Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Looking for  . . . quality items for a silent auction to be held at the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN)  Spring Gathering dinner and talk, May 21, 2015.  We are  looking for . . . . quality items,  offers of experiences, your skills, tours (nature or garden), gourmet meals, spa treatments, greens fees; any good idea will be considered.  Both private and commercial contributions are welcome for this silent auction. All proceeds will go to the campaign to protect Burnt Lands Alvar from development.

If you believe that wilderness and rare natural areas should be managed with care, then join MVFN in its effort to ensure Burnt Lands Alvar and its unique habitats remain intact for future generations to enjoy.

Please contact Bob Smith at 613-624-5307 or  (that’s ‘bob’ underscore ‘o’ underscore ‘links’) with your item, your offer or your idea/s.

Information and tickets will soon be available for the  Spring Gathering. Tickets will include the reception, dinner, keynote presentation by Jean Lauriault, and of course the silent auction!  Information about how to purchase tickets will be announced soon.  See you there!!!

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Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

June 2, 2014

MVFN celebrated another successful year at its Spring Gathering and AGM

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) held their Annual General Meeting at the Almonte Civitan Community Hall on May 15th followed by their ‘Spring Gathering’ event which had record-setting attendance. The AGM was conducted by Ken Allison, President of MVFN with attendance by the Board and club members.  Ken provided the membership with an overview of the organizations activities and finances over the last year.  This is the Club’s 26th year as an organization and throughout this time it has been very active promoting the understanding and awareness of the natural world in our community, with its popular natural history lectures series, canoe, hiking and birding outings, environmental programs for children and youth, and strong support for local conservation issues.  The Treasurer, Robert McCook presented the finances which show a well-managed club which can continue to be very active.  Ken introduced each of the board members for the coming year, and of special note is that Cliff Bennett, one of the founding members, will once again be President.  The 2014/15 board members can found on MVFN’s new website (www.MVFN.ca) under the ABOUT MVFN menu.

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Ken Allison presents the highlights of the year to kick-off MVFN’s annual Spring Gathering event. Photo Pauline Donaldson

The AGM was followed by the ‘Spring Gathering’ event which started with a reception, where old friends and acquaintances shared drinks and chatted; many visited the Young Naturalists exhibit and purchased raffle tickets in support of the MVFN Bursary fund, which supports young people going into the environment education field.  Presentation of the 2014 MVFN Champion for Nature also took place. Botanist David White was presented with the award for his work in establishing a Lanark Flora which is available on-line for public use and furthers plant and habitat conservation in our region.

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Cathy Keddy presented the 2014 MVFN Champion for Nature award to David White. Photo Pauline Donaldson

The Almonte Civitan Club did an excellent job of providing top notch service and a very tasty meal.  A special thanks to all the volunteers, especially Cliff Bennett who organized the team and co-ordinated the event.

The Master of Ceremonies, Iain Wilkes, MVFN’s Publicity Chair and well-known leader of the Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count, enthusiastically guided the group through the evening culminating in a talk by Dr. Jayne Yack.  Jayne provided a fascinating talk on the secret world of insect communications with a focus on butterflies and caterpillars, many of them native to eastern Ontario.  Jayne played recordings of sounds caterpillars make and demonstrated that some butterflies can actually hear sounds made by birds, insects and even people.

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Dr. Jayne Yack is presented with a thank you gift by MVFN’s Publicity Chair Iain Wilkes following presentation of her ground-breaking research and intriguing details of butterfly and caterpillar communication. Photo Pauline Donaldson

It was a very successful and enjoyable evening, and everyone is reminded to put May 15th 2015 on their calendars for next years’ gathering. This summer MVFN will be running its regular canoe/kayak program and annual summer walks, and the clubs’ monthly natural history lectures will resume with a new series in September. Please see our new website, www.mvfn.ca , for details of these upcoming activities and for membership information.   The new site took roughly one year and hundreds of hours to define, design and have implemented by MVFN’s web team along with Chris Bruce, a local naturalist and web designer.  The new site makes it much easier to see what activities MVFN is involved in and to find information in a user friendly manner.

 

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PLEASE NOTE: Tickets are $35 and must be purchased or reserved in advance by Friday, May 9. See details below

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN), founded in the spring of 1988, will hold their fifth annual Spring Gathering on Thursday May 15th. The evening will include a banquet and a keynote presentation entitled Caterpillars Talk and Butterflies Listen which will be given by Dr. Jayne Yack, acoustic ecologist at Carleton University.

Once thought to be both deaf and mute, we now know that caterpillars can talk and butterflies can listen. During their daily activities these creatures communicate via a wide range of sounds and vibrations. Caterpillars send signals to defend territories or to startle predators. Butterflies eavesdrop on predators. Tap into the secret communication channels of the acoustic sensory world of insects and meet translator, Dr. Yack.

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Dr. Jayne Yack connects with a spectacular Blue Morpho butterfly

MVFN’s Spring Gathering will take place Thursday May 15, 2014 at the Almonte Civitan Community Hall, 500 Almonte St., just west of Highway 29, in Almonte. The reception will begin at 6:00 pm with a chance to meet, share a drink, and chat with friends. The banquet commences at 6:45 and will be followed by the featured presentation at approximately 8 pm. Tickets are $35 and must be purchased or reserved in advance by Friday, May 9. Tickets may be purchased in Almonte at Gilligallou Bird Inc., 14 Mill St. Unit 3 (613-461-7333), in Carleton Place at Read’s Book Shop, 135 Bridge St. (613-257-7323), in Lanark at New Runway Clothing, 46 George St. (613-259-5677), and in Perth at The Office, 11 Wilson St. (267-2172). For more information or to reserve your tickets for pick up at the venue on May 15th please contact MVFN’s Brenda Boyd (; 613-256-2706)

 

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 MVFN celebrates 25 years encouraging love and knowledge of nature at recent Spring Gathering

by Iain Wilkes

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) held their Annual General Meeting at the Almonte Civitan Club on May 16th followed by a very successful ‘Spring Gathering’ event. The AGM was conducted by Ken Allison, President of MVFN with attendance by the Board and club members. Ken provided the membership with an overview of the organizations activities and finances over the last year. This is the Club’s 25th year as an organization and during that time it has been very active promoting the understanding and awareness of the natural world in our community, with its popular natural history lectures series, canoe, hiking and birding outings, environmental programs for children and youth, and strong support for local conservation issues. The Treasurer, Robert McCook presented the finances which show a well managed club which can continue to be very active. Ken introduced each of the board members for the coming year, and of special note is that Cliff Bennett, one of the founding members has once again been elected to the Board where he will serve as Vice-President for 2013-14. Cliff has been very actively involved with MVFN from it first days and will ensure it continues to be a vibrant and relevant organization.

The AGM was followed by the well-attended and exciting ‘Spring Gathering’ event. Starting with the reception; old friends and acquaintances shared drinks and chatted; many visited the Young Naturalists exhibit, the Reduce Plastic Bag campaign table and made bids on the Silent Auction items. The Almonte Civitan Club did an excellent job of providing top notch service and a very tasty meal. A special thanks to all the volunteers, especially Rosemary McGinnis, this years’ event co-ordinator for MVFN.

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Guest speaker at MVFN’s Spring Gathering event, Éric Hébert-Daly (right), Executive Director of Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, is thanked after his presentation by Iain Wilkes, MVFN’s newly elected Publicity Chair. Photo Pauline Donaldson.

The Master of Ceremonies, Iain Wilkes, MVFN’s new Publicity Chair and well-known leader of the Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count, enthusiastically guided the group through the evening culminating in a talk by Éric Hébert-Daly, Executive Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. Éric provided a passionate and insightful look at how conservation work was done traditionally such as through protected area campaigns, local land trusts, and re-naturalization projects, and he explored how we might be more efficient and successful in the years to come through a shift towards a focus on ecological integrity, and methods such as land-use planning, network (vs. islands) planning, multilateralism, and First Nations involvement to name a few. Eric fielded many interesting questions after his presentation, reflecting that our community is very engaged when it comes to the environment and conservation.

It was a very successful and enjoyable evening, and everyone is reminded to put May 15th on their calendars for next years’ gathering. This summer, ongoing MVFN activities include the canoe/kayak program and annual summer walk, and the clubs’ monthly natural history lectures resume with a new series in September. Please see mvfn.ca for details of these upcoming activities and for membership information.

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Amongst those present at MVFN’s recent Spring Gathering was the clubs first President Ken Bennett. Ken and Cathy Keddy, current Program Chair, shown with pieces of the celebratory ‘25 years of nature’ cake. Cliff Bennett (left), one of MVFN’s founding members and newly elected as Vice-President for 2013-14, is seated next to Brenda Boyd, MVFN’s Chair of Environmental Education, at MVFN’s Spring Gathering. Photos Pauline Donaldson.

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Nurturing our national nature in Canada’s National Parks, a lecture report by Mary Robinson

At the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) 25th anniversary Spring Gathering an inspirational presentation “Looking Back and Looking Ahead: Nurturing Our National Nature” was presented by Éric Hébert-Daly, National Executive Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). This year CPAWS celebrates 50 years of its collaborative approach to conservation. By keeping in touch with 13 chapters active locally across Canada they see national tendencies. They have helped protect over half a million square kilometres of wilderness by helping government, industry and First Nations. Approximately 90% of Canada’s lands and waters are public, but only 10% is protected; CPAWS’ long-term goal is to increase this to 50%.

In his presentation, Hebert-Daly talked in depth about three key shifts in the approach to conservation in Canada’s National Parks in the last 25 years. These three key shifts are: a shift in focus to ecological integrity instead of visitor experience, a shift from unilateralism to multilateralism in planning and decision making, and a shift from islands to networks with respect to interconnection and geography of protected areas.

Challenges to keeping a focus on ecological integrity

In discussing the first shift, Mr. Hébert-Daly spoke about Canada’s first national park, Banff National Park, created 127 years ago. When the railway was being built into the west, workers discovered the wonderful hot springs at Banff. When the government heard about this natural wonder they realized it could be a great attraction for visitors to Canada, especially Europeans interested in the ‘wild’ nature of Canada. At that time, wilderness with its untouched natural beauty represented the countries ‘soul’ and could be used to show-case Canada. This was the primary reason the National Park program began.

In time, more parks were created and activities such as camping, hiking and canoeing became synonymous with Canada’s parks. People loved them and came from all over the world. Infrastructures to support the cars, campers, food and waste had to be created. Eventually we began to lose sight of the ecological values of our parks and the environment and wildlife people were coming to see started to disappear.

CPAWS came into existence in 1963, to monitor and save the nature within the parks and preserve it for future generations. In the 1980s and 1990s CPAWS and local partners in Banff pushed hard to prevent Park encroachment by developers of the Banff town site.

This led to a National Panel on the Ecological Integrity of our National Parks. Scientists and conservationists came together in a consensus report recommending that ecological integrity become the first priority in park management; the National Parks Act was changed accordingly. Scientists were hired by Parks Canada, and ecological monitoring and measurement became a reality. This model was the first in the world and was adopted by other countries such as Korea, the U.S. and Australia.

Looking forward, however, this priority is being challenged. Parks Canada has suffered massive cut-backs and scientists have been “shown the door”. As a result, the monitoring and evaluation in Canadian Parks is not taking place. Moreover, developmental pressures in our National Parks are being felt again. The private sector is getting involved in ways that are not always successful. To illustrate, Mr. Hébert-Daly showed a slide of the Jasper Discovery Walk – a massive glass-bottom platform, overhanging a cliff in Jasper National Park. The intent is to offer visitors an unobstructed view of wildlife. However, animals such as mountain goats, who are natural climbers, will not migrate into an area with an artificial overhang such as that. This example shows we still need increased vigilance regarding development and infrastructures within our parks. Another problem is that boundaries of the parks are not recognized by wildlife. At this point, Eric showed a slide of a baby caribou, possibly within a National Park. Not only do we need to protect what is inside the Parks, we also need to consider the impact of development outside the Parks. Our speaker showed a slide of Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. There is a proposal for oil fracking oil off the coast, just 100 metres outside the Park. Clearly, we need buffer zones around the Parks, including coastal and marine buffer zones, so the entire ecosystem remains healthy and survives.

Unilateralism to Multilateralism in Consultation and Planning

The second big shift around conservation efforts was the shift from a unilateral approach to planning and decision making to one that is multilateral and includes all ‘stakeholders’. In the early 1900’s park creation was done on a very ad-hoc basis without much logic or thought, sometimes with a reckless “wild west” mentality. Later, in the 1970’s more thought was put into the big picture and a decision was made to create a network of National Parks representing each of the distinct eco-regions in Canada. Presently there are 42 National Parks, and 26 of the 39 distinct ecoregions are represented. It was revolutionary to develop such a concept that would drive park creation nationally.

In the past, indigenous First Nations communities were ignored in the creation of Parks. Hebert-Daly related a story from the 1970s, about a small Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation community on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake accessible only by boat or plane. People from Ottawa made an unannounced visit and informed the community leader of their plans to develop a National Park there. He listened and then escorted them back to their plane and asked them to leave. From then on Hebert-Daly says, “to those First Nations people, the word ‘Park’ became a ‘four-letter’ word” as they feared for their right to their land and the conversion of their home lands into a public campground. The approach to conservation in those years was clearly unilateral and many ‘bridges were burned’. In recent years, the process is much more multilateral. Time is taken to consult those impacted and the decision to create a national park is lengthy. However, when there is an upwelling of community support for it, things can happen quickly, and remain inclusive.

For example, the same community on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake is now in negotiations with Parks Canada to create a co-managed National Park where they will be the interpreters and lead the eco-tourism initiatives. A new 30,000 square kilometre park to be named Thaidene Nene (Land of the Ancestors) is to be announced soon. This will be a fully co-managed National Park and an economic model for future generations. Hébert-Daly showed a slide of the beautiful Ts’akui Theda (Lady of the Falls) waterfalls within the proposed Thaidene Nene. It is a traditional pilgrimage and spiritual site for healing and prayer. A traditional story, explains that centuries ago First Nations people out hunting for a giant beaver that was destroying their homeland, left behind a beautiful woman. She had asked for some of the beaver blood but was not given any, so she stayed behind at the falls to heal and console people. Large ancestors of modern day beavers lived thousands of years ago in the area and skulls of these massive animals have been found.

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A waterfall in beautiful Thaidene Nene, a 30,000 square kilometre proposed National Park near the East Arm of Great Slave Lake. It will be a fully co-managed National Park and an economic model for future generations. Photo David Murray

A shift from islands to networks (but including some urban islands)

The third shift in conservation approach is from islands to networks. In the past efforts were made to protect a particular ecologically, culturally or spiritually significant area on its own. However, there needs to be interconnectivity, between individual areas or islands in order to create networks which will maintain ecological integrity, for example for adequate migration and mixing of individuals within a population. Remember the baby caribou? Creating a Caribou Recovery Strategy is only the first step in caring for this species. We need to take care of entire eco-systems to ensure survival of herds.

We need to look at the bigger picture. Land-use planning, considered by many a boring topic, will be critical for examining the landscape as a whole. All relevant players should be at the table deciding on the best possible use of the land. Where are the resources of interest and the conservation values? How can viable economic development, roads and infrastructure, and ecological integrity co-exist.

We need to examine what we value in our culture. We tend not to attribute an economic value to two of our most important resources: clean water and air – the very things that keep us alive and healthy. CPAWS is supporting David Suzuki and his 30 x 30 Nature Challenge for Canadians to get outside in nature for 30 minutes for 30 days in May. This is increasingly important when approximately 80% of Canada’s population lives in the cities and our population is becoming increasingly diverse with immigrants arriving from places which did not offer experiences of wilderness or familiarity with the benefits for wildlife and people.

Canada is fortunately taking interesting approaches to ensuring that everyone can get ‘back to nature’. This includes creating some island parks which are not connected to others, but will nevertheless serve a vital purpose. Rouge National Urban Park, in the middle of Toronto, is a new National Park which will be Canada’s first National Urban Park. While it will not be able to, nor will it be required to, maintain the same ecological standards as other national parks, it will have a huge benefit by virtue of a huge population at its doorstep.

Canada protects less than 10% of its public lands and only 1% of its oceans. Only four years ago, Australia was like Canada with minimal protection of its oceans but now Australia protects 35% of its oceans. So things can change if the will is there.

In conclusion, we have established some amazing protected areas in Canada over the last 127 years, and we have learned a lot along the way. However, we need constant vigilance to establish and maintain the ecological integrity of our park lands and waters. We cannot act unilaterally to protect places without risking creating barriers to future success. We are all inter-connected with our natural environments and our public natural areas need to be planned and managed at a broader scale than we have done so far.

 

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Éric Hébert-Daly (right) National Executive Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society inspired us with his “Nurturing our National Nature” talk on historical shifts in approach to conservation in Canada’s National Parks. He is shown here with Iain Wilkes, MVFN Board member and MC for the evening, Photo Pauline Donaldson

The following is a summary of key questions posed to Hébert-Daly following the presentation:

Where does CPAWS get its funding? The funding is from individuals and foundations. CPAWS does not rely on the government; therefore they can be critical of the governments, when required, and complimentary when merited.

What is the status of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement? The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement includes 9 environmental organizations signed with 21 forest companies who are members of the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC). Under the Agreement, FPAC members commit to the highest environmental standards of forest management and conservation, while environmental organizations commit to global recognition and support for FPAC members efforts (reference http://www.canadianborealforestagreement.com/). Unfortunately, it is very hard to implement. The third anniversary of the Agreement is this Saturday. Depending on what happens in the next short while, there may be an announcement that CPAWS is very frustrated with certain aspects of the situation.

We have to ask what we are going to do with this landscape at the broad level. There is a lot of information out there but is has never been put together. We need to take the information and overlay it. For example, take Alberta and its Boreal Forest. When they overlaid where the caribou travel and where the forest, oil and gas areas are, it was discovered that all could take place in Alberta at the same time.

Who would be responsible for doing this overlay of existing information? That should be done by the Federal Government as it has responsibility for anything that crosses the provincial boundaries. Almost all resources belong to the provinces and implementation of conservation efforts has to happen at the provincial level.

What about the Budget cuts to the National Parks? That is a question of philosophy. There is an undermining of the scientific capacity at the federal level – almost as if they are thinking if we don’t know certain things – we can ignore it.

What are possible future areas for Parks?

• Mealy Mountains in Labrador –to protest a large portion of boreal forest, tundra and shoreline on the Labrador Sea.

• Parc national Tursujuq – to become the biggest national park in Quebec and the biggest in eastern North America

• Lancaster Sound – a national marine area in the Arctic

• Southern Strait of Georgia in BC – a national marine conservation area

• Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve – at the east end of Great Slave Lake

• Other possible areas include the South Okanagan in BC, and areas in Manitoba and Nova Scotia

What can a small organization like MVFN do? In answering this question posed after his talk, Hebert Daly said “Never underestimate the power of the written word.” A group like MVFN and its individual members could take the time to write letters or emails on specific environmental issues. Such actions can be very powerful. When many people are sending the same message to government and other officials they tend to pay attention. Be on the email list for CPAWS or other similar organizations and respond when requested.

 

 

 

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