna habitat. It was purchased by Lambton Wildlife Incorporated in the late 1980s because it was home to one of the last surviving populations of the Karner Blue Butterfly, a species that is most at home in dry savanna habitats. Since then the butterfly has disappeared from Ontario (Extirpated), but LWI is working to maintain the savanna habitat and the Wild Lupine populations that are the only food of the Karner Blue larva. Members of LWI are hoping that if the Karner Blue Butterfly can be restored to Ontario, the Karner Blue Sanctuary will one day host a satellite population of these beautiful insects.

Lambton County Heritage Forest

Location: Port Franks

Dates: 1960 to present

Partners: Lambton County, St. Clair Region Conservation Authority

The Lambton County Heritage Forest was formally recognized through the Areas of Scientific and Natural Interest (ANSI) program in 1993. The purpose of the study was to create a comprehensive management plan for the forest, with an emphasis on the preservation and management of its rare oak-pine savannah community. The final plan was adopted in the Fall of 1994. An updated plan is being developed by the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority.

Logan's Pond

Location: Sarnia, at Cathcart and Modeland Road

Partners: Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee, City of Sarnia

The area in the vicinity of the pond is now recognized by the City of Sarnia as a Wildlife Sanctuary, or special natural area. Through the efforts of the SUWC, a six meter wide buffer strip was preserved around the southewast edge of Logan's Pond at Cathcart and Modeland Roads. The purpose of this buffer is to help ensure the continued presence of wildlife on the pond. When combined with the Howard Watson Nature Trail on the north, this buffer will help provide habitat for the species that call this pond home. Thousands of migrating shorebirds use the pond as a stopover in the spring and fall, and Wood Ducks have been seen nesting on the shores of the pond.

Marthaville Habitat Management Area

Location: near Petrolia

Dates: 1998 -2006

Partners: Lambton County, St. Clair Region Conservation Authority

At the Marthaville Habitat Management Area, local citizens worked with the Conservation Authority to keep the area in public hands. Since then Lambton County has worked with the SCRCA to reshape and enhance a former gravel pit into a wetlands area, and with RLSN to plant prairie species. EcoAction funded the project which includes signage, fencing to prevent motorized vehicles from joyriding on the site, and a parking lot for visitors. There are also wooded areas on the site, and a 3 km trail.

McKellar Tract Reforestation and Wetlands Creation

Location: east of Bickford Oak Woods on Bickford Line

Dates: 1998 -2006

Partners: Ducks Unlimited Canada, St. Clair Region Conservation Authority

This 57 ha (140 acre) natural area was donated to the Province by the McKellar family. It is currently being enhanced by Ducks Unlimited to contain wetland areas. There are woodlot areas, as well as a pine plantation.

Perch Creek Habitat Management Area

Location: southeast of Sarnia on Churchill Road

Dates: 1998 -2006

Partners: Lambton County, St. Clair Region Conservation Authority, Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee

This 80 ha (200 acre) property includes floodplain and upland forest, hedgerows, open meadow, tallgrass prairie and wetlands. It also includes the buffer lands of the former Sarnia Landfill site. The St. Clair Region Conservation Authority has planted 24 ha of trees and rehabilitated wetland on this County owned property. Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee has planted 3 small areas of tallgrass prairie. Over 5 km of trails takes the hiker through a variety of habitats. The Management Area is located on Churchill Line just east of Blackwell Rd. Facilities: parking lot.

Pinery Provincial Park

Location: south of Grand Bend on Highway 21

Dates: 1957 to present

Partners: Ontario Provincial Parks, Friends of the Pinery

At 2,532 ha (6,330 acres), Pinery is the largest protected forest in Southwestern Ontario. Many habitats can be found here, among them Oak Pine savanna and freshwater coastal dunes. Today these ecosystems rest atop an undulating sand dune topography that began forming over 6,000 years ago as glaciers retreated, leaving dunes more than 100 feet high. The panoramic view from lookouts presents a seemingly endless forest canopy, meeting Lake Huron's brilliant blue waters on the horizon. . A jaunt through Pinery might turn up anything from a common White-tailed deer or Eastern Chipmunks to rare wildlife such as the Southern Flying Squirrel, the fascinating Eastern Hog-nosed snakes, or the elusive Red-headed Woodpeckers. Pinery staff work diligently to restore a natural savanna ecosystem using prescribed burns, planted pine removal, and prairie plantings.

Whether you want to quietly explore the woodlands along a trail, dip a paddle in the Old Ausable Channel, ride along the bike trail, or slide across crisp snow on a ski trail, Pinery is a special place year round. Over 757 plants, 325 bird, and 60 butterfly species are found here, as well as many mammals, amphibians and reptiles.

Schoolyard Naturalization

Location: Sarnia

Partners: Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee, St. Helen's and Rosedale schools

The Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee has partnered with St. Helen's and Rosedale schools to plant native shrubs and trees in their schoolyards. These projects educate children about the natural environment, and many children at these schools have learned more about nature by helping to create wild spaces in their schoolyards. Studies have also shown that green schoolyards is linked to healthy development in children through increased physical activity and well-being.

Interested schools are encouraged to contact SUWC for more information on what you can do to get started naturalizing the schoolyard. Contact them at Evergreen has also published several helpful resources on the benefits of greening schools. Find out more here.

Suncor Energy Foundation Nature Way (2002)

Location: Hwy 40 just west of urban Sarnia

Dates: 2001 - present

Partners: Evergreen Foundation, City of Sarnia, Sunoco, Suncor Energy Foundation and the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority

The official opening of the Suncor Energy Foundation Nature Way was held on June 22, 2002. The Suncor Energy Foundation donated $100,000 to the City of Sarnia to provide a millennium legacy gift to the Sarnia-Lambton community. The project helped add a conservation twist to a storm water management pond constructed immediately west of the Wawanosh Wetlands Conservation Area. The Suncor Energy Foundation Nature Way includes native trees, wetlands, prairie and a walkway. The Nature Way is linked to the Wawanosh Wetlands Conservation Area by a bridge spanning the Wawanosh Drain. The St. Clair Region Conservation Authority sat on a steering committee, which coordinated the use of the funds at the Nature Way. A Sunoco employee tree planting day was held on April 27, 2002. About 60 Sunoco and contract employees, as well as representatives from the City of Sarnia and the Conservation Authority, came out and planted 350 large stock trees and shrubs.

Walpole Island First Nation

Walpole Island First Nation is referred to in the Ojibwe language as “Bkejwanong” (where the waters divide).   It is home to a rich mosaic of natural areas including rare tallgrass prairie and oak savanna remnants, Carolinian forests, rich coastal waterways, and one of the largest wetland systems in the Great Lakes basin.   The First Nation peoples' traditional connection with the Land has directly contributed to the continued existence of these ecosystems and the many forms of life they support.   Over 50 species at risk including endangered species such as Northern Bobwhite Quail and Small White Lady's Slipper make Bkejwanong their home.   The Walpole Island Heritage Centre through its Natural Heritage Program is working to create awareness of the First Nation's natural heritage and to help protect it for future generations.   They are working with local landholders such as Ralph Jones to protect and recover rare species such as the Kentucky Coffee Tree and its habitat.

Wilkesport Wetland Creation Project

Location: W. Darcy McKeough Floodway

Date: 1992-present

Partners: St. Clair Region Conservation Authority, Rural Lambton Stewardship Network, County of Lambton

This property was purchased by the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority as part of the W. Darcy McKeough Floodway Project. In 1992, the site began to take on a greener future with the establishment of the Nicholl's Memorial Forest. This is a program of the St. Clair Region Conservation Foundation whereby trees are planted in memory of loved ones through donations from individuals and, in this case, the Eric F. Nicholls Funeral Home. In addition, windbreaks and plantations were planted at the site. In 1996, the County of Lambton approached the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority requesting fill for the reconstruction of the bridge. In exchange for the fill, the excavated area was graded and a water level control culvert installed to create a wetland. This is an excellent example of inter-agency cooperation at work. The success of this project led to a similar wetland being created on another Authority property 2 kilometres north of this site. In addition, the Rural Lambton Stewardship Network prepared the site and planted 1.5 hectares of tall grass prairie, an endangered landscape in our region. This work was greatly accelerated by funds received from the Great Lakes 2000 Clean Up Fund and provided one more component to the diverse habitat which had been created.

W. Darcy McKeough Floodway

Location: approximately 12 km north of Wallaceburg

Date: 1982 – to present

Partners: St. Clair Conservation Authority, Rural Lambton Stewardship Network,

To protect Wallaceburg from severe floods, the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority (SCRCA) built the 445 ha (1100 acre) W. Darcy McKeough Floodway, located 12 km north of Wallaceburg. The floodway is a 7 km (4.3 mile) long channel for water that goes straight into the St. Clair River. When the water level gets high enough, a special dam forces the water into the channel, away from Wallaceburg. The floodway was first used in February 1984, when it successfully directed 80,000 acre feet of water away from Wallaceburg. Over 100 ha (250 acres) of trees have been planted on the slopes and over 7 ha of prairie grasses have been seeded into the bottom of the channel. In 2005, the Emerald Ash Borer was found in an ash plantation on the Floodway.



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