Wallaceburg area man fined $200K for damaging wildlife habitat along Lake St. Clair

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St. Luke's Marsh, which is now owned by Ducks Unlimited.

A Wallaceburg area man will pay $200,000 to Duck Unlimited after admitting to endangering wildlife by building dikes in a significant wetland along Lake St. Clair.

The Ministry of Natural Resources says in January 2015, Jean Marie Laprise constructed a dike system to remove three acres of marsh habitat. He also created other partitions within the 300 acres of wetlands – formerly the St. Luke’s Hunt Club – which he purchased along Lake St. Clair.

There are several hunt clubs along Lake St. Clair in Dover Township. St. Luke’s was considered one of the most two most significant wetlands in all of Ontario.

Laprise – in an interview with The Wallaceburg Courier Press in 2015 – admitted he might turn some of the property into farmland, although he maintained at least 50 per cent of the property would remain wetlands. The price of farmland was rising at the time and the land along Lake St. Clair is considered among the best land in Ontario for growing vegetables.

But both duck hunting guides and Ducks Unlimited voiced concern about the plan.

The removal of the three acres of wetland, says the MNR, impacted the endangered Spotted Turtle, and the Blanding’s Turtle and the Least Bittern, which are both listed as threatened.

Charges were laid two-and-a-half years later and the case was resolved Dec. 7 with Laprise’s guilty plea.

He was fined $200,000 with the money going to Ducks Unlimited Canada which protects and creates wetlands for wildlife.

In November 2020, Ducks Unlimited – which hoped to buy the property when it first went up for sale years earlier – purchased the nearly 500 acres of the marshland property to make sure it remained a wetland.