Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
May 2, 2006
Submitted by Pauline Donaldson, MVFN Public Relations Chair
Cliff Bennett wins 2006 Wildlife Festival ‘individual’ award for excellence in environmental conservation
Most days, local naturalist and former Ramsay Township Councillor Cliff Bennett, is out of doors in a canoe or out on a hiking trail or curling rink. Last Wednesday night (April 19) however, he was thrilled to be in attendance as the 2006 Ottawa Wildlife Festival (OWF) Awards for Excellence in Environmental Conservation were handed out at the Museum of Nature in Ottawa. The OWF awards are given annually to those who have “taken action to promote and enhance the conservation of nature and whose efforts will be sustainable for the future”. Cliff, who lives on Clayton Road in Mississippi Mills, was the winner in the “individual” category for “sustained commitment to protection of the environment and for tirelessly working over many decades to help people enjoy, understand and respect the natural world”. Cliff and the winners in the other 2 categories were each presented with a ‘chickadee statue’ award carved by Rick St. John
One could place into two broad categories, Cliff’s many contributions to environmental conservation in the Lanark County area. First there are the many activities Cliff undertakes to nurture love and respect for the natural world, elements which are essential in a conservation-minded community. As expert canoeist, knowledgeable birder and naturalist, Cliff leads educational outings on our local waters and trails, imparting his love of nature to others. Many of these are conducted as part of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists outdoor program. On MVFN’s website he has described many routes he explores, so that others can find them too.
Cliff has also written about birds for many years, and while being better known locally for his Lanark Era column “Speaking of Birds”, he is also active behind the scenes. He organized and led MVFN’s ambitious 5 year effort to gather data for a square in the new Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas. He also organizes the Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count, joins others such as the Baillie Birdathon fundraiser for Bird Studies Canada, and leads bird call and related workshops. As a retired teacher, Cliff has always been dedicated to children and, when cutbacks reduced environmental education in the schools in the 1990′s, he initiated MVFN’s highly praised Environmental Education Projects (EEPP) program. It secured funding through external grants and club events and continues to bring specialized nature programming to area school children. He and other long-standing members of MVFN are passionate about children’s education and extremely proud of the EEPP initiative.
A second important contribution Cliff makes to conservation is his inspiration and support of local voices for environmental issues. It is partly due to Cliffs’ efforts that Lanark County is home to two of the relatively small number of Ontario Environmental Advisory Committees (Lanark Highlands and Mississippi Mills) which advise Municipal Councilors. Cliff was also a founder of the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust Conservancy and helped achieve the establishment of the new Lanark County Municipal Trails Corporation.
In accepting the award, Cliff graciously gave credit to the strength of MVFN in making many of his achievements possible. Cliff is a founding member of this non-profit naturalist group, and through his dedication, passion and humor he has inspired many to volunteer, both with the group and in the community. He has served as MVFN’s President and currently sits on three committees including the new Climate Change Awareness committee. Prior to this he worked for 3 years as MVFN’s representative on the Town of Mississippi Mills Community Official Plan Steering Committee to encourage inclusion of environmental considerations in the new Official Plan. The Plan is presently under review for approval by the province. In June of 2005 Cliff began perhaps his most challenging role as a Director on the Board of Ontario Nature, representing 18 Eastern Ontario naturalist clubs, “Friends of” groups and other organizations committed to the conservation of nature in Ontario. Our congratulations and sincere thanks go to Cliff!
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
August 24, 2002
Written by Cliff Bennett
Mississippi Mills Moves to Protect Turtles
At several noted locations along the roads of Mississippi Mills, turtles cross over with great regularity during the summer, in a migratory move to traditional feeding and nesting sites. Many don’t make it; they get run over by vehicles. In a move to save as many of these important wetland creatures as possible, Mississippi Mills Council recently passed a motion to approve the installation of turtle crossing signs at specific active locations throughout the municipality.
The initiative to encourage the crossing signs came from the organization Turtle S.H.E.L.L. and was supported by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN). The initials S.H.E.L.L. stand for safety, habitat, education and long life. The mission of Turtle S.H.E.L.L. is to protect our indigenous turtle species from extinction through education, habitat awareness and placing of road signs at migratory sites. Many signs are already in place in the Bancroft area and throughout Leeds Grenville and the organization is presently negotiating with the County of Lanark for signs along County Road 16. Turtle S.H.E.L.L. has published a booklet on turtles for use in schools entitled “Let’s Talk Turtles”.
The president of the group, Ottawa resident Michele St.Cyr, approached local officials with details and sign design in April of this year, after key locations were identified by MVFN. Signs are already in place on Clayton Road and will soon be installed on Cedar Hill Road and Bellamy Road. Locations indicate major turtle crossing areas within a km. of the signs.
Mississippi Mills Council is to be commended for taking this initiative to help protect this important wildlife species. The move shows the municipal leaders care about the environment and its natural creatures. Three species of turtles common in our area , the painted, snapping and Blandings will now be better able to maintain their numbers if motorists pay attention to the signs and help keep the mortality rate low.
What should you do if you come across a turtle on the road? Turtles cannot hear well and can only look forward. They sense danger through vibrations but are too slow in movement to get out of the way of fast moving vehicles. Some concerned people stop (in a safe manner) and carefully move the turtles off the road, in the direction they were heading. Snapping turtles though, are often too large and too dangerous to move by hand and should only be helped by inserting a shovel or similar rigid material under it to help it over the road. Turtle S.H.E.L.L. can be contacted by calling 613-446-4995 or by e-mail at