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Conservation award for Marnie and Don Ross

·3 min read

Don and Marnie Ross have seen their commitment to conservation recognized.

The pair recently accepted Ontario Nature's Ian Shenstone Fraser Memorial Award for their contributions to the Frontenac Arch biosphere reserve.

"It's really important for the community to realize that the award actually belongs to a lot of people in this region, not just the two of us," said Don Ross.

"It's our whole board of directors, advisers and volunteers, and other organizations that we partner with like the Leeds and Grenville Stewardship Council, Parks Canada and Ontario Parks," he added.

The couple also recognized the Algonquin to Adirondack collaborative, as well as the Frontenac Arch Biosphere group and many other collaborators and volunteers in the area for their efforts and help.

"We could not have gotten to this point without all of them. This award is only possible due to the efforts of many people," they wrote in the Thousand Islands Watershed Land Trust newsletter.

Nominees for the Ian Shenstone Fraser Memorial Award must have made significant contributions to a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Ontario. Ontario Nature also recognized 11 other people for the 2020-2021 Conservation Awards.

Marnie and Don Ross were recognized for helping establish the UNESCO Frontenac Arch Biosphere and their commitment to the preservation, protection and expanding the land trust.

"One of the things that we realized as a land trust, not just Marnie and I, but a group of people: We thought that for people to really appreciate how special this area is, what would help them recognize that special character of the region?" Don continued. "So we looked at different designations for larger regions and found the UNESCO Biosphere reserve movement was maybe a really good thing to try to bring to Canada."

At the time, there were 11 others in Canada; theirs was the twelfth and now there are eighteen which are designated as special for their natural environment but also with a mandate to promote sustainable community development.

"Our land trust dug in and did the nomination for that. That took about two years to write that and then to happen," said Don Ross. "It was the fastest that has ever happened on the planet because people realized at UNESCO how special this region is."

The Frontenac Arch Biosphere reserve is one of many things the Thousand Islands Watershed Land Trust has done. They orchestrated doubling the size of the Thousand Islands National Park and have helped make Charleston Lake Provincial Park a third larger than it was by working with landowners and donating properties to the park.

"A lot of people have worked on a lot of conservation in this region and it was very nice of Ontario Nature to recognize that award and to pass it on. We feel that we are representatives of the land trust as much as anything," said Don.

"We think the really important thing about all of this is that this is an extremely important area," said Marnie. "To the east of us there's a lot of industry, farmlands and cities."

Don added: "The Great Lakes to the west are dairy, so this particular region of the Frontenac Arch just happens to be the connecting tissue for migration for down south of us, through the Appalachians, Adirondacks and up to the Canadian Shield to the north."

Because of climate change, we need that pathway for migration, said Marnie.

Don and one of his board members, Dave Warner, who also assisted on writing the award nomination, started the land trust almost 30 years ago, in 1993. Marnie is also on the board of directors.

"At the time when we formed the land trust there were only two others in Canada, so we were kind of a pioneering group here," noted Don.

"It all started with a land issue in the Thousand Islands and that's how it got going," adde Don.

Jessica Munro, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times

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