Massasauga Rattlesnake, Sam Turner
Massasauga Rattlesnake © Sam Turner

Southwestern Ontario’s “backyard” gets national recognition as stronghold for wildlife


Peter Soroye
Key Biodiversity Areas Assessment and Outreach Coordinator





Despite centuries of agriculture and urban development, two natural areas in southern Ontario have gained national recognition for their importance to nature.

Despite centuries of agriculture and urban development, two natural areas in southern Ontario have gained national recognition for their importance to nature: the Nith River south of Kitchener, and Wainfleet Bog near Niagara Falls. A cooperation between Six Nations Wildlife and Stewardship Office and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Canada led to the recent acceptance of these sites as Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs): places that play an outsized role in maintaining globally and nationally significant biodiversity.

“Wainfleet Bog and Nith River are important areas for so much more than just the species at risk that live there, and having these sites designated as KBAs will help highlight the importance of these sites for providing services such as water storage and filtration, carbon storage, climate change mitigation”, says Six Nations of the Grand River Wildlife Stewardship Management Assistant Lauren Vanderlingen. “The preservation of these sensitive sites represents a cultural duty to the Six Nations people and safeguarding the Indigenous history and use of these areas is just as critical.”

The Nith River is one of only 6 rivers where the Rapids Clubtail dragonfly has ever been found in Canada. It is believed to have disappeared from at least one of these rivers, giving the Nith River an outsized importance in the survival of this species in the country.

Wainfleet Bog is the largest remaining peatland in southwestern Ontario and is one of the last remaining sites with habitat for the rare Massasauga rattlesnake. The bog is also home to other species and risk such as Blandings turtle, and bog plants like carnivorous sundews. It is of special importance to First Nations in the area.

To become a KBA, a site must meet strict scientific criteria. These include a site's importance for rare or threatened species or ecosystems, seasonal concentrations of migratory animals, or being among the best examples of intact and healthy ecosystems.

“KBAs are nationally and globally important natural places, and the best way to identify them is by working together with from people who are on-the-ground and have an intimate knowledge of these places”, says Peter Soroye, KBA Canada Assessment and Outreach Coordinator with WCS Canada . “Wainfleet Bog and Nith River are some of the last places in the country where we can find animals like Massasauga rattlesnake and Rapids Clubtail, and they’re right here in the backyard of hundreds or thousands of Canadians in southwestern Ontario.”

Wainfleet Bog and Nith River are two of over fifteen sites across Canada that have newly gained KBA status, as announced by KBA Canada this month.

Wainfleet Bog is on Six Nations Treaty land, stated in the 1701 Nanfan Treaty, and it is a traditional hunting and harvesting territory for Haudenosaunee people. The site is also covered by Treaty 3 Between the Lakes Purchase territory between the Mississaugas of the Credit and the British Crown.

Nith River is located in Treaty 3, 1792 and Haldimand Treaty territory. It is the traditional territory of Six Nations, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Anishinabewaki, Haudenosaunee, Attiwonderonk (Neutral), and Mississauga First Nations.

See all sites: KBA Home (


  • KBAs are sites that contribute to the persistence of biodiversity nationally and globally.

  • KBAs support rare and threatened species and ecosystems, as well as key natural processes. They range in size from small patches of habitat to large tracts of land or water.

  • KBAs are designated based on specific, measurable criteria.

  • The designation does not give the site a particular management prescription or legal status.

  • KBAs may encompass private or public land, sometimes overlapping, partially or entirely, with legally protected sites.

  • In Canada, KBAs are identified in consultation with local communities and experts.

  • The KBA Canada initiative is jointly led by Birds Canada, NatureServe Canada, and WCS Canada.


  • Canada has one of the world’s first comprehensive national programs to identify KBAs and was the first country to adapt the Global KBA Standard to a national context.

  • The KBA Canada initiative was launched in 2019 to help Canada meet protected area targets and other targets agreed to in the Convention on Biological Diversity.

  • This work is led by the KBA Canada Coalition, a collaborative initiative involving non-governmental organizations, governments, Indigenous partners, academic institutions, experts and knowledge-holders that are engaged in the work of identifying, delineating and reviewing KBAs.


Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Canada’s mission is to save wildlife and wild places through science, conservation action, education, and by inspiring people to value nature. WCS Canada plays a unique role in the conservation landscape of Canada. We work at the nexus of biodiversity, climate change, and health in priority landscapes where we have had a long-term field presence, and where there is great potential for durable conservation gains. We have strategic national programs to complement and expand our geographically focused work that addresses issues of Canadian and global concern such as Key Biodiversity Areas, climate change, and mentoring the next generation of conservation scientists. WCS Canada is a member of the global Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) working across the globe in more than 60 countries to save wildlife and wild places.


Six Nations of the Grand River reserve is located in Southern Ontario, it is the most populated reserve in Canada. Currently Six Nations reserve makes up less than 5% of the total land promised to them in the 1784 Haldimand Proclamation, which sets out 6 miles on either side of the Grand River from source to mouth for them and their posterity to enjoy forever. Six Nations territory is some of the most highly developed lands in Canada, The cumulative effects of this intense development has contributed to significant environmental degradation and, as a result, Six Nations has experienced severe impacts on our ability to exercise our Aboriginal and Treaty Rights that are not only set out in the treaties themselves, but are also recognized and affirmed in Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

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