Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Evening ‘talking tour’ of new Rouge National Urban Park connecting 7-million people to nearby nature

Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

October 4, 2013

All welcome to evening ‘talking tour’ of new Rouge National Urban Park connecting 7-million people to nearby nature

 by Pauline Donaldson

Photo 1 by Leslie BolPhoto 1: This green heron was photographed in a duckweed-filled pond in September in the new Rouge National Urban Park, near Toronto. Next week, John Meek of Parks Canada will be in Almonte to talk about the potential of this new National Urban Park, a 10,000-acre ‘near-urban wilderness’ in close proximity to nearly 7-million city dwellers. Photo by Leslie Bol.

The short days of Fall are here and cooler evenings are ideal for exploring nature on a ‘virtual tour’ from the warmth of the Almonte United Church indoor ‘classroom.’ There you can attend one of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) public talks in the series “Knowing and Caring Connects us with Nature.” Strong connections with nature offer many benefits to us as humans. Strong connections also make us more knowledgeable about the natural world, and the more we know about it, the more we will care about it and help to preserve it. For many, this means simply having better access to nearby wild spaces.

On Thursday October 17, 2013 we will take a virtual tour of Ontario’s new officially protected space, a10,000-acre ‘near-urban wilderness’ park which will offer nearly 7 million city dwellers, including many new Canadians, a chance to connect with nature just bus stop/s away from home. John Meek, Heritage Planner with Parks Canada will present “Canada’s First: A National Urban Park in the Rouge Valley about Canada’s first Urban National Park, Rouge National Urban Park in east Toronto and Markham, Ontario. The Park is still in the establishment phase, but the vision is for Rouge Park to be: “… a special place of outstanding natural features and diverse cultural heritage in an urban-rural setting, protected and flourishing as an ecosystem in perpetuity. . . . a sanctuary for nature and the human spirit.”

Large and biologically diverse, Rouge National Urban Park will stretch from Lake Ontario in the south to the Oak Ridges Moraine in the north. Its creation is a result of multilateral planning and inclusion of federal and provincial lands, city parks, private land including working farms, etc. into the park. To date, about 2/3rd of the Park is in public ownership, Since the Rouge will be a National Urban Park, not a National Park, it will not be held to the same conservation standards as other National Parks. What natural values are there though will now be carefully managed and protected for generations to come. Parks Canada would like to use Rouge National Urban Park to showcase all National Parks in Canada and share the wilderness experience with all Canadians.

City dwellers, young and old, new to Canada, or visiting Toronto from anywhere in Canada or the world will have a place to go to see century old trees, meadows, marshes, lakeside beaches and other protected natural features. They will have the opportunity to engage in leisure and recreational activities there, take guided tours, learn from staff, help with ecological restoration, and observe sustainable farming that will go on in lands within the Park.

Indeed excitement is building for the great potential this park has. On September 14-15, the largest Bioblitz in the world was held in the park! The Royal Ontario Museum, the Toronto Zoo, Ontario Nature and conservation authorities collaborated with ‘citizen scientists’ to document all the life they could find in the park in 24 hours. The goal, in part, was “…inspiring participants to become champions for wild species and spaces across the Province.”

If you went to the Rouge National Urban Park, how would you choose to connect with nature? Perhaps relax in the sanctuary under a large tree? Visit to paint nature or paint in nature? Or an invigorating paddle on the Rouge? Perhaps help monitor species in the park? Attend this October MVFN talk to find out from Parks Canada, John Meek what possibilities there will be in Rouge Park, for all who visit, to connect with nature and learn. Also, find out what natural features are being protected for future generations with the establishment of this Park, the wildlife corridors, the rivers, the watersheds, the wildlife, and the habitats, including Lake Ontario coastal wetlands and more. The presentation “Canada’s First: A National Urban Park in the Rouge Valley, will take place at 7:30 pm, Thursday October 17, 2013 at the Almonte United Church social hall, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members) and refreshments are provided. For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089.




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Songbird Nursery Closing for the Winter—the Birds will be Here Soon!

Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

September 6, 2013

Songbird Nursery Closing for the Winter—the Birds will be Here Soon!

Click to link to press story “Talking to Gaia, Goddess of Earth” written after the lecture  

The goldenrods and asters are turning our roadsides yellow and blue again. The grackles have already left, and the goldfinches are preparing to leave. The bears are fattening up on a bumper crop of acorns. Yes, it’s autumn. And one of the regular events of autumn is the start of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) new lecture series, this year entitled Knowing and Caring Connect Us With Nature.

MVFN is very fortunate to have an outstanding speaker to start the season. In her presentation, “From Our backyards to the Boreal and Beyond,” Caroline Schultz, executive director of Ontario Nature and conservation biologist, will speak about the enormous boreal forest (half of Ontario’s land area) which is just to our north, how it is connected to our backyards, and how our backyards are connected to nature beyond the boreal.

Woodland Caribou-Tessier (1024x690)

Meet a woodland caribou in our boreal forest. Believe it or not, nature in your backyard is connected to nature in this vast forest region just north of us. Learn how at the inaugural lecture of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ upcoming lecture series Knowing and Caring Connect Us With Nature, September 19, 2013 (photo by Paul Tessier, iStock)

The boreal forest is the land of conifer forest, home of the woodland caribou, and a vast nursery for songbirds and waterfowl. Many of these visit Lanark County each spring, on their way north, and each autumn, on their way back south. Songbirds that breed on the very edge of the tree line near Hudson Bay may very well rest in a tree in your own backyard on their way back to the rain forest for the winter. As well, the boreal forest has vast wetlands—the Hudson Bay lowlands region is one of the ten largest wetlands in the world. Its extensive peatlands store massive amounts of carbon keeping it out of our atmosphere where it could do great damage to our climate. Its vast freshwater ecosystems play a major role in global hydrological cycles. Boreal forest conservation further ensures an abundance of wild forest and freshwater foods and sustainable livelihoods for northern residents.

Many of wild the boreal inhabitants are about to move south in the coming month. Not the polar bears or caribou of course. At least, no one in the field naturalists has yet seen flocks of polar bears flying south. But certainly most of the birds are on their way. Geese, grebes, loons, herons, cranes, grosbeaks and blackbirds will be passing through soon.

Thus our backyards matter—whether they are measured in square feet or square kilometers. Nature-friendly gardening and land stewardship can provide resting areas for migrating birds and can help pollinators such as native bees and butterflies. We can plant trees, protect our forests, leave the shoreline at the cottage natural, or plant native shrubs to replace lakeside lawns—there is something each of us can do to make Lanark County better for wildlife. The cumulative effects of such simple actions are very powerful when thousands of people do them. This will help to ensure that Lanark County not only keeps its natural beauty, but increases it in the future. Working to ensure that municipalities have robust natural heritage systems in their Official Plans and opening the doors to the wonders of nature, especially to our youth, are also vital for ensuring that we protect the biodiversity that sustains us.

But, our backyards are connected beyond the boreal! Everything we do here in Ontario has an impact beyond our borders. This ranges from the importance of sustaining vital migratory or breeding habitat for birds to minimizing our carbon footprint to sustaining our freshwater systems that are part of the global hydrological cycle. Everything is connected. Imagine, we have responsibilities as global environmental stewards and we should be proud of this. But Ontario has the fourth highest ecological footprint compared with 60 countries around the world. Canada has the eight highest. We need to earn the right to be proud as proactive environmental leaders.

Lanark County is a beautiful place to spend the year, but life is always more enjoyable when you know enough about your surroundings to appreciate them. Where else in the world could you live with enormous protected wetlands on the edge of town, great blue herons on the side of the river, hackberry trees lining the waterfalls, and large tracts of deciduous forest just outside the town? Sounds great. But just what is living in those wetlands and forests? Much more than just deer and bears. The theme of this year’s public talks is about exactly this— connecting with and appreciating our natural surroundings and understanding how they are linked to big picture nature conservation.

So how did Caroline fall in love with nature and come to connect with Ontario Nature? Discover this, know about nature in your backyard, care about the boreal forest, and forge connections to nature in distant places you may never visit by attending Caroline Schultz’s talk “From Our Backyards to the Boreal Forest and Beyond” at 7:30p.m., Thurs. Sept. 19, 2013, Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089.

Photo: Meet a woodland caribou in our boreal forest. Believe it or not, nature in your backyard is connected to nature in this vast forest region just north of us. Learn how at the inaugural lecture of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ upcoming lecture series Knowing and Caring Connect Us With Nature, September 19, 2013 (photo by Paul Tessier, iStock).






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‘Wet and Wild’ Natural History Presentation Recording

Enjoy Field Naturalists’ Wet and Wild!

Dr. Paul Keddy is a professor of ecology and author of Earth, Water, Fire: An Ecological Profile of Lanark County. The link above takes you to Dr.Paul Keddy’s website and there you can find a link for a recording made of his Wet and Wild natural history lecture presented to MVFN  on February 22, 2013 in Almonte, as part of  the 2013-2014 public lecture series, Knowing and Caring Connect Us to Nature.

The talk introduces us to one of the world’s largest wetlands, wetlands that perch on hillsides, wetlands that burn, and of course, wetlands that flood.  Wetlands are one of the most productive habitats on Earth, and they support many kinds of life.

Keddy photo a-f






















Many wetland species, such as the ones in the photos above, are dependent upon annual flood pulses: (a) white ibis (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), (b) Mississippi gopher frog (M. Redmer), (c) dragonfly (C. Rubec), (d) tambaqui (M. Goulding), (e) furbish lousewort (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), and (f ) Plymouth gentian (Paul Keddy).

All life contains water. From distant space, Earth appears as a mosaic of blue and green, blue for water, green for plants. The talk is about the connections between green and blue—wetlands. The surrounding uplands interact with the low wetlands. For example, amphibians, such as tree frogs, over-winter in the forest, while nutrients and runoff from the forest enter the wetland.

Wetlands have always influenced us. Early civilizations first arose along the edges of rivers in the fertile soils of floodplains. Wetlands continue to produce many benefits for humans—along with fertile soils for agriculture, they provide food including fish and waterbirds. Additionally, wetlands have other vital roles that are less obvious. They produce oxygen, store carbon, and process nitrogen. Of course, wetlands have also been a cause of human suffering, such as providing habitat for mosquitoes that carry malaria. And, for thousands of years, human cities in low areas have flooded during periods of high water. Philosophers and theologians may enquire how it is that one system can be both life-giving and death-dealing.







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