"The purpose of the Carden Plain IBA is to protect and conserve the ecological significance of the Carden Plain for grassland and shrubland birds, especially area-sensitive species, Loggerhead Shrikes, and other important natural values which rely on or are part of this habitat."

The IBA program is an international initiative coordinated by BirdLife International, a partnership of member-based organizations in over 100 countries seeking to identify and conserve sites important to all bird species worldwide. Through the protection of birds and habitats, they also promote the conservation of the world's biodiversity. There are currently IBA programs in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas including nearly 1000 sites in Canada.

The Carden Plain was designated a nationally significant IBA in 1998,based on its large concentrations of grassland bird species, and because it is an area which supports one of the last known breeding populations of the Eastern Loggerhead Shrike in Ontario. In 2000, a steering committee composed of local naturalists and landowners was established to promote the IBA concept in the area, and to develop and implement a conservation action plan.

The first step was to find out more about the birds that make the Carden Plain their home: what species live here, and how many there are of each species. We also needed to know more about what kind of habitat -- space, vegetation, etc. -- each species prefers and where that habitat is located within the IBA. A team of naturalists and biologists conducted a survey to estimate the number of breeding pairs of grassland and shrubland birds, and to map the locations of IBA species' main habitat types: alvar, grassland, and shrubland, as well as cropland.

Drawing on the findings of the survey, we developed a list of 30 target bird species, each of which is declining range-wide or locally; is area-sensitive (needs large uninterrupted areas of habitat in order to breed); is a priority species for the City of Kawartha Lakes as identified by Bird Studies Canada; and/or is endangered or threatened at a national and/or provincial level.

The goals of the Canadian IBA program are to:

To protect and restore key habitat that supports Loggerhead Shrikes, grassland birds, and shrubland birds as well as maintaining diversity of breeding birds and other natural values.
To maximize benefits associated with birds and with saving bird habitats, including public enjoyment, educational and economic benefits.

Here's the progress that's been made to date:

Protecting and restoring key habitat, and maintaining diversity of breeding birds and other natural values

Protection. Since the committee was struck, thousands of acres of the Carden Plain have received permanent protection, due to the purchase of the Cameron Ranch, The Windmill Ranch and Prairie Smoke Conservation Area approximately 5000 acres in the heart of the IBA, by the Nature Conservancy of Canada in conjunction with the Couchiching Conservancy. IBA members worked hard to raise funds, and the publicity around the purchase raised the public profile of the IBA considerably. An additional 500 acres also ajoing the Cameron Ranch was donated by an IBA member in 2008. A 200 acre wetland was acquired by an IBA member on Prospect Road in 2008 and will be donated in the future. Ongoing outreach has also led to negotiations concerning the permanent legal protection of. other tracts of land in the area.

Quarrying and other development pose major challenges to the preservation of habitat, and the IBA has been very active in raising key issues in planning processes in the area. For example, we participated in an Ontario Municipal Board hearing concerning the application for a license to quarry land where Loggerhead Shrikes nested. Unfortunately the OMB decision did not provide the protection we sought for the habitat of an endangered species. However the process led to the designation of the Sedge Wren Wetland Complex as Provincially Significant thus, raising its level of protection.

IBA Steering Committee members provided leadership in the City of Kawartha Lakes' Community Visioning process, which helped achieve the commitment of the city to the "Environment First" principle in its planning activities. The "Environment First" principle has been incorporated into the draft new Official Plan through the efforts of IBA members. Other lobbying resulted in the city's agreeing to provide active support of conservation easements. Representatives of the steering committee sit on the City of Kawartha Lake's former Aggregate Management and current Environmental Advisory committees. Members also have been working actively with Loggerhead Shrike restoration projects, and a representative sat on the former federal Shrike Recover Team advisory committee. IBA members helped form a collaborative with local quarries to address local land use issues and dispel misconceptions among landowners.

Landowners in the IBA are vital to protecting habitat, since most of the Carden Plain is privately owned. Some landowners fear the designation of their property as environmentally significant will reduce its economic value. They fear if a Loggerhead Shrike is spotted on their land they will lose control. Bird watchers present another landowner irritant sometimes blocking traffic and occasionally trespassing. Landowners question why bird watchers can’t be directed onto conservation lands and away from private property. The IBA, together with other groups, including some quarries, has conducted a series of workshops, aimed at local residents, focused on water security, quarry operations, land designation, land evaluation and quarry truck haulage, seeking to reduce landowner anxiety over quarry expansion by replacing rumors with facts.

In 2008, a number of local naturalist organizations, including the IBA, decided to take advantage of several new sources of funding to address some of these concerns. A “Birder’s Code of Conduct” was published to addressing many birder behavioural concerns. In addition some parking pull-off areas were built on Wylie Road and Prospect Road to facilitate traffic flow. A viewing blind was constructed at Box #10 on Wylie Road to focus attention toward conservation lands. A parking area and a 3.5km nature trail was built on the Cameron Ranch to provide access while keeping birders and cattle separated A grazing seminar was sponsored and well attended. It offered suggestions to improve grazing productivity. Prompted by the seminar, a number of landowners have become partners in property improvement programs such as fencing, water supply and hawthorn thinning partly paid for by government programs accessed by the naturalists.

The future plan, called the Integrated Carden Conservation Strategy ICCS), is to work with quarries to develop a detailed landscape-based conservation plan for Carden as a supplement to the municipal Official Plan. ICCS will also create and ongoing Carden Forum to steer future projects such as ALUS (Alternative Land Use Services) whereby landowners are paid to support species at risk. Funding sources are as yet undefined.

A project to install and maintain wood duck nesting boxes in local wetlands, in conjunction with Sir Sandford Fleming College. has been abandoned after five years due to a lack of interest from the local wood duck population, who prefer natural cavities. IBA members maintain an extensive chain of Blue Bird boxes that are monitored monthly. IBA members also carryout an annual Road Clean-up on about 4 km of local raods.

We have conducted a wide variety of projects to increase tourist's awareness of the Carden Plain and its significance. Road signs with our bobolink logo tell people entering the area from any direction that they are in the IBA. A large billboard identifying the 30 target species, and providing other information, has proved interesting and useful to local people, and orients tourists and visiting birders as to what to look for and where to look. This web site ( with extensive links provides resource material, updates and valuable information for potential visitors, and is supported by local advertisers who seek to attract business from birders. We have supplied local service providers with “Welcome Birders” signs to display in their windows. The village of Kirkfield also posts “Welcome Birders” on their community display boards. We have developed and published a Carden Nature Guide with details of potential bird sightings through out the IBA area.

The most ambitious tourism project undertaken by the IBA has been the Carden Nature Festival. Launched on June 15-16, 2007 and repeated in 2008, the Festival celebrates the smorgasbord of biodiversity on the Carden Plain. 350 participants in 2008, 75% from out of the immediate area, partook in 60 alternative events serves by over 100 volunteers. Post event feedback proclaimed the Festival an unqualified success while generating an estimated $50,000 in tourist dollars for local service providers. The Festival will be repeated in 2009 at twice the scale, The Festival web site is

Business people, elected representatives, government officials, residents, and students have enjoyed spring birding tours we have organized for them. Displays at local fairs in Carden and Kirkfield enable us to reach landowners and residents, as well as tourists, to talk about the important features of the area. Annual road cleanups have also helped to raise the profile of the IBA. We continue to reach out to local merchants with information and publications to help them respond to questions from people passing through the area.

With our encouragement, the City of Kawartha Lakes promotes birding and the IBA is a major element in its outreach for tourism. CKL distributes the IBA Nature Guide to the Carden Alvar through its Service Centres. IBA representatives are regularly called on to lead media tours of the area and to contribute information to the city's official tourism publications.

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