The AHC has always recognized the need to further our understanding of natural systems and to transfer this knowledge to current and future generations. The Algoma Highlands are a living classroom—an excellent site where ecological concepts and conservation biology can be learned and observed first hand. In addition, much of the area immediately adjacent to the King Mountain site contains ideal locations for conducting and demonstrating ground-breaking scientific research related to wildlife biology, sustainable resource management, and ecological restoration.
The facilities made available by our partners at the Stokely Creek Lodge for more traditional events such as workshops, conferences and meetings greatly enhance these endeavors not only by providing necessary infrastructure but also by attracting a wide-ranging clientele with a direct interest in the area. The Algoma Highlands, which are a mere 20 minute drive from the “Twin Saults”, are nearby three post-secondary academic institutions, as well as many local elementary and secondary schools. As such, the area affords excellent opportunities to provide direct outdoor educational experiences and thus significant “added value” to standard school curricula.
In 2011, a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation enabled the AHC to hire an Environmental Education Coordinator (EEC) to develop and formalize the AHC’s environmental education programs. Since then, our EEC has worked diligently to form partnerships with local scientists, schools and volunteers in order to develop a long-term, self-sustaining environmental education program. Our EEC has fostered an excellent rapport with multiple schools and has created high-quality onsite and offsite environmental education programs with direct links to Kindergarten-grade 12 curriculum. Additionally, there have been multiple elementary, secondary and post-secondary school visits, furthering the AHC’s aim to connect people of all ages and backgrounds to the natural environment and inspire them to be good stewards of this ecologically sensitive land.
Recently, our EEC has taken on the challenge of coordinating the Algoma District’s Envirothon, a unique team competition that encourages high school students to get outdoors and increase their understanding of forests, soils, wildlife, aquatic ecosystems, and human impact on the environment. The activity workshops and final competition are accomplished in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Natural Resources Canada, City of Sault Ste. Marie, Sault College, Clean North, Clergue Forest Management, and the Algoma District School Board.
Scientific Research and Stewardship
Scientists who serve on the Conservancy board and who also work for the Canadian Forest Service, have conducted long-term monitoring and a variety of research experiments in the Stokely Creek area. The easy access to these experiments and the scientific expertise associated therewith represents a unique opportunity to demonstrate science in action.
From 1994-1996 a captive release program to reintroduce the Peregrine Falcon was carried out at Robertson Lake Cliffs, now part of the conservation property owned by the AHC. During the reintroduction period Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) staff and volunteers released 38 young falcon chicks from a hack site at the top of the Robertson Lake Cliffs. Ongoing monitoring by OMNR and partners has shown the Robertson Lake Cliffs to be an active nesting site since 1997.
Beginning in 2011, the AHC partnered with local and regional power companies including Hydro One, Great Lakes Power Transmission and Algoma Power Inc. as part of the Corridors for Life project to examine the potential effects of power line rights-of-way (ROWs) and associated management techniques on the integrity of natural forest ecosystem through which they pass. A primary focus of this research and monitoring initiative is on species at risk (SAR) and their habitat preferences. This project currently involves a variety of different objectives including; development and use of novel techniques for detecting and monitoring wildlife and particularly SAR in and about ROW corridors, testing and demonstrating alternative vegetation management practices, restoring impacted natural habitats, and enhancing our collective understanding of wood turtle habitat preferences and movement patterns in relation to transmission line corridors and associated management activities.
Enhancing Species at Risk Habitat on Power Line Rights-of-Way
Audio recording devices have been deployed each spring to determine the general composition of bird and amphibian communities and to check for potential occurrence of bird species-at-risk within the ROW study areas. It is anticipated that olive-sided flycatcher, Canada warbler, and golden-winged warbler may be located on the ROW.
Also, small plot areas containing low growing shrubs were established on the ROW to increase the vertical and horizontal structure along the corridor edge to enhance wildlife habitats. Cedar saplings, donated to the AHC by Clean North, were planted in the valley along Stokely Creek to re-establish and maintain the riparian vegetation on the ROW and to protect the coldwater stream habitat.
As noted previously, these initiatives are focused on enhancing the availability and quality of habitat for various wildlife species and particularly those that are considered rare or at risk. Our research has expanded to investigate movement patterns, habitat use, and potential ROW disturbance effects on wood turtles (an endangered species provincially). These efforts may influence future ROW maintenance practices to manipulate and create wood turtle habitat.
What better way to learn about nature than from nature itself?
Sault College forestry students use the King Mountain/Stokely Creek area as a living classroom.