Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley
Mississippi River at Pakenham

Habitat Conservation News

MVFN Peterson Bluebird Boxes for Sale

The boxes are $20 each and include instructions and mounting screw nails. The bluebird boxes were constructed earlier this week by a team of Mississippi Valley Field Naturalist volunteers led by MVFN’s Conservation and Habitat Restoration Committee.

Thank you to David Garcia and the team of dedicated volunteers who gathered to assemble these houses on Monday and to those who prepared the stacks of cut materials earlier this month.

To order contact:

Al Potvin 613-256-2602 or

Cliff Bennett  613-256-5013 

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Many bluebird boxes built by MVFN have been installed in rural properties over the years and we hope they are helping the bluebird population and other birds.

There are many keys to long-term success with these boxes, especially location, location, location! Please refer to the Ontario Eastern Bluebird Society website at www.oebs.ca for more detailed advice.

NOTE: the MVFN bluebird boxes are based on the Peterson oval design. Studies show that the Peterson oval design is more user-friendly to the Eastern bluebird and has a lower mortality rate than other designs. The truncated conical shape of the nesting cavity reduces the requirement for nesting material; hence less energy is expended by the nester. The thick wooden back and roof acts as a thermal barrier to shield the young from temperature extremes. The oblong entrance hole is the correct dimension for bluebirds and the angled front discourages predators. The front opens for cleaning.

Photos below provided by Allan Brown. A huge thanks to the volunteers!

2016 Bluebird build photo Brown

2016 Bluebird build 1  photo Brown

MVFN Concludes Campaign to Influence Proposed Development on Burnt Lands Alvar

The almost year-long efforts of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) to oppose a proposed small development at the southern edge of Burnt Lands Alvar on Golden Line Road in Ramsay Ward, came to a conclusion with an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing on December 7, 2015. The MVFN alvar team fought for changes to the development right up to about a week before the hearing, when they withdrew from the hearing after exhausting all of their options.

Allison Alvar walk 2015, photo by Pauline Donaldson

Allison walk ram's head (1280x960)The County of  Lanark and the Municipality of Mississippi Mills Official Plans allow cluster-lot developments within the alvar  (even though it is a sensitive area and a designated Area of Natural and Scientific Interest) if an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is conducted and steps are taken to mitigate environmental damage to the footprint of the development. As these steps had been shown in the original application, the proposed development project had been approved conditionally and could proceed. It was on these grounds that MVFN felt it could make an impact by opposing the project as planned. The MVFN alvar team strove to force many improvements to the EIS for the proposed development.

By opposing the development, MVFN has raised awareness of the public as to the existence of the Burnt Lands Alvar, its location, what an alvar is, and the unique and fragile ecosystems which make Burnt Lands Alvar an ecological treasure.  Also, MVFN’s opposition to this particular development has arguably influenced the local municipality to begin processes to change its Community Official Plan and accompanying Zoning By-Laws to ensure future similar development schemes cannot occur on regulated lands in Mississippi Mills.

A significant impact of MVFN’s alvar appeal was to have three additional on-site visits by ecologists and other experts take place, in late spring, summer and early autumn. These field studies added significantly to the developer’s previous EIS study, which had included only one cursory assessment of the Alvar ecology. Two other important concessions were achieved by the MVFN team, to place the roadway in the least damaging location, and the other to change the location of the turning circle, also to minimize impact. Other positive influences from the MVFN team can be seen throughout the final EIS report.

The Alvar OMB team, led by MVFN member Tineke Kuiper, included several qualified specialists and other supporting persons. Key to the effort was a team of lawyers from the Canadian Environment Law Association, which was provided free of costs to MVFN.

The other significant component of MVFN’s appeal effort was the MVFN fund-raising team, led by MVFN Chair of the Environmental Issues Committee Theresa Peluso. They conducted an amazing fund-raising campaign which allowed the MVFN Alvar team to hire a planner and two ecologists and pay other related costs. When final invoices are in, the MVFN Finance Committee will publish a financial statement.

Although MVFN had withdrawn their appeal prior to the hearing, MVFN President Cliff Bennett and a member of the lawyer team, attended the short OMB hearing as a professional courtesy. The final judgments of the OMB will be handed down by mid-January and a final MVFN report will be issued at that time. For any enquiries on MVFN’s involvement in this project, please contact Cliff Bennett at 613 256-5013 or

Photos by Pauline Donaldson were taken during a 2015 walk on Burnt Lands Alvar led by Ken Allison .

Attend Public Meeting to support Burnt Lands Alvar

At approximately 6:30 pm, April 21, 2015 in Town of Mississippi Mills Council Chambers, 3131 Old Perth Rd there will be a public meeting regarding the rezoning of lands designated “Rural” and identified as ANSI (Burnt Lands Alvar; Area of Natural and Scientific Interest). The intent by proponents of a cluster lot development within the alvar ANSI is to convince Council to allow for a rezoning of their land to “Rural, Special Exception” in order to remove a current restriction on the proposed building in the alvar.

At the meeting, council will hear and deal with the issue of a proposed development in the Burnt Lands Alvar, directly for the first time. The applicants are seeking approval for a Zoning Bylaw Amendment to allow them to go ahead with a development proposal in the Burnt Lands Alvar.   The result could be 100+ acres of provincially significant ANSI (alvar species, wetlands, threatened species) being degraded, and “a loss of connectivity and ecological function in this pivotal portion”. MVFN’s Burnt Lands Alvar Campaign committee opposes this and believes that the alvar area should be protected with better municipal development guidelines.

There will be a sign up sheet for the Public to receive further information on the issue. However, those wishing to have their input registered should either speak at the meeting or forward their comments and opinions to the appropriate contacts.

Details: Please attend this public meeting. For further information, follow this link to the agenda package documents: http://www.mississippimills.ca/uploads/12/Doc_635647910377718231.pdf

The order of items in the agenda in the Committee of the Whole Meeting (immediately following Council meeting which starts at 6 pm):
A. APPROVAL OF AGENDA
B. DISCLOSURE OF PECUNIARY INTEREST
C. DELEGATIONS/PRESENTATIONS/PUBLIC MEETINGS
1. Public Meeting and Background Report for Zoning By-law Amendment
#Z-01-15 – 1463 Golden Line Road, Cluster lot Pages 1-6

To our sister Ontario Nature Naturalists:

The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN) is appealing the Ostrander Point Crown Land wind project at the highest Court in Ontario. The hearing will occur at Osgoode Hall Dec 8-9.  Ostrander Point Crown Land is situated in an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) – a refuge for migrating birds, bats and butterflies – it contains provincially significant wetlands, globally imperilled Alvar habitat and is the home and breeding ground of several avian, reptilian and amphibian species at risk, such as the Blanding’s turtle.

h_Crowley-Blanding's-Turtlephoto by Joe Crowley; source Ontario Nature

On Dec 8-9 PECFN will be defending the Environmental Review Tribunal ruling that overturned the Ministry of the Environment’s approval of the Gilead wind turbine project, which was later overturned at Divisional Court.  At present the Divisional Court’s ruling on Ostrander Point undercuts the ability of the Environmental Review Tribunal to make decisions based on the evidence before it. PECFN’s appeal of the Divisional Court ruling is a precedent setting case that impacts the validity of the Environmental Review Tribunal, the Endangered Species Act and the Environmental Protection Act.  As such it will affect environmental law across Ontario.

As Justice Blair, who granted a stay against any construction on the site said, “the issues raised on the proposed appeal are issues of broad public implication in the field of environmental law”.

The Evening Grosbeaks appearing at bird feeders this fall are one of Canada’s declining species.  It has declined 78% in the last 40 years.  Other examples of species decline: our iconic Canada Warbler: 80%; Rusty Blackbird: 90%; Olive-sided Flycatcher 79%; Bay-breasted Warbler 70%.  And in September the World Wildlife Fund reported that animal populations have fallen on average by 52 percent since 1970. The findings pertain mostly to vertebrate species, including mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles.

The root cause of these decimations is simple – loss of habitat. This loss of habitat and the species they support is a crisis for our planet superseded only by the projections of even worse decimations caused by climate change. Not only do we humans urgently need to stop the use of fossil fuels, we also need to urgently move to conserve the habitats of our remaining wildlife.

In order to stop fossil fuel use we must implement conservation by investing in retrofitting all 19th-20th century technology in our buildings and vehicles and begin to build alternative sources of power.  It is imperative that these new developments be sited in places that we humans have already removed from nature in order to preserve the scarce wildlife lands that remain.  New developments should not be sited in land that functions as significant habitat for wild species.

Our undeveloped wild places play a vital role in mitigating the effects of climate change.  Forests and wetlands sequester carbon keeping it out of the atmosphere, while tall grass prairies actually remove carbon from it. Wetlands prevent flooding and erosion and replenish our aquifers. Alvars and other seasonal wetland habitats filter contaminants, keeping them out of our streams and lakes. What allows these invaluable habitats to mitigate climate change are the wild species they support. Without these wild species, they will no longer function. Eventually they will cease to exist at all.

Prince Edward County’s South Shore is the last undeveloped land along the northern shore of Lake Ontario. If this industrial development is allowed to proceed it will be surrounded by another 29 turbines in the centre of the IBA and pave the way for hundreds of more turbines along Lake Ontario shorelines, including at Amherst Island which is world-renown for the owl populations that overwinter there.  They will join TransAlta’s turbine project on Wolfe Island which has caused the highest mortality rate of birds and bats in North America with the exception of Altamont pass in California and displaced the indigenous and wintering Red Tail Hawk and Short Eared Owl populations. A concentration of hundreds of industrial turbines along this intersection of two major migration corridors will form an impenetrable barrier, causing mounting declines for our migrating species and substantial degradation to the habitats along the migration routes that they stage in.

The 50 members of PECFN have raised almost $200,000 to pay the legal costs of these appeals against Gilead Power, the Ministry of Environment and the 291 corporations of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWea).  This small organization needs the support of Field Naturalist clubs and concerned citizens from all parts of Ontario because the work we are doing will affect environmental law for the Province and the County.  Donations may be made online at www.saveostranderpoint.org  or by cheque to Ostrander Point Appeal Fund, 2-59 King St, Picton K0K 2T0.

Myrna Wood

Prince Edward County Field Naturalists

613-476-1506

http://www.saveostranderpoint.org/

 

 Keddy Nature Sanctuary

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photo Cathy Keddy

In late January, the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust Conservancy (MMLTC) finalized its newest conservation easement agreement with Paul and Cathy Keddy on their beautiful 530-acre property located in the northeastern corner of Drummond-North Elmsley Township.

The Keddys, both professional ecologists, first discovered this spectacular property back in the ’70s, long before the area was designated a Provincially Significant Wetland Complex. Here follows Cathy’s account about their decision to legally protect their property forever.

“One of the first decisions we made when preparing for marriage back in 1976, when we were still students at Dalhousie University in Halifax, was to buy our first 100 acres of forest in Lanark County. Many thought we were foolish. But we had walked that property and seen 30 pairs of Great Blue Herons nesting in a wetland. How better to celebrate a marriage than to protect these magnificent creatures. Over the years we camped and eventually built a small cabin where we spent many happy weekends. As we got to know the property better, we found a stream that flowed to the east, and a patch of wild orchids in a seepage area. We owned neither. But over time, these properties came on the market, and we added them to our debt load. Twice we could buy a property only after it had been logged. This was painful, but we knew that whatever the short term damage, the trees would eventually regrow and wildlife habitat would recover. The last property was the toughest, and we were able to buy it only after the landowner had quite deliberately increased the price and sold the logging rights, just to be spiteful. The skidders were already felling huge beech trees as we signed the mortgage papers. Paul’s parents very generously contributed $20,000 so we could buy out the logging company before it felled the 30 acres having the oldest trees. At this point we were the proud owners of a square mile.

Now there is a commitment. Not only were we responsible for protecting the forest, and for making our monthly payments, but at home we had two growing children, while on the land we had populations of salamanders and frogs and warblers and turkey vultures. What a family! When Paul became ill in the early ’90s, finances were stretched to the limit.

Eventually, our family moved to Louisiana for eight years where Paul earned enough money to pay off the accumulated debts. Now it was all ours! But there would be little point in protecting 120-year-old oaks or populations of wild orchids if the next owner would simply log them or create estate lots. We were determined to pass it on intact. The Nature Conservancy of Canada was interested, but by the time we returned from Louisiana there was a new local land conservancy on the scene, the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust. We were delighted that they agreed to become partners, and take over from us in the long run. And 999 years, renewable, is indeed a long-term arrangement! Each of us will die. We know that when that happens to us, all the wild creatures we have known over the past 50 years will be safe from developers and loggers. They will carry on their lives without us. The 120-year-old oaks and hemlocks will live several more centuries, and then, when they die, become homes for owls and hawks and tree frogs. Yes, we could have sold the land, and burned through the money on expensive cars and luxury cruises. But, we would have been no happier. And, as they say, you can’t take it with you. What about our sons and the issue of inheritance? The boys are thrilled that a property with so many happy memories will stay just the way they remember it. Moreover, the easement agreement we signed leaves each of them the option to someday live on the edge of the property and enjoy it with their own families. And the salamanders and frogs and warblers and turtles and all the rest of the innumerable inhabitants, while they may not speak our language or understand land trusts, will be left alone to carry on their lives in relative peace. We cannot think of a more satisfying conclusion to our lifetime project.”

The MMLTC is delighted with the choice the Keddys made and knows it will have untold benefits for generations to come. Paul and Cathy have already compiled an initial inventory of species on their property, including several species at risk. To add to this list, the Lanark County Stewardship Council will be hosting a 24-hour Bioblitz at the Keddy Nature Sanctuary on Friday, June 6 to Saturday, June 7. Species experts from area naturalist clubs will be invited to assist with this event.

Watch for more information coming soon on the MMLTC website at www.mmltc.ca.

Submitted by the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust Conservancy.

 

The Messenger

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FULL-SIZED  CALENDAR WITH DETAILS

MVFN's natural history talks take place on 3rd Thursdays, Jan-April and Sept-November, at  Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte, ON. All welcome!

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