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

2006-2007: The Mississippi Watershed

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
January 29, 2007
by Howard Robinson

Linda Touzin Meets the Challenge for Best Forestry Practices While Protecting the Watershed

See Linda’s Recommended Links for information on how to keep your woodlot healthy

Linda Touzin from the MNRThe Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) continued its lecture series of talks related to the “Mississippi Valley Watershed”. On 18rd January the lecture was well attended, by woodlot owners and others, with Linda Touzin presenting valuable and interesting information on “Managing forests to protect the watershed”.
The Mississippi Valley, Ms. Touzin said, has a very high percentage of wooded area compared to other developed parts of Ontario. It must be well managed in order to acquire wood products in a sustainable fashion without severely impacting the environment including our watershed.

There is much evidence of a cleaning effect for streams that pass through forests. It is hard to put a value on streams, wetlands and other kinds of ‘natural capital’. On the other hand it is easy to understand the economic value of woodlands and wood as a natural and renewable resource continues to increase in value.

The Mississippi Valley is in the Mazinaw-Lanark crown forest management unit and is the most southerly such unit in Canada . One third is Crown land and the rest is private. A sustainable harvest is guided by an extensive forestry plan covering a 20 year period with a view looking beyond 100 years. A detailed plan, which may take 2.5 years to produce, includes a lengthy consultation process and public input. Healthy collaboration with all concerned is a key part of the plan, with concerns generally met through guidelines based on science and core values.
While the plan is for a sustainable harvest, the operational plan and ‘silviculture system’ used have many considerations for protection of the environment and its watershed. Road building and logging must avoid damage to the watershed from run off, soil erosion with its excess nutrients and operational degradation. Heavy machinery around the watershed is avoided and a 30 metre minimum buffer is left near watersheds. Depending on the incline to the water and soil type, this buffer is increased.

Most harvesting is done on a partial cutting system where there is a general ‘thinning’ of trees of various ages suitable for wood products. The forest is left to regenerate with an ‘acceptable growing stock’ i.e. mix of age and trees known to help improve the forest and value of the resource. Danger trees may be taken down but care is also taken to identify all ‘forest values’ such as nesting sites, cold-water streams, vernal pools, or rare species which will be left with a ‘no-cut’ buffer. Harvesting is not done during the nesting season. Clear cutting done over ~ 17% of the area currently, involves primarily short life tree types that may be predominant in an area (e.g. Birch) and which will regenerate.

Linda demonstrated her excellent knowledge and experience as a Registered Professional Forester and answered many good questions from both MVFN members and others interested in private woodlot management. Linda stressed that sustainable forest management can be practiced by private landowners using the same best practices used by OMNR on crown lands. The information and tools are readily available and with public involvement in public processes we can all make a difference.

The signs of a healthy forest were described as having a diversity of species appropriate for the eco-site, vigorously growing native trees, forest values protected from timber harvest operations, having a variety of types and ages of trees and habitat features while also having demonstrated careful logging practices.

Finally, Linda advised those with wood lots to KEEP THEM, walk through all corners of your property making an inventory, keep good species, remove exotics, and whenever and wherever possible increase your woodlot or connect it with others. Make a plan for your woodlot and then choose consultants and tree markers accordingly, based on your plan and what you value most in your woodlot.

If you want to know how to keep a woodlot healthy or where landowners can turn for help, Linda’s recommended links are posted on MVFN’s website at www.mvfn.ca.

MVFN’s lecture series continues Thursday February 15th with Paul Hamilton of the Canadian Museum of Nature who will discuss “Water Quality”, 7:30 p.m. at the Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin Street in Almonte.

For more information please contact Joyce Clinton at 613-257-4879 or , or visit www.mvfn.ca.

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
November, 3, 2006

by Pauline Donaldson

Pat Ferris to show how ‘boat loads’ of shoreline rehabilitation promote healthy watersheds, at next field naturalist lecture 

On Thursday November 16, Pat Ferris will present “Shoreline re-habilitation and impacts on watershed health”, the third lecture in the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists watershed series. The lecture will focus on the work of MAPLE, the Mutual Association for the Preservation of Lake Environment in Ontario . Pat Ferris was the founding director of MAPLE, a volunteer group he established in 1983 while working as a Lakes Planner with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. He recognized the need for both “individual responsibility and group action to maintain shorelines in a natural state”.

Many lake associations have embraced MAPLE’s guidelines which help groups survey and assess individual shoreline properties, and recommend restorative action for properties with low natural value, such as those rated ‘ornamental’ which in the extreme may have chemically treated lawns extending to the waters edge. MAPLE can provide native plants and trees for shorelines requiring re-vegetation. The re-vegetated shoreline, unlike those with hard rock, provides habitat, not only erosion control.

MAPLE also runs a nursery on Christie Lake to cultivate indigenous plants and shrubs, and hosts volunteer spring and fall planting and cuttings days. Each spring, species such as Virginia creeper and willow are ready to be ferried around various lakes by brigades of boats. This is an interesting and rewarding program, one those living by water can learn much from. Shore dwellers can also do a lot by simply doing nothing as recommended in the ‘MAPLE 10′ program. To promote a healthy watershed, at your waterfront, mark off the area from the shore back 10 m and then do nothing. The natural ‘seed bank’ will soon sprout native plants which will slow erosion and start the shoreline naturalization process.

Ferris will outline MAPLE’s programs and the critical role natural shorelines play in reducing pollution and erosion, in providing shaded habitat for birds, amphibians and aquatic organisms, etc. Come and hear what can be done and what sources of information are available on what to plant, as well as how, when and where to plant.

Pat Ferris’s presentation is Thursday, November 16th at 7:30 pm at the Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome. MVFN members and children under 16 receive free admission and for others a $5 fee applies. Host for the evening is MVFN member Paul Egginton. Following the presentation refreshments will be available. For more information please contact MVFN Program Chair Joyce Clinton at 613-257-4879/  or check the MVFN website at www.mvfn.ca

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
October 6, 2006

by Pauline Donaldson

Wetlands: the vital link between land and water, with Aquatic Ecologist Brian Potter at next MVFN lecture

On Thursday October 19th the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists welcome Brian Potter, as our guest speaker for “Wetlands in our Watershed”, the second in a series of 7 lectures on “The Mississippi Valley Watershed”. Brian Potter is an Aquatic Ecologist and graduate of the University of Guelph . His career with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources includes work in fisheries assessment, conservation and planning, and other areas dating back to 1982. Specializing in the ecology of wetlands, Potter currently works in the Biodiversity Section of the Fish and Wildlife Branch. He was a member of the review team for the Natural Heritage Reference Manual, a key reference used to interpret provincial policies on wetlands, forests etc. which guide municipal planning decisions in Ontario .

Wetlands are some of the most productive habitats on Earth; not just land or water but a unique combination of both. Many of us are aware that we live amidst some important wetlands such as the ‘Class 1′ wetlands of Mississippi Lake, Kerr Lake, Clayton/Taylor, the Wolf Grove area, or Pakenham Mountain. However, few of us understand the significance of wetlands and why some are assigned a ‘class’. Wetlands, be they swamp, bog or other, are extremely important in providing habitat but they also play a vital role in flood control, groundwater recharge and several other key functions. As a biologist and major contributor to the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System, Brian Potter can give the audience an overview of the different kinds of wetlands, their role in the ‘bigger picture’ of wetland and watershed health overall, and tell us how they are threatened. This will likely shed some light on the reasoning behind the various regulations which apply to wetlands such as the Drainage Act, wetland buffers etc, and on what we and our municipalities can do to better preserve wetlands for the future.

The presentation by Brian Potter takes place Thursday, October 19th at 7:30 pm at the Almonte United Church Social Hall, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome; MVFN members and children under 16 receive free admission and for others a fee of $5 applies. MVFN memberships can also be purchased at the door. Host for the evening will be MVFN’s past president Mike Macpherson. Following the presentation refreshments are available. For more information on this lecture and others in the series, please contact MVFN Program Chair Joyce Clinton at 613-257-4879, or email  or check the MVFN website at www.mvfn.ca.

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
September 21, 2006

by Sheila Edwards

Michael Runtz brings to life the work of one of nature’s great engineers in the watershed – the Beaver

BeaverA large crowd gathered on Thursday the 14th for Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) September lecture. Michael Runtz was the keynote speaker for the first of a series of talks exploring the “Mississippi Valley Watershed”.

One sign of a great educator is when an audience doesn’t realize how much they are learning. In his presentation “Beaver Ponds in the Watershed”, Michael Runtz showed he is one such educator. His enthusiastic delivery style brought to life information based on his astute observations of nature. A well respected naturalist, nature photographer, and author, Runtz captivated his audience with stories about beavers, the topic of his next natural history book. Based on the response Thursday, it should prove as popular as his other Canadian best-sellers such as Wild Wings, Algonquin Seasons and Moose Country .

Runtz showed us how beavers play the role of engineer when it comes to creating nutrient rich ponds, teeming with life. Water levels are raised, new species are attracted, and the forest gradually acquires a pond, marsh, and ribbon of grassland. The habitats thus created by this impressive rodent are vital to the health of our watershed.

As the seasons change, a beaver pond changes as well. In the spring, nutrients will be washed out, enriching the water downstream; frogs will be at their noisiest, many birds will be arriving to nest in the forest and on dead trees standing in the pond; and the beavers will be busy feeding and working on their dams and lodges. Beavers feed on tree bark, the soft layer under the bark, and also herbaceous plants like pond lilies. As fall approaches, the beaver becomes more visible during the day as it works on creating a food pile for the winter and does fall maintenance on its structures; the lodge’s insulation is upgraded by piling more mud on top and the dam must be high enough to ensure the pond does not completely freeze. The lodge’s exits are about 1.5 m below the water’s surface, at a depth which hopefully will remain unfrozen throughout the winter. The beaver swims underwater to the food pile, eating the branches that are weighed down by less edible wood like alder. Beavers keep the lodge’s upper chamber clean for sleeping by eating and defecating in the lower chamber. Like the rabbit, the beaver has a ‘two-pass’ digestive system to maximize the nutritional benefit of its high-roughage diet.

If you are interested in observing beavers, Runtz had some good suggestions. For the paddler, beaver can stay underwater for as long as 15 minutes, so if they startle and dive down, they could be gone a long time. For the XC-skier, if the hole at the top of the lodge is open, and surrounded by frost; the occupants are alive and well. When watching a beaver cutting wood, they may use their tail as a stool by leaning back on it; they will also use either their front teeth or side teeth depending on whether they are eating or cutting respectively.

On Thursday October 19th, MVFN welcomes guest speaker Aquatic Ecologist, Brian Potter (OMNR) who will discuss “Wetland Habitats in the Watershed” (7:30 p.m. Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin Street). For more information on the lecture series please contact Program Chair Joyce Clinton at 613-257-4879/email , or visit our website at www.mvfn.ca . For those interested in an MVFN nature walk, the next one will be hosted and led by Joel Byrne at his property “Big Creek” near Watsons Corners, Sunday October 15th. If interested, and for more information, please contact Mike McPhail at 613-256-7211 or email

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
September 6, 2006

Submitted by Pauline Donaldson

Michael Runtz starts field naturalists’ lecture program with “Beaver Ponds in the Watershed”

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) proudly presents the first lecture in their 2006-2007 public lecture series on Thursday September 14th., entitled “Beaver Ponds in the Watershed”.

Keynote speaker for the first seminar, Michael Runtz, is a well-known naturalist, award winning author and photographer, and an accomplished educator who has taught natural history at Carleton University for many years. Audiences have often been regaled with “beaver tales” from the man who is presently writing a book on them. This book follows others by Runtz which all feature aspects of his understanding of the natural world, such as “The Howls of August: Encounters with Algonquin Wolves, Moose Country and Wild Wings”. Runtz came to know and respect the natural world during years as interpreter/ researcher in Algonquin and other provincial parks.

It is fitting that the beaver, a natural watershed engineer, is the VIP for the first of a lecture series exploring the topic of the “watershed”. There is much to be learned about habitats and workings of the watershed by studying this quintessential Canadian mammal, Castor canadensis. In creating its own unique homes it not only takes care of its own family but creates homes for other creatures. Runtz’s presentation will explore the fascinating biological features of the animal which equip it for the life it leads, the well-known structures it builds and how in many ways its transformation of the environment gives life to other living things in the watershed.

MVFN’s 2006/07 series of speakers and presentations will focus on the theme “The Mississippi Valley Watershed”. The clubs’ new program committee, chaired by Joyce Clinton, is very enthusiastic about this years’ program. The series will include seven presentations, each looking at a different aspect of the watershed, including “diversity of habitats present”,” managing forests to protect the watershed”, “the effects of agriculture”, “development issues in the watershed”, “rehabilitation of shorelines”, and “factors affecting water quality”. One goal of the lecture series this year is to emphasize actions and practices individuals, organizations and communities can engage in to protect and enhance watershed conservation. The natural environment of the watershed faces many challenges. This lecture series will help us develop a better local understanding of the workings of our own Mississippi watershed.

Michael Runtz will be introduced by Cliff Bennett, Eastern Regional Director for Ontario Nature, who, as a local resident, was recently recognized by the Town of Mississippi Mills for his nature conservation efforts. The presentation by Michael Runtz takes place Thursday, September 14th at 7:30 pm at the Almonte United Church on Elgin St. All are welcome; following the presentation refreshments are available. MVFN members and children under 16 receive free admission to the lecture series. For others a non-member fee of $5 applies. MVFN memberships can also be purchased at the door. For more information on this lecture and others in the series, please contact MVFN Program Chair Joyce Clinton at 613-257-4879, or email  or check the MVFN website at www.mvfn.ca

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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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