SWNaEC-logo-v2As we look forward to 2016, it seems only yesterday that St Williams Nursery and Ecology Centre began its mission to help restore Ontario’s natural biodiversity.  It was 2010 and that year was designated by the United Nations as the Year of Biodiversity, so it was a fitting time to start our exciting new nursery and conservation enterprise.  New beginnings are always exciting and we looked forward with anticipation to the potential of this new and exciting endeavour.  We are now half way through the UN Decade on Biodiversity and as we consider the work still to be done, it is a good time to reflect on the challenges we have overcome and our many accomplishments.

In the past five years, St Williams Nursery and Ecology Centre has transformed a conventional forestry seedling nursery into the premier biodiversity conservation business in Ontario, now growing over 500 native plant species, preserving and restoring Ontario wild-type genetic native plants for now and future generations.  We have assembled a highly qualified and dedicated team of scientists and horticultural experts who are engaged in a wide range of conservation efforts.  These efforts include systematic collection, documentation and management of wild-type native plant materials for conservation across the province.  We now produce millions of individual native plants (trees, shrubs, wildflowers, grasses and sedges, and ferns) as well as providing native seed mixes for conservation and restoration projects throughout the province.  Our conservation partners for whom we have provided our products and services now number in the thousands, from individual landowners to conservation authorities, schools, government agencies (Ministry of Transportation, Natural Resources and Forestry, Environment Canada to name a few), non-government conservation organizations such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada, ReForest London, and Evergreen Brickworks, to businesses and corporations large and small.  We are currently working with municipalities to help restore biodiversity and have established ongoing supply contracts with a number of cities including Mississauga, Sudbury, and Ottawa.  We have also worked on major new highway projects in Ontario (407East, 404 Extension and Herb Gray Parkway) to bring improved biodiversity management to our road networks.  Our quality source-identified plants and seed are the foundation for many biodiversity conservation programs throughout the province and we take pride in the fact that we have set a new standard of commitment for the production of true Ontario wild-type plant materials in the province’s nursery industry.  It is these Ontario wild-type genetics that represent Ontario’s native plant biodiversity and we remain committed to our cause of preserving and protecting this important ecological heritage.

Our business has grown at a time when many are becoming concerned about preserving our natural biodiversity.  This is reflected in government initiatives such as Ontario’s Biodiversity Strategy.   Going forward, conservation of Ontario’s biodiversity would benefit significantly from the development of appropriate regulations around the sale and labelling of native plants and seed to support the cause of biodiversity conservation.  Too often we are competing against plants and seed that are being imported into the province and sold by others in the industry as Ontario “natives”.  This along with the introduction and spread of invasive species remain some of the biggest challenges to biodiversity conservation.    We will continue to work hard to provide true Ontario native plants and seed and to educate our conservation partners (you our customers) about the importance of choosing true wild- type genetics.  We look forward to working together with you to help protect and restore Ontario’s biodiversity in 2016 and beyond.

Yours in conservation,

Allan Arthur, M.Sc.
President and Senior Ecologist
St Williams Nursery and Ecology Centre