Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Message from Ontario Nature

Action Alert:

PLEASE NOTE: for up to date information regarding this Ontario Nature Action Alert, go to Ontario Nature’s website.

Canada’s most recognizable butterfly is in trouble. You now have the opportunity to speak up for monarch butterflies and urge the federal government to strengthen its draft management plan for this iconic species. While the plan certainly proposes some strong conservation measures, it is weak in terms of its overall objectives, targets and deadlines for action. We must do more for the monarch. The public consultation period on the draft plan ends on December 8, 2014.

Kens monarchphoto by Ken Allison

The monarch was listed as a species of special concern under the Species at Risk Act in 2003. It has declined dramatically over the past 15 – 20 years and is threatened by many factors including loss of breeding, nectaring and overwintering habitat, and the widespread use of pesticides and herbicides. Last winter, monarchs occupied just 0.67 hectares of their overwintering habitat in Mexico, only about 10 percent of their ten-year average of 6.39 hectares (1994 – 2014).

For many years, conservation efforts focused on habitat loss in the Oyamel fir forests of Mexico. While large-scale illegal logging has now been largely addressed, small-scale logging is an ongoing concern. But, there is a growing recognition that the reduction of milkweed in the monarch’s breeding habitats in the United States and Canada is also driving monarch declines.

The draft management plan identifies broad strategies and conservation measures needed at the international, national and local levels. But to be effective it needs to be significantly strengthened in the following ways.

1. The first objective of the plan should aim to recover Canada’s monarch populations, not just to “maintain the current Canadian contribution to the overall North American monarch population” (p. iii), as stated in the draft plan. Given that this species is known to be in decline, aiming only to maintain the current population simply enshrines a low and unacceptable baseline. Instead, the objective should be to halt the decline and increase the population within ten years.

     Recommendation 1: Revise the first objective so that it reads: “to mitigate threats to the monarch butterfly and ensure that there is sufficient breeding, nectaring and staging habitat in Canada to recover Canada’s contribution to the overall North American monarch population;”

2. The strategy dealing with Conservation and Management of Breeding and Nectaring Habitat (section 6.3, Table 5) does not address the use of pesticides in agriculture. The use of glyphosate herbicide in conjunction with glyphosate-tolerant crops is a key threat to the eastern population of monarchs.

     Recommendation 2: Under the Conservation and Management of Breeding and Nectaring Habitat strategy, include measures to address the impacts of pest control products used in agriculture.

3. The timelines for action under the Conservation Measures and Implementation Schedule (Table 5) are vague and distant (2019 and beyond). There are no responsibilities or roles assigned to any parties, including federal or provincial governments. Similarly, the indicators listed under Measuring Progress (Section 7) lack baselines, concrete targets and deadlines. A plan without these important features provides a very weak framework for decisive, timely action and for measuring solid progress.

     Recommendation 3: Revise the Conservation Measures and Implementation Schedule so that it includes more precise timelines as well as clearly defined roles and responsibilities to ensure timely and effective implementation of the plan. Similarly, revise Section 7 so that it includes baselines, concrete targets and deadlines for assessing progress.

Please join Ontario Nature in requesting a more robust management plan for the monarch butterfly. Remember, the deadline for comments is December 8, 2014.

Your comments can be submitted online: http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/document/default_e.cfm?documentID=1582

Or you can direct your comments to:

Recovery Planning
Environment Canada
15th Floor,
Place Vincent Massey
351 St. Joseph Boulevard
Gatineau, QC
K1A 0H3

Please see the sample letter below to send to Environment Canada.

“Dear Environment Canada, 

I urge you to strengthen the draft management plan for the monarch by:

1. setting a clear objective to recover populations in Canada and increase their numbers within ten years;

2. including measures to address the adverse impacts of pesticides and herbicides used in agriculture, a known threat to the species; and

3. including concrete targets, clear roles and responsibilities, and precise timelines for action and for measuring progress.

A plan without these important features provides a very weak framework for decisive, timely action and for measuring solid progress.”

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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/

 

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Ontario Nature Action Alert

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Message from Ontario Nature

It’s not every day that you have an opportunity to provide input on a brand new national park. Now is your chance! Parks Canada has posted for public comment its draft Management Plan for the proposed Rouge National Urban Park. The comment period ends this Thursday October 30, 2014.

Ontario Nature has done a thorough review of the draft plan and we feel three key changes are needed. Please lend your voice to help ensure the Rouge National Urban Park will adequately protect wild species and wild spaces in the heavily developed Greater Toronto Area.

There are many positive elements to the plan such as commitments to: link Lake Ontario with the Oak Ridges Moraine; encourage community involvement in habitat restoration and monitoring efforts; support active transportation, car-pooling and shuttle networks to get to and from the park; implement environmentally beneficial management practices on park farmland; and promote locally grown food. These elements should be retained and the draft management plan must be improved in the following ways:

  1. The plan must clearly prioritize ecological integrity and biodiversity conservation. The draft plan fails to prioritize the protection and restoration of the park’s natural features and values. Instead, it presents a vague vision of a “diverse landscape in Canada’s largest metropolitan area,” which offers “engaging and varied experiences.” The protection of natural, cultural and agricultural resources are all treated as on par, providing little guidance about how conflicts will be resolved.
  2. The plan must provide a coherent framework, with well-defined, measurable targets and set deadlines. The draft consists of a long list of actions and vague targets, with environmental considerations sprinkled throughout. There are not enough precise actions to be undertaken with associated deadlines.
  3. The plan should provide a clear framework for preventing adverse environmental impacts arising from the creation of new trails, and the introduction of new recreational activities and visitor services. The draft plan presents the park as a “true ‘People’s Park,’”and accordingly aims to increase the number of welcome areas, visitor services (equipment rentals, concession stands) and types of visitor experiences. Insufficient attention is paid to the risk of habitat fragmentation and adverse impacts arising from over-use.

Please join Ontario Nature in asking for improvements in these key areas. Rouge National Urban Park has the potential to protect one of the most vulnerable and ecologically diverse landscapes in the province, but only if the management plan sets clear priorities, objectives and targets consistent with that goal.

You can direct your comments to Parks Canada at: .

Please see the sample letter below to send to Parks Canada.
Dear Parks Canada,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft management plan for Rouge National Urban Park. The establishment of this park represents a tremendous opportunity to conserve biodiversity and establish an important ecological corridor between Lake Ontario and the Oak Ridges Moraine. I urge you to strengthen the plan by:

  1. Clearly prioritizing ecological integrity and biodiversity conservation in park management;
  2. Providing a more coherent management framework, with well-defined, measurable targets and set deadlines; and
  3. Providing a clearer framework for preventing adverse environmental impacts arising from the creation of new trails, and the introduction of new recreational activities and visitor services.

Parks Canada should do everything in its power to protect this richly diverse yet vulnerable landscape. Only with clear direction and priorities will it be possible to ensure that nature thrives in this heavily developed part of the province.

For more information

For a copy of Ontario Nature’s submission on the draft management plan, please contact Joshua Wise, Greenway Program Manager at: .

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The Appleton Wetland; Its Decline, Cause and Recommended Action

This report is a culmination of over three years of study, research, observations and actions, and was prepared by the Appleton Wetland Research Group of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN).

The initial study of this Provincially Significant Wetland began in 2011, in response to the mass die-off of the trees within the wetland. An expanded Research Group was formed by MVFN in the summer of 2013, commissioned to complete research into the causes of the die-off, and to prepare a report on findings and recommendations for remediation. The intended primary recipients for the report were the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and the Standing Advisory Committee (SAC) of the Mississippi River Water Management Plan. A preliminary verbal report, with accompanying MS PowerPoint presentation, was presented to the above agencies in March of 2014.

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photo Al Seaman

We have now completed an extensive written report of our research and findings. The final report, an executive summary, Appendices A through Q, plus the preliminary presentation are all posted  below. To contact the Research Group for more information or comments, please contact Research Group member Al Seaman at 613-256-1155 or by email at .

Copyright Notice: Please note that all information contained within the preliminary report, the final report and the Appendices are copyright the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (except where indicated). All Rights Reserved. The information may be copied, in whole or in part, without editing or alteration, for non-commercial purposes, provided that the information source and copyright are identified with such copy.

A printed copy of the report and appendices posted below are also available for reference at the Almonte branch of the Mississippi Mills Public Library.

Executive Summary Appleton Wetland Report

Appleton Wetland Report

Appendix A-Definitions

Appendix B-Extracts-MRWMP

Appendix C-Flow Records

Appendix D-Level Records

Appendix E-Photo Analysis

Appendix F-Appleton Level Reference

Appendix G-MVFN Tree Project

Appendix H-Coordinated Level Measurements

Appendix I-Rock Ridge levels

Appendix J-The Vanishing Island

Appendix K-Wetland Inspection

Appendix L-Tree Coring

Appendix M-SAC-Min

Appendix N-PSW-ANSI

Appendix O-Wetland Photos

Appendix P-More Flow-Level

Appendix Q-MVCA-report

Appleton Wetland Preliminary Report Power Point Presentation 2014-03-11

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 After thriving for thousands of years, the Appleton Wetland is now endangered due to man-made effects of summer flooding caused by manipulation of water levels for hydro power generation.

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photo Al Seaman

Almonte ON, August 11, 2014 – The Appleton Wetland is under immediate threat says a detailed scientific report published by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists. The report states that excessive water levels resulting from Enerdu Power Systems Inc.’s current hydro operations are drowning towering silver maple trees upstream, and that the proposed Enerdu expansion in Almonte’s heritage district will kill the very species that anchors a wetland older than the Great Pyramids or Stonehenge.

The 76-page report calls for an immediate amendment to the Mississippi River Water Management Plan (MRWMP) overseen by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry that will allow for a “valid operational summer water level” and allow the silver maples to survive, and that “approval of the current upgrade plan for Enerdu must be delayed until the recommended amendment has been resolved.”

“The Appleton Wetland: Its Decline, Cause and Recommended Action”, is the result of hundreds of hours of work by a five-member Research Group Chaired by Cliff Bennett, the founding member of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists and the club’s current President. Bennett’s Research Group colleagues include the report’s Principal Author Al Seaman, Joachim Moenig, Mike O’Malley and Howard Robinson.

“Our research results confirm that excessive water levels resulting from Enerdu’s operations are causing the die-off of the silver maples in the Appleton Wetland. In effect, the trees are drowning. The Enerdu operational limits in the existing Mississippi River Water Management Plan clearly do not conform to the priorities of the plan that rank ecological integrity above power generation. Thus an amendment to the Plan is urgently required to preserve a Wetland that has survived for millennia but is now at a tipping point,” said Bennett.

The report is also endorsed by Dr. Paul Keddy, one of Canada’s most prolific and distinguished ecology professors. Based on his 30-year career focused on the study of wetlands at the University of Guelph and University of Ottawa, Keddy stated that, “Further summer flooding will kill the last trees and the thousands of years of development will be ended abruptly. The negative effects will occur not only within the boundaries of the Appleton Wetland, but will cascade through fish and wildlife populations for many miles downstream. Restore the summer low water periods, and the trees will recover and continue to provide the ecological services that they have provided free for thousands of years.”

Continued Dr. Keddy: “Some of the Earth’s most biologically productive habitats are the great swamps that form along water courses. Known as ‘alluvial wetlands’, they are intimately connected with rivers, providing shelter for birds, breeding grounds for fish, habitat for mammals, and generating organic matter that feeds wildlife production for many miles downstream. Some of the better known examples occur in the Amazon, the Congo, and the Mekong rivers, but every large river floodplain has alluvial wetlands. In eastern Ontario, there are alluvial wetlands along rivers including the Mississippi, Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers. One of the finest examples is along the Mississippi River.”

Interested members of the media will be provided with a copy of the full report with appendices on CD and/or its Executive Summary by email upon request.

NOTE: The full report is  posted here on the websiteA printed copy of the report and appendices  are also available for reference at the Almonte branch of the Mississippi Mills Public Library.

About the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists:

Now in its 25th year of operation, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists provides opportunities to learn about and help conserve the natural world with people of all age groups and ranging from neophyte nature lovers to knowledgeable field naturalists and experts, with a focus on the pristine Mississippi River Valley. The club offers many activities, from monthly natural history talks, regular nature walks, field trips and canoe/kayak outings and other opportunities to explore many fascinating aspects of our natural world. There are also opportunities to take part in habitat creation projects, trail building, citizen science work, environmental stewardship projects, writing about natural history for club publications, communications and other volunteer work.

For more information or interviews, please contact:

Al Seaman

Principal Author of “The Appleton Wetland: Its Decline, Cause and Recommended Action”

Email:

Phone: 613-256-1155

or

Cliff Bennett

President, Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

Email:

Phone: 613-256-5013

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