What happens when you get a collective of change-makers representing seven groups across sectors in the same room at the same time? A hub of innovation and hope is created. This is what happened on November 15, 2022, when the partners of the Long Point Walsingham Forest Conservation Impact Bond (LCIB) spent the day networking, co-creating shared goals for the LCIB, and connecting to the land.
Coming from different locations across southern Ontario, the group gathered at a spot overlooking the beautiful Long Point Inner Bay and Turkey Point marsh landscape and set our intentions for the day with a smudge ceremony led by Verlin James from Carolinian Canada’s Indigenous Leadership Team. The group of multi-disciplinary partners included representatives of the five pillars of the CIB: Indigenous, investor, outcome payer, habitat grower, and evaluator/researcher, coming from SVX, Co-operators, Dragonfly Ventures, Long Point Basin Land Trust, St. Williams Conservation Reserve Community Council, Ivey Business School at Western University, and Carolinian Canada. Looking out across the wetland ecosystem grounded the team in the purpose of the day: to see the land that is connected to the project, make connections with places and people, and co-vision the future of the LCIB.
Taking Our First Steps
The group visited two sites where restoration and conservation efforts are ongoing as a part of the LCIB. At the “Stepping Stones” property on the St. Williams Conservation Reserve (SWCR), Audrey Heagy, Project Coordinator with St. Williams Conservation Reserve Community Council (SWCRCC), led the group on a tour, sharing the history of the land and the current efforts that are underway to restore the ecosystem.
SWCRCC has undertaken the challenging task of restoring land that has been dramatically altered to a conifer plantation from its historical state as Oak Savanna. Oak Savanna is a rare habitat type in Canada and globally and supports numerous rare species and species at risk. To restore this habitat, plantation removal has begun, and additional efforts are underway to prepare the 28-acre (11-hectare) site for restoration. Prescribed burns will be needed to remove woody debris before planting, and then to maintain the fire-dependent Oak Savanna ecosystem.
Due to approximately 200 years of colonial land clearing and alteration, the native plant seed bank has been depleted, creating an open invitation for invasive species. SWCRCC staff have devised a plan to reestablish a variety of sand savanna specialist species to create “Stepping Stones”, or hubs for native plants to disperse their seeds, which will aid in healing the landscape. Staff and volunteers will collect seed from local sources, grow the plants, and establish them on the landscape to restore this site and establish connectivity with remnant patches of Oak Savanna in the area. A great example of a seed strategy in action.
Seeing Our Collective Future
At lunch, the group warmed up with hot drinks, soup, and sandwiches in a room overlooking the landscape at Long Point Eco Adventures. Diane-Laure Arjalies and Julie Bernard, from the research team at Ivey Business School, led a co-creation and visioning session with the group, giving us all an opportunity to share our purposes and visions for the future of the LCIB project.
Some key reflections from this session include...
“We all share a vision, but we see it through our own unique lenses, so what brings us together is a vision of land, people, connection, restoration, finance, decolonization – it's the vision of a better future.”
“We believe in collaborating, that no one person can do it alone. We believe that we all bring different experiences and different resources, and every part of that creates a full piece.”
“It’s an opportunity to approach finance from a different perspective.”
“We have to be among plants, that’s what feeds us. Both eating but also the energy of the land nurtures us.”
“This work is amazing and so critically needed.”
“Co-creation - at the heart of it is trust. It’s building trust within people … The spirit of co-creation is being in a space where we can be open with each other to say what we need to say to each other and through that process we’re creating trust that can last beyond what a collaborative framework can look like.”