By MPP Toby Barrett  

National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day – Sept. 19 – will take on a new meaning this fall. For many, there will be a renewed emphasis on wild food in their diets.  

With the suspension of activities, many families have turned to the outdoors for entertainment and fun. Sales of fishing rods, boats and many outdoor items have jumped. It reached the point many retailers had a hard time stocking basic rod and reel combos.  

Although there aren’t Ontario statistics yet, many American jurisdictions saw spikes in spring turkey hunting.   

The cause of this return to nature is families having more free time, but it’s also driven by the need to put food in the freezer for a winter with many unknowns. There are indications of rising food prices – and even predictions of shortages.   

As additional people join the outdoors community, it’s important they are aware of the vital role conservation organizations play. Now more than ever these organizations need help with restrictions impacting their traditional fundraising methods.  

The fundraising banquet has long been the mainstay of these organizations. Along with a great dinner, they feature raffles, silent auctions and live auctions. I and my staff have been able to attend most.  

Haldimand and Norfolk have been at the forefront of this movement. After the first Canadian fundraising dinner in Tillsonburg in 1974, Ducks Unlimited Canada’s first chapter moved to Port Rowan, where it remains. Over the years, it has raised hundreds of thousands for conservation.  A dinner to support the reintroduction of the wild turkey was held in Norfolk County, before the establishment of the National Wild Turkey Federation in Canada, and then the Canadian Wild Turkey Federation. Although small compared to the GTA, our residents have made the local chapters of these organizations amongst their top fundraisers.  

The pandemic meant the suspension of large gatherings, including the fundraising banquet. These organizations have turned to other methods, such as online auctions and raffles, but the impact is still being felt. If you are a conservationist, visit their social media accounts to support these efforts.   

Locally, fish and game clubs have made a difference. Dunnville, Caledonia and Long Point clubs come to mind. They have also been impacted, with activities and fundraising suspended due to pandemic measures.  

Even government conservation measures have been impacted. For the first time in decades, spring waterfowl counts didn’t happen. Invasive species control efforts were delayed or put off to another year.   

We are heartened to see the continuation of phragmites control efforts around Long Point Bay. Unfortunately, the Long Point Ratepayers Association’s Rockin’ the Point fundraiser didn’t occur. Instead, the group is asking for donations to assist with paying for this valuable work. Contact them at info@longpointrpa.com for details.  

Part of me believes the pandemic is harkening back to earlier days where living off the land was a fact of life. In those days, canning the fruits and vegetables of summer was a part of preparing for winter. The summer’s catch and fall’s harvest of game and fowl were another element of the food supply.   

Perhaps this return to the land and spending more time with family is one positive that came out of the pandemic.  

Toby Barrett is MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk