Chatham-Kent got a nice Earth Day present April 22.
The day marked the official announcement of the gift of a 24-acre parcel of Carolinian forest to the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority.
Ken Ashton, who donated the Selton Line property, hopes the land will serve as a living legacy to the Ashton family, who have lived in East Kent for some 150 years.
“It a way for the family name to live on,” Ashton said while walking the land. “I thought it was a good thing to do.”
Ashton also wanted to honour his father Lawrence who was Kent County’s Warden in 1985. Lawrence, who passed away in 2006, also served as Reeve of Orford Township.
The elder Ashton, a politically active friend of the environment also served on the board of the LTVCA.
Ashton said his father tried to be proactive and the family was one of the first to adopt no-till practices on their cash crop operation.
LTVCA Lands and Services Conservation Manager Randall Van Wagner said he welcomed the addition of the Ashton property, adding there are unique species within the plot, including butternut trees.
The name of the new conservation area, located east of Delaware Nation, a few kilometres from the Thames River, hasn’t been decided upon. Ashton is hoping for Ashton Conservation Woodlot.
At age 69, Ashton is gearing down his agricultural operation, but says his nephew is continuing the family’s agricultural tradition and will be working the land adjacent to the new conservation woodlot.
Ashton said he believes conserving land is important, especially for wildlife.
“I know the value of trees,” he added. “But we’re not conservation saints. I wouldn’t want to paint it in that light. I’ve cut down my fair share of trees.”
When asked if he supports woodlot preservation in Chatham-Kent, Ashton said he would like to see some type of incentive program for farmers, which could include ending property taxation on forested areas.
“Farmers need something to make it (saving trees) worthwhile,” he added. “They should be compensated in some way.”
The LTVCA and its many community partners have ambitious plans for 2021, aiming to plant 85,000 trees, 42 acres of tallgrass prairie and develop 20 acres of wetlands.