Letters of Intent now being accepted for the Weston Family Soil Health Initiative

Loss of biodiversity on agricultural lands is occurring at an unprecedented rate due to agricultural intensification and habitat loss. But research shows that Canada’s agricultural lands offer an immediate and large-scale opportunity to mitigate further biodiversity losses, and by promoting and increasing soil organic matter, we can help support more adaptive and resilient agricultural lands.

The Weston Family Foundation is proud to be launching its first Weston Family Soil Health Initiative to expand the adoption of ecologically-based beneficial management practices (BMPs) that increase soil organic matter in order to improve biodiversity and resiliency in agricultural lands.

The initiative’s goal will be supported by the Foundation’s longer-term strategy which is comprised of catalyzing and shepherding ‘winning approaches’, to ultimately scaling projects with the greatest opportunities for impact.

Important dates

Information Webinars: April 18, 2022 @ 1 pm ET (register here) and April 25, 2022 @ 1 PM ET (register here)

Letter Of Intent deadline: May 11, 2022 @ 8:00 PM ET / 5:00 PM PT

Proposal deadline (for invited applicants): July 18, 2022 @ 8:00 PM ET / 5:00 PM PT*

Anticipated award announcement: Early October 2022*

*Subject to change

Fore more information about the Weston Family Soil Health Initiative, please visit our Grant Calls page and follow us on Twitter @westonfamilyfdn

Weston Family Soil Health Initiative

The Weston Family Foundation invites interested applicants to submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) to the Weston Family Soil Health Initiative; an initiative designed to promote and increase soil organic matter on agricultural lands in Canada.


Program Overview

Loss of biodiversity on agricultural lands is occurring at an unprecedented rate due to agricultural intensification and habitat loss. Research shows that Canada’s agricultural lands offer an immediate and large-scale opportunity to mitigate further biodiversity losses, and by promoting and increasing soil organic matter, we can help support more adaptive and resilient agricultural lands.

Goal: The initiative seeks to expand the adoption of ecologically-based beneficial management practices (BMPs) that increase soil organic matter in order to improve biodiversity and resiliency on agricultural lands across Canada. The LOIs will allow the Foundation to understand the opportunities and comprehensive project ideas that currently exist, in order to build an informed framework for the proposal phase.

The initiative’s goal will be supported by the Foundation’s longer-term strategy which is comprised of catalyzing and shepherding ‘winning approaches’, to ultimately scaling projects with the greatest opportunities for impact. Successful applicants who meet the defined selection criteria within the LOI will be invited to submit full proposals.

Strategy: The initiative aims to increase the number of agricultural producers using BMPs that are scientifically proven to help increase soil organic matter on farmland. Through multi-year investments, the initiative aims to promote a behavioural shift towards the wider acceptance and adoption of the following BMPs:

  • Cover Cropping;
  • Nutrient Management (4R Principles); and
  • Crop Diversification/ Rotation.

Project Eligibility: Our strategy is designed to test which of the following approaches maximize the adoption rate of the desired BMPs in an efficient and scalable manner. Eligible approaches include:

  1. Incentivizing Stewardship: Projects which incentivize producers to adopt one or more of the identified BMPs (e.g. reverse auctions, community-based models).
  2. Outreach/Education and Training: Projects which increase access to, share technical knowledge of, and train producers on the identified BMPs.
  3. Sustainability Certification/Standard: A project which aims to establish a sustainable farmland management certification/standard at scale.

Funding: The timeframe for this ‘spark phase’ will run 3-5 years in length with a total funding envelope of $10M.

Application Process:

  1. Confirm intent to apply by emailing conservation@westonfoundation.ca
  2. Submit a completed Letter of Intent (see template below) and send to conservation@westonfoundation.ca by May 11, 2022 at 8:00 PM ET / 5:00 PM PT.

Program Documents

LOI Guidelines

LOI Template

FAQs

Important Dates

Information Webinars: April 18, 2022 @ 1 pm ET (register here) and April 25, 2022 @ 1 PM ET (register here)
Letter Of Intent deadline: May 11, 2022 @ 8:00 PM ET / 5:00 PM PT
Proposal deadline (for invited applicants): July 18, 2022 @ 8:00 PM ET / 5:00 PM PT*
Anticipated award announcement: Early October 2022*

*Subject to change

Project Roundup: The Great Lakes Challenge

When our Foundation connected with non-profit organization Swim Drink Fish in 2017 to launch the Great Lakes Challenge, we did so to champion projects with several key goals in mind.

As part of a larger commitment to protect freshwater that included a separate Nature Conservancy of Canada initiative on Lakes Superior and Erie, we wanted the Challenge projects to focus on conservation of Great Lakes waters, wetlands, and key tributaries. We wanted to invest in efforts that would make major, sustainable impacts over the long term but start delivering results in the short term, alleviating threats such as polluted water and loss of habitat for species at risk. We wanted to create tangible outcomes that the citizens of the Great Lakes could recognize, experience and enjoy — building on the idea that people who are connected to the water are more likely to protect it.

Thanks to the dedication, drive and vision of many, these goals have been achieved.

Click here for the full story.

The Great Lakes Challenge

When our Foundation connected with non-profit organization Swim Drink Fish in 2017 to launch the Great Lakes Challenge, we did so to champion projects with several key goals in mind.

As part of a larger commitment to protect freshwater that included a separate Nature Conservancy of Canada initiative on Lakes Superior and Erie, we wanted the Challenge projects to focus on conservation of Great Lakes waters, wetlands, and key tributaries. We wanted to invest in efforts that would make major, sustainable impacts over the long term but start delivering results in the short term, alleviating threats such as polluted water and loss of habitat for species at risk. We wanted to create tangible outcomes that the citizens of the Great Lakes could recognize, experience and enjoy — building on the idea that people who are connected to the water are more likely to protect it.

Thanks to the dedication, drive and vision of many, these goals have been achieved.

In all, our Foundation provided $2.25 million to the Great Lakes Challenge, with an additional $9 million leveraged from other sources. These grants funded nine individual initiatives, resulting in 22 kilometres of fish habitat restored, 37 hectares of coastal wetland protected and 43,000 plants added to the Great Lakes shoreline. The collective work continues our Foundation’s long history of conservation work in Canada, protecting and restoring water, forests, and farmland critical for ecosystem health and biodiversity.

From the beginning of the Challenge, the team at Swim Drink Fish worked closely with municipalities to pinpoint projects that not only addressed areas of need but also created opportunities to inspire and transform other Great Lakes communities.

One of the first projects to reach completion — the revitalization of Breakwater Park in Kingston, Ont. — brought new life to an existing public space, further strengthening the connection between the community and Lake Ontario. In the planning process, project leads focused on both the lake and the adjacent land, restoring fish habitat and shoreline as well as adding accessible pathways and seating along the waterfront. Finally, the team built a new pedestrian bridge and created a one-of-a-kind swimming spot — Canada’s first urban deep-water swimming pier.

Named after late Tragically Hip singer and Kingston native Gord Downie, the Gord Edgar Downie Pier has quickly become a popular community hub and an important way for locals to experience the Great Lake that is theirs to value and enjoy.

Further south, another Challenge project looked to rehabilitate one of the Great Lakes system’s most degraded areas. Located in the Detroit River, near the mouth of St. Clair Lake and just north of Lake Erie, Peche Island is an important refuge for species at risk in a globally significant freshwater ecosystem. But boat traffic in the river has eroded it, threatening some of the last surviving habitat in a Great Lakes Area of Concern — experts say the river has already lost more than 95 per cent of its coastal wetlands.

As part of the Great Lakes Challenge, the City of Windsor and the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup worked to solve the problem of disappearing habitat by creating new habitat from scratch. After some pandemic-related delays, crews began building a series of small islands in the river. The work involved the use of cranes on floating barges and many tons of rock, but the resulting “rock reefs” will help protect the island and create calm water necessary for fish spawning and the growth of aquatic vegetation to promote biodiversity.

As a final step, a community stewardship program now teaches locals and visitors to identify at-risk fish species such as lake sturgeon and Northern madtom. This will build a greater number of knowledgeable stewards and caretakers of the revitalized waterway.

Not all of the Challenge initiatives were quite so large in scope. The Copeland Creek project in Tiny, Ont., created a major impact by focusing efforts in a small area.

The issue at hand in this case was an outdated culvert under a bridge where the creek crossed paths with the Trans Canada Trail. The culvert choked off the free flow of the creek, creating barriers for fish species such as the brook trout and eliminating habitat for migrating birds. So crews removed the culvert, stabilized and naturalized the banks underneath the bridge to prevent erosion, planted new vegetation along the creek, and installed signage to educate all those passing by along the trail.

This created a wide swath of positive outcomes, from rejuvenating the creek so it can flow freely into Lake Huron’s Severn Sound to providing a case study for how recreational and conservation efforts can co-exist.

Other projects included the restoration of public swimming access in Frenchman’s Bay and the replacement of hardened shoreline once dominated by a former coal-fired power plant in Mississauga, Ont., to create new wetland habitat.

All told, the nine projects reminded us how important communities are to the health and revitalization of the Great Lakes. They also demonstrated a successful model for other revitalization projects and delivered major impact by improving biodiversity and connecting more Canadians to these irreplaceable bodies of water.

Canadian City Parks Report

Three years ago, our Foundation supported Park People to fill an information gap by gathering, analyzing and sharing data and stories about Canada’s city parks system. Since that time, the annual Canadian City Parks Report has become an invaluable tool for municipal staff and volunteers to highlight challenges, share best practices, and adapt to the changing needs of city parks across the country.

The 2021 Canadian City Parks Report was launched in early July featuring information from 32 cities across Canada. It also includes the results of a survey with nearly 3,500 participants who shared what parks have meant to them during the pandemic.

To read the 2021 Canadian City Parks Report, please visit parkpeople.ca

The Meadoway

In 2013, our Foundation worked with Park People to launch the Weston Family Parks Challenge—a $5M initiative to encourage innovative and sustainable city parks projects. Twenty-six projects were supported, including the successful Scarborough Butterfly Trail, an innovative trail and meadow restoration project in the Gatineau Hydro Corridor.

In April 2018, our Foundation, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), and the City of Toronto jointly announced a ground-breaking city-building initiative to transform 16 kilometres of underutilized land into one of Canada’s largest urban linear parks. Expanding on the Scarborough Butterfly Trail, The Meadoway will restore biodiversity, connect Canadians to nature, and act as a pilot for restoration projects across the country.

Stretching from the Don River Ravine in downtown Toronto to Rouge National Urban Park, The Meadoway will become a vibrant expanse of urban greenspace and meadowlands as it develops over the next three years. It will connect four ravines, 15 parks, 34 neighbourhoods, over 500 acres and more than 1,000 diverse species of flora and fauna. The Meadoway will connect schools, businesses, hospitals, and underused parks and trails across Scarborough for the benefit of locals and visitors alike.

Our Foundation has pledged up to $25 million to help Toronto realize The Meadoway. Read more about its progress at themeadoway.ca.

Weston Family Prairie Grasslands Initiative

The Weston Family Prairie Grasslands Initiative is a five-year collaboration to celebrate, steward and protect one of Canada’s most ecologically valuable and threatened ecosystems. Nearly $25M has been committed to five organizations to accelerate the implementation of sustainable practices and achieve landscape-level impact: Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Saskatchewan Stock Growers Foundation, Grasslands National Park (Parks Canada) and Meewasin Valley Authority.

Each organization brings additional funding and in-kind donations for a total of $70M going toward this collaboration over the next five years. The Initiative aims to improve species-at-risk habitat, enable wildlife movement, expand the amount of land protection in the prairies and ultimately increase long-term ecological and economic stability. Dozens of partners will support this work that will affect nearly four million acres of priority native grasslands in one of the largest conservation efforts in Canadian history.

For more information, please refer to the links below:

Media Release

FAQs

Quotes

Megan McCafferty

Megan McCafferty joined the Weston Family Foundation in September of 2019. She is a member of the Operations team and oversees the Foundation’s team of Grants Coordinators, while supporting the grants process for several programs and providing administrative support, including assistance with budgeting and financial reporting.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Megan worked as an Administrative Assistant at KPMG LLP. Previous to that, she worked as a Programs Administrative Officer with The Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Megan holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Development Studies from the University of Waterloo and a Diploma in General Social Work Studies from Renison University College.

Meghan MacDougall

Meghan MacDougall joined the Weston Family Foundation in 2016 as Program Director of Northern Science and Knowledge, before moving to her current role in 2019. She is responsible for the oversight of all programming related to Environmental Stewardship.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Meghan spent over a decade working with a variety of state and federal agencies in the US, managing conservation programs for critical wildlife habitat and farmland, and led strategic investments to help preserve and enhance open space for the State of Colorado.

Meghan received her Bachelor of Science degree at Michigan State University.