Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Cliff Bennett is a naturalist, community volunteer, artist, and world traveler. Also a former special education teacher and Councillor. For much of his life Cliff’s passion has been his extensive volunteer work on behalf of nature. Cliff is a founding member of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, where he went on to develop MVFN’s Environmental Education program for sponsorship of environmental education programs for schools and youth groups. He is also an avid paddler and developed MVFN’s outdoor program of day canoe trips and day hiking trips which extended in 2008 to include an annual weekend canoe camping trip & an international club tour, the recent Mexico Monarchs, with a birding trip to Cuba this coming winter.

cliff with canoe

It seems a bit of an understatement to say that Cliff is also an avid birder. He recently introduced “Early-morning 6 am birding sessions” to MVFN’s Outdoor program. His birding involvement has also included MVFN’s Red-shoulder Hawk monitoring program (1990-96), work on both Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas’s, development of the new Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count and a ‘zillion years’ of involvement in the Carleton Place Christmas bird count. Cliff is much in demand as a birding & nature walk lead and speaker. Mix a canoeing and birding passion together and in 2007 Cliff was the powerhouse behind MVFN’s publication of the highly successful guide Lanark County Canoe & Kayak Journeys and this February’s follow on companion guide Lanark County Bird Watching Journeys.

Cliff has been working hard as Ontario Nature’s (ON) Eastern Region Director where he has championed numerous advocacies causes including keeping Climate Change on the radar of the ON executive.


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Mike Jaques has been actively engaged in raising awareness and appreciation of nature in the area of birding. Mike has been involved in the Carleton Place Christmas bird count since 1987. For the first six he was both the count compiler and organizer. He has remained the compiler right up till this past years 2007 count. In all, Michael Jaques has contributed 21 years to the Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count.

Champion Jaques

The 2007 CP Christmas Bird count was the 67th annual in a tradition that started in 1900 by American Ornithologist Frank Chapman who asked birders to head out on Christmas day to count birds in their hometowns and submit the Census results. The Counts are now taking place in over 2000 localities across the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. These bird observations, collected during this one day field counts within designated areas have been amassed into a huge data base that reflects the distribution and numbers of winter birds over time. Citizen Science was born. Cleverly count teams are made up of experienced birders with intermediate and novices – which results in a transfer of bird identification skills from the more experienced to the novice.


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Lanark County ecologist Paul Keddy has studied the ecology of wetlands and other habitats across Eastern Canada and Louisiana. A retired Biology Professor, Paul is a highly cited researcher, being among the 2007 recipients of the National Wetland Stewardship Award from the Environmental Law Institute. His first book, Competition, was winner of the Canadian Botanical Association George Lawson Medal.

Paul Keddy is also passionate about the natural world in Lanark County. So much so that in 1999 he authored Earth, Water, Fire: An Ecological Profile of Lanark County. The book is an account of the natural history and special places of Lanark County, including a look back 10,000 years ago to a region covered in solid ice, to the Champlain Sea giving way to magnificent hardwood forests, cleared in the 1800’s.

The story of Paul’s contributions with the book did not end with its publication and the wealth of information it provides to residents and visitors to our area. Dr. Keddy generously provided MVFN with publishing rights to his book, and funds raised from book sales have supported many of MVFN’s projects. There is truly something addictive about our fabulous area which hangs on to its natural beauty, because of Champions For Nature like Paul Keddy!






















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Paul Egginton has been involved in climate change research throughout his career until retirement in 2005 from the federal Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Program. Perhaps more significant to MVFN and the local area is Paul’s efforts as a volunteer to raise awareness of the effects of future climate change ‘in his own backyard’ in the Mississippi Watershed.

Paul’s efforts to encourage MVFN and local communities to start thinking seriously about the issue have been awe inspiring. As an MVFN board member Paul was the key force behind MVFN’s Climate Change Outreach program which initiated climate change awareness campaigns such as Spring Flower Watch, Frost Watch, and Albert’s Gardens –a Tulip Emergence Date project in collaboration with the National Capital Commission and horticultural societies. Paul also spearheaded MVFN’s cross-watershed 2006 August long-weekend Water Temperature Survey of the Mississippi Watershed (in collaboration with Mississippi Valley Conservation) as part of an Open Doors project for the 75th Anniversary of Ontario Nature. While creating and guiding these awareness programs, Paul was also embarked on a busy schedule delivering lectures on climate change to groups in the local area, including the introductory talk for MVFN’s 2005-2006: Change in our Natural World lecture series.

One of the most important contributions Paul made was his pivotal role in the weekend long “Weathering Climate Change” workshop held in Almonte in 2007 which brought together world class expert speakers and local stakeholders to talk about the issue of climate change for two days. Paul later went on to coauthor (with Beth Lavender) the workshop report and results: From Impacts to Adaptation: The Mississippi Watershed in a Changing Climate, 2008.

Paul Egginton (left) and Jim Bendell at awards ceremony. photo:Pauline Donaldson

Champions Egginton & Bendell
















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Dr. Jim Bendell, retired Biology Professor from the University of Toronto and co- author of the award-winning book Blue Grouse: Their Biology and Natural History, is respectfully named ‘Professor Partridge’ for his abiding passion for the grouse tribe.

Jim’s contributions as an MVFN BOD member have overwhelmed our record keeping. He has been a long standing MVFN nature outing guide and leader of show & tells whose fascination with nature is simply contagious!

bioblitz 2009 Bendell (1024x768)

Jim (centre) at Bioblitz in 2009

Jim is also a long standing member of the Lanark Highlands Environmental Advisory Committee. For Jim, conservation is all about the setting aside of natural areas, the preservation of wilderness areas to include preservation of biodiversity, and the active protection of wildlife for their inherent value as much as for any value they may have for humans.

Jim Bendell has influenced more people than he could ever realize. Let me share a key learning that I contribute to hanging around Dr. Jim Bendell: ‘Home is where there’s habitat’. And what can be done to make sure that ‘home’ is here for the next generation? Jim walks the talk, and as a fledgling MVFN BOD member I seldom ever attended a public meeting in Lanark Highlands where a matter impacting nature was involved that I did not find Jim in attendance. . . Jim you are right it is worth preserving!” ~ Mike McPhail.


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