Nick Krete of Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is checking in on a mature conservation project. He’s pleased to observe thriving willows and other lush plant life in the 8.4 acres (3.4 hectares) of restored wetlands.
“A marker of this engineered wetland is the species diversity,” says Krete. “It’s fantastic, you have all the good interspersion of vegetation that you want here for a high-functioning wetland.”
Darryl and Faye Hutton have hosted the wetland on their rural farmland for more than a decade. A lifelong outdoorsman, Hutton has capped off many busy days with the calming enjoyment of watching wildlife in the habitat.
The vegetation community in a healthy wetland is a true force of nature. Growing in and around the water, native plants are at the crux of the ecological functions that feed and shelter fish, birds and other wildlife. The same functions underpin the broader benefits of wetlands—cleaner water, carbon capture, diminished floods and reduced erosion on the landscape.
Yet, in Ontario’s southwest, some near-urban landscapes have seen up to 95 per cent loss of wetlands. Krete explains that private landowners like the Hutton family are a crucial factor in regaining this lost natural infrastructure in upstream watersheds and near-urban landscapes.
Reversing wetland losses is a daunting but doable challenge.
That’s why The Nature Force partnership between DUC and Canadian insurance companies is so significant. Both the insurance industry and the conservation sector share a common understanding of the urgent action needed to restore natural infrastructure and protect communities in Canada.
Southwestern Ontario is one of three high-growth regions the partners have identified for focused research and strategic restoration. The other regions are British Columbia’s Fraser River Delta and southern Quebec.
“This is a very exciting partnership with the insurance industry,” Krete says. “I’ll complete five small-wetland restoration projects funded by The Nature Force in the Washington Creek watershed this year.”
Randy Gofton and his wife, Lori, are among the new landowners working with him. Newly restored wetlands on their farms will capture and filter surface water and slowly release it into the creek. Gofton, a sixth-generation farmer, is conscious of his legacy and conservation has become more important to him over the years.
“That’s why this wetland project is the realization of a dream of mine,” he says. “To use the land in the best way possible for the environment, wildlife and sustainability.”
It’s been a great year for Krete, who recently celebrated the birth of his second child and the first of many DUC work anniversaries.
“Working for Ducks Unlimited has been an aspiration of mine,” he shares. “I’ve worked in the restoration-slash-conservation field for many years now and wanted to pursue a role where I can make a more positive impact on the southwestern Ontario landscape.”
He was confident about that positive impact because his father had recently retired from the position! Jeff Krete spent more than 20 years building relationships with landowners and other conservation partners, a legacy his son plans to expand—rapidly.
“Probably the biggest change from when Dad was hired is the use of computers and technology,” says Krete. “It’s amazing what you can accomplish from your home office! That’s not to understate the importance of field work and liaising face to face with regulators, landowners and team members, but it’s the main reason our team can be so efficient now when it comes to small-wetland project delivery.”
As Nick Krete and his team leverage technology and build on the legacy of past conservation efforts, the future looks brighter for southwestern Ontario’s landscape. We are reaching new landowners willing to host restored wetlands—just as the Huttons have done for years.
Nick Krete checks in at a mature conservation project on Darryl Hutton’s farmland in Southwestern Ontario.
Scaling up nature-based solutions to curb urban flooding and protect communities
Wetland project updates will improve the quality of water that feeds into Lac Ste-Therese, in northern Ontario.
Making dreams come true through collaboration and creativity.
While chance may have made them neighbours, a shared love of nature and a wetland has made two Ontario landowners friends and passionate environmentalists.