Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Endangered Species Act in Danger Caroline Schultz tells MVFN

Talking to Gaia, the Goddess of Earth

Lecture report by Jim Bendell

On Sept. 19th members of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists enjoyed a most memorable presentation “From our Backyards to the Boreal and Beyond” by Executive Director of Ontario Nature, Caroline Schultz, as a start to MVFN’s series Knowing and Caring Connects us with Nature. Ontario Nature is a large umbrella organization that identifies and protects wild species and spaces through conservation, education, research, and public engagement. This includes seeking funds and donations, enlisting volunteers, and taking action through: publications, public meetings, hard work, co-operating (when possible) with government and industry, lobbying governments, and taking court actions when wrong is done. The magazine “Ontario Nature” is its flagship publication. It is a charitable organization representing more than 30,000 members and supporters and 140 member groups (such as the MVFN) across Ontario. Moreover, the umbrella shares space with some 23 or more allied organizations. Staff in the divisions of Directors, Conservation and Science, Membership and Development, and Communications are all excellent in what they do and most have university degrees.

Schultz lecture Bennett

Schultz 2013 lecture

 

Top:  Caroline Schultz receives book and thanks from President Cliff Bennett. 

Bottom: “Nature needs clubs like yours and your local action,” said Schultz with this slide representing the link between Ontario Nature and MVFN. “We need you to be part of the collective voice [for nature conservation]”. This is particularly true with the current battle over the Endangered Species Act. Photos Pauline Donaldson

Schultz lecture panorama

Caroline Schultz, Executive Director of Ontario Nature made a powerful presentation to MVFN. Photo Pauline Donaldson

Caroline comes from Arnprior in the Ottawa Valley and was welcomed back by many younger members of the Club. Ms. Schultz developed a deep love of nature along the seashores of County Cork and County Dublin in Ireland where she spent much of her childhood. She later returned to Canada to stay, earning a graduate degree in Ecology from the University of Toronto and a Masters of Management specializing in voluntary sector leadership. Employment in a number of resource firms and environmental organizations including Bird Life International helped relate learning to reality; a useful skill in her present mandate. Young, enthusiastic, personable, and an excellent speaker she and Ontario Nature offer much good knowledge and hope and deserve attention and support.

If Ms. Schultz is not Gaia, perhaps we can call her Mother Nature for that is what the evening was about. She gave an impressive overview of the many and complex aspects of Nature that I can present only briefly here. Nature supports all life and our welfare depends upon its supply. For example, our Boreal Forests are part of the lungs of the world where oxygen is released and carbon dioxide retained to give the air we breathe. Our notions of beauty and truth stem from nature, and our health depends upon it. Surely we should learn about, from, and care for Nature.

We are rich in nature in Ontario compared to Canada and the world. As examples, Ontario contains much of the fresh water and most of the Boreal Forest of the world. Virtually all areas are watered and produce: tundra, conifer and broad-leafed forest, wetland, and treed savannah. Each supports a large biodiversity of plants and animals although all are impacted by man.

Ontario Nature (ON) has worked to identify and inventory all species of wild life and their habitats, recognize special features, and flag those in decline and danger of extinction. A huge task! Examples are the second Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas, and reaching 177,000 records for an Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas. Recognizing that plants and animals, as ourselves, need an adequate home or habitat to survive, ON has worked continuously to provide an enlarge nature reserves especially for special places and sensitive species. They give needed protection, space, resources, and connectivity. By 2005, ON had worked with others to obtain and protect 2.4 million hectares in 378 new parks, helped block development on the Oak Ridges Moraine, and in the establishment of Ontario’s 720,000 hectare Greenbelt. All are high achievements of ongoing work to establish ecological connectivity across Ontario and north and south through the Algonquin to Adirondacks Corridor.

A major accomplishment in 2007 was the passage of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) declared the best in the world. The Act was to identify endangered species and within a restricted period of time implement management plans to sustain them. More good work was done in education, especially of young. Ontario Nature is also “standing up for migratory birds” which Schultz explained are being killed in mass numbers when they crash into tall buildings in Toronto, especially those with reflective glass walls. With Ecojustice, they have taken landlords to court to force them to take mitigating measures, which can reduce mortality by 80%.

While Gaia may be pleased with what has been done there is much that should concern all about the state of Mother Nature. First is climate change. Much of Ontario could become dry grassland and desert. An older threat is the explosive growth of human populations. Most destructive impacts on Nature are caused by us through loss of habitat, consumption, wastes, pollution and pesticides. Our Ecological Footprint shows what we take from nature and return as wastes for our rich lifestyle. Ontario has the 4th largest ecological footprint in the world, with Canada as a whole being 8th. India has a footprint 9% that of Canada! To support our way of life to all people would take 4 planet earths and increasing demand!

Our impact on Nature shows in many ways especially in the decline in abundance and extinction of plants and animals. Since the age of dinosaurs never has the rate of extinction been so high – about 1,000 times or more the natural rate! There are 200 species of plants and animals classified as endangered in Ontario. One is the magnificent Woodland Caribou of the Boreal Forest displaced by logging. Another the American Eel, once throughout southern Ontario, now runs are reduced almost 100% by dams.

Clearly our Nature is diminished and the Endangered Species Act offered hope of recovery. But, unexpectedly, our Liberal Government, in an omnibus bill has proposed sweeping changes in the act that will reduce and weaken its power to save species! Land owners will be exempt and exemptions more freely given. For example, forest operations may avoid environmental constraints for 5 years. According to Ms. Schultz “our environmental protections have been gutted and will hurt Ontario’s most vulnerable species and precious habitats – the wild species you love and wild spaces where you find peace”. Gordon Miller, our Provincial Environmental Commissioner has echoed Ms. Schultz’s outrage on CBC radio and in the Ottawa Citizen. He notes Crown Lands may go to private organizations! Remedial plans for the endangered Snapping Turtle have not left the shelf, while it is hunted with a limit of 2/day. Ontario Nature, along with two other groups is now taking the government to court for “gutting the Endangered Species Act.”

As concerned citizens and naturalists we must act in all ways possible to correct the wrongs of the Government. Shultz told the MVFN audience “Nature needs Clubs like yours and your local action. We value when the grass roots get involved in big issues because then Clubs can use them to fight local battles. We need you to be part of the collective voice.” Write to the Premier and the Minister of Natural Resources. Support Ms. Schultz, Ontario Nature: 214 King Street West, Suite 612, Toronto, ON, M5H 3S6, phone 1-800-440-2366,

Ms. Schultz changed the focus of her talk from aspects in general to what you and I can do to enjoy and work for nature. Get “Ontario Nature”; the magazine for nature. The publication provides spectacular photography and outstanding writing. It covers all aspects of nature with articles by experts, and snapshots of important events such as the recent decline of pollinators including honey and native bees. Many pages discuss how to lessen our ecological footprint and enjoy a fuller, healthier life. One example is to plant a natural garden and landscape to enhance biodiversity. Repeated studies show the shocking numbers of birds killed by free ranging house cats that should be kept indoors. Above all, join the MVFN or a similar group for more speakers like our Mother Nature, fun, friendship and many other good reasons. Call 613-256-6586 or Hope to see you at the next meeting! Jim Bendell.

 

 

Continue reading...

Bringing Species Back from the Brink—Some Good News

Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

April 9, 2010

By Cathy Keddy

Good News—Bringing Species Back From the Brink

As the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) Big Picture Conservation lecture series continues, the focus will be on some environmental good news—species once considered at risk and how they can be brought back from the brink. For this lecture MVFN is pleased to welcome Paula Norlock, Lanark County native and Species at Risk Biologist with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources’ Kemptville office.

We realize the best approach for species at risk is preventing species from falling into this category in the first place, through being good land stewards and caring about the natural world around us. However, species may become at risk due to a variety of underlying causes and combinations of factors such as peculiarities of their biology and habitat requirements, disease, habitat loss, pollution, land cover change, competition or hybridization with alien species, as well as our lack of awareness. Population trends for species at risk are often indicators of the condition of other species and reveal the health of our ecosystems as Bill Crins explained to MVFN in his February lecture “A Stitch in Time: Monitoring Indicator Species to Diagnose Ecosystem Vitality.”

But what can we do if we miss the prevention boat? We can take action to recover these species at risk— to arrest or reverse their decline by removing or reducing the underlying threats and thus improving the likelihood that they will persist in the wild.

The good news is that currently, about 80 recovery teams are reviewing biology, habitat requirements and threats to livelihood in an effort to improve the status of endangered and threatened species in the province. Recovery strategies have now been prepared for protection and restoration of the populations of 13 species including mammals (American Badger), birds (Peregrine Falcon, Barn Owl), fish (Redside Dace), turtles (Wood Turtle), salamanders (Jefferson Salamander) and plants (Deerberry, Eastern Flowering Dogwood, Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid, Engelmann’s Quillwort, Few-flowered Club-rush, Ogden’s Pondweed, Spotted Wintergreen). The good news continues. Some species such as the Red-shouldered Hawk and Southern Flying squirrel, formerly considered at risk, now seem to have more secure populations.

Ms. Norlock will lead us through the fortunes, misfortunes and prospects of a selection of species at risk. Arrive ready to learn about achievements and plans to recover more species from Paula’s presentation “Bringing Species Back from the Brink—Some Good News!”, and leave inspired. Attend this upcoming MVFN lecture Thursday April 15, at 7:30 p.m., Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome; $5 charge for non members. For further details, please contact Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089, or visit www.mvfn.ca.

Continue reading...

Species at Risk in Lanark County: What do we have to lose?

         

What do we have to lose? Discover Species at Risk in Lanark County at next MVFN Lecture

Thursday, Feb 19, 2009

MVFN Press Release

by Cathy Keddy

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) lecture series continues February 19th with biologist Marie-Andrée Carrière’s presentation “Discover Species at Risk in Lanark County”. This will be the fifth in MVFN’s lecture series From the Ground, Up: Celebrating the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ First 20 Years.

Ms. Carrière is a Species at Risk Biologist whose work with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources helps to ensure implementation of the Endangered Species Act through research, field inventories and working with various groups on recovery strategies for species at risk. She conducted graduate research work on two turtles at risk- the northern map turtle (special concern) and the stinkpot (musk) turtle (threatened). Both occur in Lanark County.

Over 500 native species are considered at risk in Canada. Among the provinces, Ontario is home to the greatest number of these species. Most species at risk (SAR) in Ontario are classed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern. Some of the species listed, such as the eastern elk and deepwater cisco, are extinct and already lost from the province. Ninety-four or about half of Ontario’s species at risk occur in the ecological area known as the “Mixed Forest” region, where Lanark County is found. Wildlife categories with the largest numbers of SARs include birds such as the barn owl of grasslands; plants such as butternut and juniper sedge, as well as the dwarf iris of alvars; fish including the redside dace of clear, cool streams; and reptiles such as the five-lined skink of fire barrens. There are also mollusks, lichens, insects (e.g. Monarch butterfly) and mammals of our region on the provincial SAR list. Protection for all of these treasured species was greatly enhanced in 2008 with the passage of the provincial Endangered Species Act. In addition, funding has become available for stewardship programs as well as species recovery and management plans.

With these resources, how can we contribute to conserving our SARs? Which species in Lanark County are at risk? How is a species listed? Bring your questions about species at risk to the next meeting of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists. Marie-Andrée Carrière will address Species at Risk in Lanark County. Join MVFN February 19, 7:30 pm., at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte to learn more about species at risk. A $5 charge for non-members applies. Please contact Program Chair, Cathy Keddy (613-257-3089) for more information.

Continue reading...

Eastern Ontario Species at Risk Data Mining Project

EOMF is looking for input for Eastern Ontario Species at Risk Data Mining Project

 Provincial and municipal governments have a responsibility to protect Species at Risk (SAR) through relevant legislation and municipal planning processes. However, providing accurate and complete information regarding SAR to decision makers remains a significant challenge as information on SAR occurrence in eastern Ontario is limited. As a result SAR stewardship, recovery and conservation initiatives may be inadequate.It is suspected that a considerable volume of SAR location information may exist concealed in hard-copy files within organizations such as local conservation authorities, municipalities, the Ministry of Natural Resources, as well as with members of naturalist groups and online taxa-based news groups. It is believed that a wealth of information may already have been collected and recorded in documents such as Environmental Impact Statements; wetland, forest and life science inventories; as well as in species checklists and personal observation diaries having yet to contribute to the larger body of regional knowledge.

In response to this issue, the Eastern Ontario Model Forest (EOMF) has recently launched the Eastern Ontario Species at Risk Data Mining Project to:

1. locate and collect existing location information on SAR, including species formally tracked by the NHIC, within eastern Ontario that has not been submitted to the Natural Heritage Information Centre (NHIC);

2. review and transcribe relevant information into a digital format compatible with the NHIC database; and

3. develop a digital map of the information, if possible, so that it can be made readily available to relevant stakeholders with a SAR protection mandate and individuals with a vested interest in SAR stewardship.

If you have information to contribute, please get in touch with our office. Our staff is available to meet with you or your organization to facilitate the exchange of information. The EOMF will return a copy of the information that you have provided in an organized spreadsheet file if desired. Please feel free to contact us with any questions regarding this initiative.

Rick Marcantonio
Species at Risk Data Mining Technician
Eastern Ontario Model Forest
10 Campus Drive
Kemptville, ON, K0G 1J0
Email:
Tel. (613) 258-6567
Fax (613) 258-8363

Continue reading...

“Changes in our natural world” with an Ontario Parks conservation ecologist

Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

Submitted by Pauline Donaldson, MVFN Public Relations Chair

April 10, 2006

 “Changes in our natural world” with an Ontario Parks conservation ecologist

There is an opportunity to hear about conservation issues, past, present and future from a real ‘grass roots’ biologist at the next Mississippi Valley Field Naturalist meeting to be held Thursday evening April 20 in Almonte. The presentation will be given by Dr.William Crins, Senior Conservation Ecologist in the Planning and Research Section of Ontario Parks, at the Ministry of Natural Resources in Peterborough. A botanist by training, Bill has devoted his career to the study of living things, specializing in the evolution and ecology of important grasses and sedges. Several species new to science, including the juniper sedge Carex juniperorum Catling, Reznicek & Crins, bear his name.

As a ‘budding’ biologist in the early 70’s Dr. Crins worked summers at Algonquin Park as an interpretive naturalist and later conducted biological inventories and assessments used to develop the Nature Reserve Zone system in the park. Following graduate studies at the University of Toronto, Dr. Crins did research at UBC and the New York State Museum in Albany. As senior ecologist with Ontario Parks, he now applies his knowledge of conservation and biodiversity issues to projects such as the Ecological Land Classification system for Ontario and the development of old growth forest policy, as well as contributing to detailed inventory of Ontario’s habitat resources and Species at Risk habitat mapping guidelines.

Dr. Crins says that his presentation on Thursday “will illustrate some of the changes in flora and fauna that have occurred during the past century, and will speculate on some of the changes that may occur in the future.” What effects have development and the intensification and then abandonment of agriculture had on species and ecosystems? What have been the effects of accidental introduction of exotic species, changes in forest management practices, or changes in land use patterns? Potential impacts of climate change on species distribution and ecosystem composition will also be discussed.

The presentation, “Changes in the Flora and Fauna of Southeastern Ontario: Past, Present, and Future” is the last in MVFN’s series “Change in our Natural World” and takes place Thursday April 20th at 7:30 pm at the Almonte United Church on Elgin St. Program Chair Tine Kuiper will host the evening, and refreshments will be offered. All are welcome. A non-member fee of $5 applies (for those over 16) or MVFN memberships are available. For further information visit www.mvfn.ca or contact Pauline Donaldson at 256-9399.

 

Continue reading...