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ACRE cruising, but more support needed to protect land

May 8th,2024 | Opinion

Board members at Action Chelsea for the Respect of the Environment (ACRE) were at odds over how many stolen leeks the organization has planted over the last year. 

ACRE president Stephen Woodley said it was 1,500, but board member Stephan Moresoli seemed to think it was closer to 4,000. The wild leeks were stolen from Gatineau Park and recovered in a sting operation by  MRC des Collines Police last year. 

What Woodley and Moresoli don’t disagree on, though, is how successful the environmental organization has been since it morphed into a land trust two years ago. 

The numbers speak for themselves. 

According to ACRE, the organization has acquired 10 properties – 358 acres of pristine greenspace that it intends to protect in perpetuity – worth $4.65 million. 

What’s even more impressive is how the community has backed this vital organization. ACRE has acquired these important properties because of the $1.6 million donated by community members. 

ACRE even hired a full-time program manager, Valeria Kuzivanova — a position made possible by an anonymous donation of $80K. Kuzivanova has been an integral part of ACRE’s recent initiatives, notably with the disease-resistant elm and butternut tree program, which saw the organization source scores of trees to be replanted in Chelsea forests. She’s been hosting information sessions and helping push the organization along from a public relations standpoint. 

However, besides saving land from development in the Hills, ACRE has become an integral voice in the fight against climate change and environmental protection. With swaths of development coming through Chelsea, ACRE has highlighted important ecological corridors that must be maintained to protect wildlife. They’ve been important leaders in calling out Chelsea’s environmental faults, whether it was turtles trapped in Farm Point or shoreline erosion at the Burnett water access – all important work that must continue. 

ACRE has been so successful that its story and model are being integrated into other organizations’ work. The Ward 2 Residents’ Association in Chelsea is looking at ACRE’s land-acquisition model to save the Meredith Forest from turning into a 20-home development. Conservation Cantley has been working with ACRE to gain knowledge and skills to help preserve 30 per cent of Cantley’s greenspace by 2030. 

But to do this work – and purchase more properties (three more are in the works right now) – ACRE will need more support and money. The organization also has its own ambitious plan to save 30 per cent of Chelsea’s greenspace by 2030 and, to do so, will need to preserve another 1,900 acres of land in Chelsea. While there’s still a ways to go, ACRE’s record provides the confidence that if anyone can do this, it’s them. 

So, keep those wallets open and those donations flowing. Your cash will also go toward things like planting trees, maintaining eco corridors for wildlife and helping ACRE members replant even more stolen leeks.

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