Since 1984

1984 Carolinian Canada Sites
Catfish Creek Slope and Floodplain Forest



Encompassing 233 hectares, this unique Area of Natural and Scientific Interest contains some of the most endangered habitat in Canada. It lies in the heart of the Carolinian Zone of Southern Ontario and provides mature, deciduous forest cover that is able to support plant and animal life normally found much further south. All of this Carolinian Canada site is privately owned.


The Catfish Creek Slope and Floodplain Forest

In 1988, the Authority turned its attention to a site of significant natural heritage. The Catfish Creek Slope and Floodplain Forest spreads across the properties of eight landowners just northwest of Port Bruce. It contains provincially rare and threatened Carolinian flora and fauna such as Blue-Eyed Mary and Oswego Tea. Distinctive Carolinian trees like the Tulip tree, Sassafras, Sycamore, Black Gum and Kentucky Coffee tree are characteristic of this region. Much of the vegetation you would find here is typical of that found in the Central and Eastern United States. This is the northern limit of the zone and the only place in Canada with this type of vegetation. Also, significant species such as Red Shouldered Hawk, Acadian Flycatcher and Louisiana Waterthrush are located there.

An early study by Biologist Jeff Kaiser identified 358 species of vascular plants, representing about one-sixth of Canada. He also discovered that the area had very little human impact in the past. A key recommendation of his report was that the area be designated as an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI). The landowners who owned the forest would then be eligible for the Conservation Land Tax Rebate which was introduced by the Ontario Government in 1988.

All eight landowners were contacted by the Natural Heritage Stewardship Program and seven of them entered into a verbal agreement. It stated they would maintain and protect the natural area to the best of their ability, notify the NHSP, the Aylmer District MNR or the Catfish Creek Conservation Authority about any threats, such as lumbering or drainage. They also agreed to contact any of the three groups if they intended to sell their property or transfer ownership. In an age of cynicism, such a voluntary program is rare. The strength of the protection commitment is the strength of the landowner’s word.

In his first Annual Message as General Manager, Kim Smale was quick to point out that private landowners were becoming an important part of the stewardship activities within the watershed. He said: "Less visible, but just as important, were the numerous projects completed under the Private Landowner Extension Programs of the Authority.

Reforestation, windbreak planting, erosion control and woodlot management programs achieved unprecedented heights in their popularity and credibility. An increased demand for these types of services by the local residents speak well for the future of such programs." Most of the landowners have entered into Natural Heritage Stewardship Agreements with the Catfish Creek Conservation Authority. The Agreements recognize that the Slope and Floodplain Forest continues to be conserved in its natural state thanks to the good stewardship by these families (an excerpt from Critical Unprotected Natural Areas in the Carolinian Life Zone of Canada Carolinian Canada 1985).

The Carolinian Canada Signature Sites Heritage Plaque was unveiled at the Annual General Meeting of the Catfish Creek Conservation Authority on the 19th of February, 2002. The ceremony took place at the New Sarum Diner in the heart of the Catfish Creek watershed.


Funding for this project is being provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Recreation. With $100 million in annual funding from the province’s charitable gaming initiative, the Foundation provides grants to eligible charitable and not-for-profit organizations in the arts, culture, sports, recreation, environment and social service sectors. For more information visit the Trillium Foundation Website



Visit the Catfish Creek Conservation Authority website for more information



Physical and Biological Features

The Catfish Creek Slope and Floodplain ESA (environmentally sensitive area) consists of a deep ravine cut by Catfish Creek and a floodplain on the valley floor. The slope is about 100 feet, falling from 700 feet above sea level to 600 feet. Most of the gently rolling land around the ESA is being actively farmed; the steep ravine slopes host remnants of the forests which used to cover the surrounding area. Much of the ravine floor is a floodplain, this has created a shrub dominated community. Besides this there are Upland Forest communities located on the ravine slopes and a Lowland Forest community in parts of the valley floor.

Catfish Creek is an old river, having such features as undercut banks and oxbows. Other areas of standing water are to be found in the floodplain, including the Lowland Forest. There is no exposed bedrock. The eroded cliffs are composed of sand, underlain by clay.


Outstanding Associations

There are three outstanding associations in this ESA. One of these is the extensive Black Maple Forest. Not only is the extent of this stand of this Carolinian tree of interest, but also some of the associated plant species. The provincially rare Narrow-leaved Spleenwort is represented in this community by a large station. The second outstanding association are the dense mats of the provincially rare Canada Waterleaf: these are found both in the Black Maple Forest and in the Upland Deciduous Forest. The third is the magnificent view offered by the confluence of the Catfish Creek and one of its tributaries, in the northern part of the ESA. Much of the upland forest is mature and has been very well managed by the owners. There is a known archeological site beside the area which has been explored by archeologists from the University of Western Ontario.

Paul F.J. Eagles, University of Waterloo, Chairman of the Carolinian Canada Identification Subcommittee




Steve Hounsell of Ontario Power Generation was a featured speaker at the unveiling ceremony. OPG is providing financial support for the Catfish Creek Conservation Authority's tree planting programs through its Biodiversity and Carbon Sequestration Program. Steve and his program were recognized in 2001 with a Carolinian Canada Conservation Award. Steve is a tireless promoter of the Big Picture approach to conservation.

Catfish Creek Conservation Authority
Annual General Meeting
February 19, 2002

Steve Hounsell, Ontario Power Generation

Good afternoon. I thank you for the invitation and opportunity to spend a little time with you and to offer a few words about a very positive partnership that our two organizations have embarked upon.

Thanks to Ric Wellwood and his book on your Authority, I have a much better sense of the history of your region, where you have come from and where you are going as an organization. Your historical and present commitment to conservation and stewardship is clear. We are pleased to help you in that commitment as we look to the future.

As you all well know, the landscapes and watersheds of southern Ontario, and indeed this region, have undergone dramatic changes since the time of early settlement. The historical character of your watersheds was vastly different than the present. Those changes have affected both water supplies and water quality, so much so that it precipitated the formation of the Conservation Authorities and indeed your own Authority back in 1950. The loss and fragmentation of habitat also had dramatic effects on the floral and fauna of your region, to the extent that we now live in one of the most imperiled regions in all of Canada.

In brief, we have greatly exceeded the natural regenerative and waste assimilation capacities of our regions and your watersheds. Hence the need for your Authority, and others, to help change the trajectory to one of conservation, stewardship and recovery. We are still on that trajectory, and we still have a long ways to go, but at least we are moving in the right direction. We are moving towards what could be - a revitalized region of vibrant ecosystems and watersheds. We need healthy ecosystems that are capable of supporting nature’s natural biological diversity and capable of sustaining a healthy humanity, and economic enterprise. That is a goal well worth pursuing and a goal that is in everyone’s interest.

Fortunately, we are getting much help for our journey. The work of many other organizations, such as Carolinian Canada and their work on the "Big Picture", are assisting us in that effort. That big-picture helps to inform as to where we should be investing our efforts to maximize our conservation gains. It is a grand plan that provides strategic guidance to our conservation efforts. It is a plan that I believe in.

If we are serious about achieving a healthier future, a future that recognizes that we are a part of nature, and ultimately sustained by its services, then we all must be part of that effort. And I like to think that we, at Ontario Power Generation, are doing our part.

Since 1990, OPG and our predecessor Ontario Hydro have spent about $2 billion to improve environmental performance. Those initiatives included substantial investments in equipment to reduce air and water emissions at our plants, as well as major programs for protecting and managing the habitats at all our major generating sites and adjacent areas. In fact, we were the first utility in North America to have developed and implemented a policy on biodiversity conservation. We now have Award-winning (Wildlife Habitat Council) biodiversity management plans at each of our major stations that do involve habitat protection and restoration. And through our carbon sequestration and biodiversity management program, we now have the ability to selectively engage in meaningful habitat restoration activities right across the southern Ontario landscape. That is where your Authority, and several other partners, come into the picture.

Our financial support for your Authority is another example of our environmental commitment. The forest restoration work that you will be undertaking will help restore vital ecological services within your watersheds and help provide much needed habitat for species that have been declining in the face of habitat loss and fragmentation throughout the region. The benefits of this program are vast and include:

* the sequestration of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas contributing to climate change;
* provision of much needed habitat for the recovery of populations of woodland dependent species that have been declining throughout this region;
* bulking up key forested areas to address the special habitat needs of area-sensitive wildlife and forest-interior specialists that are rare in this region; and
* connecting woodland patches in an effort to reconnect a heavily fragmented landscape. This will facilitate the movement of species throughout the region and will help to ensure that their populations remain viable.

This program will also promote ecosystem health through buffer plantings along riparian habitats, which not only serve as natural habitat corridors but can also help improve water quality. Yes, the planting of trees will trap carbon, but it also provides many vital ecological services as it replenishes oxygen, stabilizes soils, and traps and recycles various elements and nutrients through the endless cycle of life.

Your forest restoration activities will not only enhance local ecosystems, they contribute to a broader effort on our part to plant 1.6 million native trees and shrubs throughout southern Ontario by the end of 2005. Our program was just launched in the spring of 2000. By the end of the planting season this spring, we will have planted well over 1 million genetically appropriate native trees and shrubs at strategic locations across southern Ontario, helping make that Big-Picture vision of Carolinian Canada more and more of a reality. Your work here is an important contribution to that accomplishment. And thanks to the support and feedback from organizations such as yourselves, your sister Conservation Authorities, and Carolinian Canada, our program has been extended beyond 2005. This program is a multiple win program. OPG is starting to recognize this. We need to build upon this successful foundation.

When complete, our tree planting activities will sequester an estimated 900,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the lifetime of the trees, thereby helping to reduce global warming. Make no mistake, this, in itself, is not the solution to our emissions, or to climate change, but it does contribute to the solution and buys us a little time as we look to new, and more benign technologies, for electricity generation.

As a company committed to sustainable development and to enhancing the quality of life of communities where we operate, OPG is proud to have participated in this worthwhile project. To this end, we are pleased to have contributed $112,500 for the planting of 75,000 trees on key sites within your watershed. We look forward to a continued productive and mutually beneficial relationship with yourselves and the landowners who are making this all possible.


Visit other Carolinian Canada Signature Sites, Return to the Main Signature Sites Page

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