But­ter­nuts men­aced

The Glengarry News - - News -

A new batch of but­ter­nut seedlings has been sent into the world to pull the en­dan­gered tree back from the brink, but this spring’s lot may have been the last. Many area landown­ers have been par­tic­i­pat­ing in the but­ter­nut re­cov­ery pro­gram led by the Rideau Val­ley Con­ser­va­tion Authority which has a spe­cial­ized cold stor­age fa­cil­ity where saplings are grown from re­silient seeds har­vested across East­ern On­tario. But­ter­nut trees in Canada and the United States have been dec­i­mated by the but­ter­nut canker, an in­cur­able fun­gal disease sci­en­tists be­lieve orig­i­nated in Asia. Since 2005, the RVCA has planted a to­tal of 29,000 new but­ter­nuts across East­ern On­tario, part­ner­ing with landown­ers and other groups willing to care for the frag­ile trees on their prop­er­ties. But that could end now that pro­posed changes to the pro­vin­cial En­dan­gered Species Act have been signed into law. The new rules, in­cluded in the Prov­ince of On­tario’s More Homes, More Choice Act, will al­low de­vel­op­ers to pay into a prov­ince-wide con­ser­va­tion fund in­stead of sup­port­ing lo­cal­ized, tar­geted efforts to save or re­place the threat­ened species they dis­rupt. It’s un­clear how the pro­vin­cial pool of money would be doled out but money paid for lo­cal but­ter­nut de­struc­tion may no longer fund lo­cal but­ter­nut re­cov­ery. That could leave the RVCA’s pro­gram with­out the crit­i­cal fund­ing it needs to col­lect re­silient seeds to nur­ture new seedlings for re­for­esta­tion. Progress is achingly slow: of the 2,000 free seedlings handed out this spring, only about 30 per cent will live to age five, ac­cord­ing to pro­gram man­ager Rosemary Fleguel. “It’s a slow, steady drip to get but­ter­nuts back onto the landscape,” she said. “But it’s still 30 per cent more than what was there, and they’re from ge­net­i­cally su­pe­rior par­ent trees.”

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