Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists celebrate two founding members

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists celebrate two founding members as “MVFN Champions for Nature” at 21 st AGM

by Pauline Donaldson

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN), an Ontario Nature Network group promoting knowledge and stewardship of the natural world, held their 21st Annual General Meeting (AGM) at Union Hall in the welcome heat of May 21st. The evening began with a social hour and silent auction to benefit the Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary, and was capped off by a beautiful wildlife slide presentation by Mark Garbutt.

Champion Carleton

Recipient of an MVFN Champion for Nature award at MVFN’s AGM, Neil Carleton is seen here with nature displays at MVFN’s Art of Being Green festival booth. Photo: Pauline Donaldson

A highlight of the evening was presentation of MVFN Champion for Nature Awards to two of MVFN’s founding members who are truly outstanding champions for the natural world in Ontario’s Mississippi Valley. The first award was to Neil Carleton, naturalist, community volunteer and elementary school teacher from Almonte, for his contribution as founding member of MVFN and in teaching local children and adults about the natural world. Carleton was an active member on MVFN’s first Board of Directors (BOD) – in the early years lobbying for environmental causes, monitoring rare birds, and leading groups in astronomy, geology and other outings. He was also instrumental in the recent establishment of Canada’s first municipal Geopark in Almonte. “Neil is one of those special individuals who combine passion with knowledge in teaching others about the natural world and the need to protect it,” stated club President McPhail in presenting the award. “He has influenced countless individuals in his role as a teacher in and outside the classroom. To make learning interesting he leaves no stones unturned.” An active member of MVFN, Neil continues to inspire others to take notice of the wonder of details in the natural world and in its conservation.Champion Bennett

Cliff Bennett (right) receives an MVFN Champion for Nature Award from MVFN President Mike McPhail (left) at MVFN’s AGM at Union Hall. Photo: Howard Robinson

A second Champion award was presented to MVFN founding member Cliff Bennett of Mississippi Mills who has served MVFN’s executive in various roles. Cliff Bennett is a canoeist, birder, former special education teacher and Councillor, and until very recently Eastern Region Director for Ontario Nature. Cliff was responsible for development of MVFN’s flagship Environmental Education Program (EEP) and is still coordinator of MVFN’s outdoor program of nature walks and canoe outings. Although Bennett was recipient of a 2006 award for Excellence in Environmental Conservation from the National Capital Region and a 2008 Conservation award from the Ottawa Field Naturalists, he stated the MVFN award was special because it was from the peers who inspire him to continue doing the activities for which he received the award. “Cliff’s passion as a naturalist is what shines through” said McPhail during the presentation ceremony. “It seems a bit of an understatement to say that Cliff is also an avid birder. Cliff your nomination is the result of your sustained commitment to protection of the environment over many decades and perhaps even more importantly for your influence on so many individuals to take a stand for nature as we go about our lives.” It was Bennett’s efforts which resulted in publication of MVFN’s successful Lanark County Canoe and Kayak Journeys in 2007 and the 2009 companion guide Lanark County Birding Journeys.

The AGM directors reports showcased recent club activities such as the From the Ground, Up lecture series and the many presentations made on climate change awareness to local councils within the Mississippi watershed this year by Howard Robinson and Cliff Bennett, who received a special thank you from Environmental Issues Chair Bill Slade for that work.

2009 agm Slade thanks climate change group

 Environmental Issues Chair Bill Slade (left) was pleased to formally thank Howard Robinson (middle) and Cliff Bennett (right)  for their hard work in delivering messages of climate change awareness to local councils. Photo: Pauline Donaldson

Photo 3 McPhail thanked at AGM

MVFN’s President Mike McPhail was presented with a copy of The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario in appreciation of three years leading the club. Photo: Howard Robinson

BOD nominations were also held. Stepping down after three productive years as MVFN’s President, Mike McPhail was presented with a copy of The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario from fellow board members. Joyce Clinton of Carleton Place was elected new President of MVFN. Newly appointed to MVFN’s executive were Janet McGinnis of Carleton Place as Vice-President and Alison Ball of Appleton. Brenda Boyd was appointed Chair of the Environmental Education Program and continues as representative to Ontario Nature. Other returning BOD members are Howard Robinson, Treasurer; Janet Fytche, Secretary; Bill Slade, Environmental Issues; Amelia Ah-You, Membership; Pauline Donaldson, Public Relations, and Franziska Von Rosen, MVFN Representative on the Community Stewardship Council of Lanark County.