Biospheres Day on the Hill 2023

MPs from All Federal Parties join in celebrating Canadian Biospheres

In a time seemingly tainted by divisiveness, an October 30, 2023 Parliament Hill event celebrating Canada’s biosphere regions stands out as one drawing the support of MPs from all federal parties – Conservative, Green, NDP, Liberal, and Bloc Québécois.

The All-Party Climate Caucus co-hosted this non-partisan “Day on the Hill” reception with the Canadian Biosphere Reserves Association (CBRA) to recognize the collaborations and project work in our country’s nineteen UNESCO-designated Biospheres.  Over 40 federal ridings include Biosphere Regions within their boundaries, and MPs from many of those ridings attended the reception. Guest speakers included the Secretary General of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, Yves-Gérard Méhou-Loko.

The Long Point Biosphere Region Foundation, an active member of the CBRA, was well represented at the event with Long Point Conservation Director Sarah Emons and Board member Janet Dassinger attending.  The CBRA not only serves as the national voice for Canadian biospheres, but also supports capacity building and knowledge sharing on biodiversity, conservation, climate action, reconciliation, and sustainable development.

In talking to MPs, the Long Point representatives and their CBRA colleagues stressed the need for secure long-term funding to build on successful conservation pilot projects and bring value to Canadians.  They noted that such funding would magnify the impact of tax dollars by levering in-kind and other partner contributions to sustainable development in regions like Norfolk County and the Long Point Biosphere.

The CBRA and the All-Party Climate Caucus organized the Parliament Hill event as part of the activities leading up to the November 2nd International Day for Biosphere Reserves.

(House of Commons Image)

“Very Inspiring … proud to live in Norfolk County!”

Sold-Out Crowd attends A Priority Place Film Premiere

Close to 150 people turned out on Friday November 10th (2023) to celebrate the premiere of A Priority Place, a full-length documentary film on the drive to preserve biodiversity and a sustainable way of life in the Long Point Biosphere Region. Many attendees called the film “inspiring” adding that the dedicated people and projects that the documentary features make one “proud to live in Norfolk County.”

The film showing at the Capitol 33 event centre in Delhi followed a cocktail reception, special announcements, and an introduction by Gregg McLachlin, founder of WorkCabin Creative, an award-winning journalist and the film’s producer.

Film Producer Gregg McLachlan

“In my work, I have seen many impressive conservation projects and committed people across Ontario and elsewhere,” McLachlan told the crowd. “But I’m particularly happy to help share the stories of enthusiasm , partnerships, and impact in the place where I live.”

The film’s release marks the Long Point/Walsingham Forest area’s 5th anniversary as the first federally designated “Priority Place” in Ontario. The 2018 Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) designation made the region eligible for special funding under the Pan-Canadian Approach to Transforming Species at Risk Conservation.  A long-established UNESCO World Biosphere, the region gained the “Priority Place” status in recognition of its unique stretch of Carolinian Forest, habitat for many endangered species, and conservation community with its highly collaborative approach to restoration, road mortality mitigation, invasive species eradication, and nature education.

“The passion, commitment, and contributions of the people featured in the film really gives you hope for our very special place in the world,” said Tom Via, Chair of the Long Point Biosphere Foundation. “It’s truly uplifting.”

In his remarks, Via commended the Priority Place partners as well as Cynthia Brink, Biosphere manager of the project. He also announced that the funds raised from the evening would support Biosphere outreach and student education projects including the establishment of the Isabella Brink-Read Bursary. “The Bella Bursary” will support Norfolk County students attending the annual Ontario Nature Youth Summit for Mother Nature. Via told the audience that the Biosphere Foundation would soon be signing a collaboration agreement with a major Ontario university to bring a new dimension to research and land-based education in the region.

ECCC supported the production of A Priority Place to showcase the local conservation work, which involved a host of government and non-government partner organizations celebrated at the film premiere (see Priority Place Partners).

Many local businesses also pitched in to make the evening a special event with raffle prizes and gift basket items: they are Fancy Farmerettes, Haskett’s Hooch, Hometown Brewing Co., Cider Keg Farm Market, Apple Hill Lavender, Meuse Brewing Co. , Charlotteville Brewing Co. , Sayza Hot Yoga, Norfolk Juice Co., Wishbone Brewing Co. , and Bonnieheath Estate Winery and Lavender Farm.

A Priority Place will be submitted to film festivals, shared in excerpts on social media, and distributed for educational purposes.

For more information contact:

Film Trailer below.

Youth Award named for Area Teen

The Long Point World Biosphere Foundation has established a new award program to support Norfolk
County students in attending the annual Ontario Nature Youth Summit.  The award will be the focus for fundraising through special events and around GivingTuesday (November 28th) this year (2023).

The program and fund will be named the Isabella Brink-Read Youth Summit award or “the Bella Bursary” in
memory of a fifteen-year-old Ancaster student who died tragically in July 2021 as a result of injuries sustained in a
road mishap earlier in the year.

Isabella, who was known for her love of sports, art, music, and animals, was much loved by her family, which has strong ties to Norfolk County. Her mother Cynthia Brink is the Long Point Biosphere manager of outreach and education.

“Though Bella did not have the opportunity to pursue her dreams and to realize her full potential, the award will help other young people do so,” said Tom Via, Biosphere Chair. “By participating in the Youth Summit, Norfolk County students will build leadership skills and gain experience needed to contribute to a sustainable future.”

The Ontario Nature Youth Summit brings young people around Bella’s age (fourteen-twenty years old) together
for a weekend of nature exploration, environmental learning, and outdoor fun each September.

To donate scan QR code or click here.

2023 Annual General Meeting

Celebrates Conservation Successes of Past Year

Directors and members of the Long Point Biosphere Region Foundation met on Wednesday October 25, 2023, at the Port Dover Community Centre for the organization’s Annual General Meeting (AGM.  The meeting celebrated a successful year of program work and saw the approval of financial statements and the election of directors. In a first for the Biosphere, the meeting offered fully operational hybrid participation giving members the option of in-person and online attendance.

Our project managers Cynthia Brink and Sarah Emons had the opportunity to highlight program work related to  road mortality mitigation along the Long Point Causeway, the visit of the Parliamentary Secretary of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) to the region,  the Biosphere’s collaboration with the Mississaugas  of the Credit Moccasin Identifier Project,  efforts to connect local students with nature, and other initiatives to promote conservation as described in our recent newsletters.

The membership also heard that the board has been busy working on governance improvements and the management of its financial statements to meet new provincial rules, a herculean task.  It also required us to re-evaluate the prior year’s financial statements to come into compliance with the legislation. Our membership thus approved the financial statements for the last two fiscal years, and appointed Millards Chartered Professional Accountants to perform an “engagement review” for the coming fiscal year.

“We are grateful to Millards – especially our auditor Alice Petheram –  all of the hard work and diligence in this exercise,” said Tom Via, the Long Point Biosphere Chair, noting that many people at the Biosphere helped in meeting the standard of the review engagement. “We’re committed to sound financial management as it underpins accountability and our ability to serve our partners and funders.”

The meeting also saw the election of Tom Via and Michael VanSickle for three-year terms to the Biosphere board.  Following the membership meeting, the Board met to approve the officers for the coming year: Tom Via will continue as Chair, Paula Boutis has taken on the role of Secretary and Vice-Chair, Michael VanSickle is continuing as the Treasurer, and Brian Craig will continue as President. You can read more about our directors and program and operations team on our website.

We are looking forward to another terrific year and are grateful for the ongoing support of our membership.

Fall 2023 Newsletter is out

The Fall 2023 Issue of the Biosphere Beacon – Official Newsletter of the Long Point Biosphere Region is out!  In addition to messages from the Chair and President, we have information on upcoming events and stories on:

  • Parliamentary Secretary’s visit to Long Point
  • Georgian Bay’s Ganawenim Meshkiki’s funding of Long Point Road Ecology
  • Over 50 Area Schools joining Project Feederwatch
  • Nature Canada’s renewal of funding for Long Point Programs
  • New – The Isabella Brink-Read Youth Summit Award

Click here for full newsletter

Georgian Bay’s Ganawenim Meshkiki funds Road Ecology in Long Point Biosphere

Ganawenim Meshkiki, the Georgian Bay-based First Nation organization dedicated to funding community-level environmental initiatives, has committed $50K to support road ecology work in the Long Point Biosphere Region.  This constitutes a significant boost to our capacity to undertake new projects and to protect turtles, snakes, and species at risk in our area.

“This support is testimony to the respect and skills of Kari Gunson, our new Road Ecology Manager,” said Biosphere President Brian Craig. “We are a very fortunate to have her join our team this past year.”

Kari, Principal of Eco-Kare International, a landscape ecologist, and an author,  has worked on road ecology projects with both large and small animals in North America and Mexico.  She is recognized as the primary road ecologist for planning, designing, and monitoring road-wildlife mitigation on a provincial and municipal level across Ontario.

Ganawenim Meshkiki, pronounced “ge-NEH-weh-nim maish-kih-keh” is the Trustee of funds received under the terms of permits issued for the Henvey Inlet Wind energy initiative.  “Ganawenim” is Anishnaabe for “defend, watch over, protect:” “Meshkiki” means “medicines, remedies, the things that cure or correct ills.”

Nature Canada renews funding for Long Point Naturehood programs

The Long Point Biosphere Foundation was delighted to sign an agreement with Nature Canada this summer (August 2023) to sustain the Naturehood program in our area for another year.

Naturehood is actually a suite of programs that connect young people from all walks of life to the natural heritage of Norfolk County.  The programs give young people and their families an opportunity to learn about the importance of natural wildlife areas in the Long Point Biosphere.

“Many of us know about the major natural sites like Backus Woods, the Big Creek Wildlife area, and Long Point in our region,” says program manager Cynthia Brink. “They are very important, but Naturehood also introduces young people to the vital role played by small ponds, woodlots, and lesser-known elements of our natural surroundings.”

The programs also include field trips to the Long Point Bird Observatory where students witness bird banding at one of the most exciting and renowned places for bird studies on the continent.

Nature Canada’s contribution of $18K to our region’s Naturehood programs calls for matching funds and in-kind support, and we always welcome help in meeting this challenge. For more info contact

 Over 50 Area Schools join Project Feederwatch

Do you like to build Bird Feeders?

Long Point Biosphere Foundation, in collaboration with Birds Canada, has opened the door for students from fifty-three (53) area elementary schools to participate in Project Feederwatch, an international collaboration to inventory bird populations.

The Biosphere’s financial donation will help Birds Canada and its partner Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology cover the cost of materials and other support for students who take part in the project, counting and reporting birds near their homes.  FeederWatch asks that students and other participants regularly record the birds they observe from a specific vantage point and at a specific count site over the winter (from November 1 to April 29).  Bird counts are then recorded and reported online to Project
Feederwatch.  Everyone is welcome to join.

“You don’t need to be an expert birder,” says Birds Canada. “And you don’t need to make a huge time commitment – Even if you count birds only once during the season, that is a helpful snapshot of the birds in your location.”

Count sites should have food and water that attracts and supports the birds in a sustained way.  So, it’s great when students can be equipped with bird feeders whether they are donated, or students learn to build their own.  If you think you can help in this regard, please let us know at

Parliamentary Secretary visits Long Point, celebrates nearly $5 M investment in Region

On August 22, 2023, Julie Dabrusin, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), visited Norfolk County meeting with representatives of the Long Point Biosphere Region, Birds Canada, and the Canadian Wildlife Service.  She toured Long Point to see the impact of the Government of Canada’s investment of some $4.8 million in preserving biodiversity in our very special place.

“I was reminded today, that as Canadians, we are so lucky to be surrounded by so much natural beauty,” Ms. Dabrusin said. “Great things can happen when partners come together to support the environment, and this is especially true in Long Point.”

The Parliamentary Secretary heard presentations on road ecology, took part in birding, learned of our support of the Moccasin Identifier project, saw the special Biosphere mural at Long Point Eco-Adventures, and, with obvious glee, helped in the release of turtle hatchlings into the Long Point Bay marshes.

“It was a great opportunity to not only brief the Parliamentary Secretary on the current state of the Biosphere, but to also explore opportunities for expanding our robust partnership with ECCC and through the Priority Place initiative,” said Long Point Biosphere Chair Tom Via.  “A BIG thank you goes out to Birds Canada and Long Point Biosphere team members Sarah Emons, Cynthia Brink, Kari Gunson, and Andrew Couturier for their outstanding efforts in showcasing conservation work in our region.”

For more information on Ms. Dabusin’s visit and government support for the Biosphere and our partners in the region click here

Fall Conference – Support from S.M. Blair Foundation

Students, Sustainability, Conservation Careers
to feature at Biosphere’s 2023 Conference – November 3rd

This year’s Long Point Biosphere Research and Conservation Conference, the 11th annual gathering,  will include a new dimension aimed at encouraging local students to consider post-secondary education and careers in sustainability, environmental research, and the preservation of biodiversity.

“Once again, we’re looking forward to informative presentations on research important to Norfolk County and our region,” says conference organizer Cynthia Brink, noting the strong response to the call for papers. “But this year we’re also introducing a parallel program of exhibits on related careers and education opportunities at colleges and universities.”

Bus transportation for Norfolk area high school students wanting to attend the event will be arranged thanks, in part, to generous financial support from the S. M. Blair Family Foundation.  The Blair Foundation encourages education, training, and research careers. Its donation of over $5K to the Biosphere will also facilitate student participation in full-day outdoor activities throughout the year.

The Conference will take place Friday 3 November 2023 from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm at the Port Dover Community Centre, 801 Saint George Street, Port Dover.  Sponsorship opportunities and Tickets are still available ($45/$30 for students, lunch included).  Check the  Long Point Biosphere website for registration or contact

Scroll to Top