Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley


MVFN Helps Fund School Project

Foley Mountain Image (c) RVCANancy Timmon’s Grade four class from Naismith Public School, Almonte, had a fantastic two day trip to Foley Mountain at the end of last school year, thanks to financial support from Mississippi Valley Field Naturalist’s Environmental Education Projects Programme (EEPP). The event was a camping situation, with help from many parent volunteers and included field activities, a sumptuous BBQ and a campfire in the evening.

Field activities, which complimented the children’s at-school environmental programmes, included a geological exploration of Foley Mountain followed by a study of plant life on the rock outcrops, pond studies, a hike to the beach and orientation with map and compass exercises.

Mrs. Timmons, who had taken several groups to Foley Mountain in the past, remarked her Grade Four’s camp experience was judged by parents and children to be one of the best school experiences yet, one full of memories lasting for a long time. In her post project report to MVFN, Timmons thanked the club for their generous financial support in making the camp possible.


Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
August 24, 2002
Written by Cliff Bennett

Mississippi Mills Moves to Protect Turtles

Turtle CrossingAt 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

Community Forests Comunity Forests
When the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources downloaded management of County forests to County governments last year (2001), the County of Lanark decided to appoint a team of three experts (The Management Team)  to set up a Business Plan to manage the lands. Part of the team’s mandate was to involve the public in consultations throughout the process. Recently, the management team, produced a draft of the plan and sent it out to various groups for comments. Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) was one of those groups.MVFN has been involved with the process since the beginning. They attended public meetings and responded to survey questionnaires. MVFN member and Chair of the MVFN Natural Resources Issues Committee Dr. Jim Bendell, participated  on the plan’s advisory committee. Recently, a small group of interested MVFN members met to pour over the Draft Plan and submit it’s comments on behalf of MVFN.

Key to the response to the Draft Plan was an appeal for inventory of all of the natural aspects of the community forested lands, recognizing that good management of these resources cannot proceed in an orderly way without knowing what is there. In a call for a broadening of the vision for our community lands, MVFN also appealed to the County for more public input into the final document before it goes to County Council on Nov. 13, for approval.

Recognizing that our community forested lands contain more values that just timber production, values such as tourism, recreation, social and spiritual attributes,  MVFN recommends that these lands always remain within the public domain on behalf of the people of Lanark County.

MVFN welcomed  the opportunity to participate in this important challenge and offers to  help to advance the cause in anyway it can. Overall, MVFN congratulates the Management Team of Jim McCready, David Oliver and Chair and chief facilitator Gord Harrison for championing this project. Through their efforts and the process, the public is now aware that these lands exist.

Stand on guard for Canada!
(an open letter from Jim Bendell)Our lands and waters provide the nature we love and need ~ trees, birds, frogs, soil and much more. Should we not be concerned about the health and care of the provider?Twenty percent of the County of Lanark is land and water that is in Crown Land or our public lands. We are rich in natural resources. The Ministry of Natural Resources looks after our Lanark area forests and decides on their use. Considering the demands on our resources, are we and the Ministry doing the best job of resource care and management?Recently, the Province downloaded our Community Forests to the care of Lanark County. These lands and waters consist of some 43 properties totalling 12,000 acres and were essentially Crown Lands. A big difference now is we are locally and directly in control of this resource. The Council of Lanark County has established a team of consultants to examine and recommend what should be done with our forests. They are: Gordon Harrison, Jim McCready and David Oliver.

The team has held two public meetings and organized a steering committee to represent the views of the people. The committee includes a logger, trapper, hunter and fisher, snowmobiler, teacher and others, including me, for the Naturalists.

The team seems open to all kinds of suggestions and to want a best outcome for people and the land. Our Issues and Natural Resources Issues Committee have met with them, discussed the issues, and planned to visit some of the properties. All our welcome.

Where do we stand?  There is much interest in the properties from a number of users who make compelling arguments. A general view is that the forests must make money and not be a cost to the tax payer. We agree with the use of our resources, of course, but want to be sure that they are used well. Our history is replete with squandered natural wealth.

Good land use depends on good planning. For good planning there must be adequate inventory and evaluation of features as they are and might become. For example, where do we have an adequate and representative forest of old  growth Sugar Maple and how is it protected?  What will it return in tourism, recreation and knowledge? What helps in our management of Sugar Maple? We fear an adequate inventory of our resources has not been done. Yes, the trees have been mapped in standard forestry fashion(FRI maps) but there is much more to the forest than trees! What about ordinary, rare and uncommon features such as ecosystems like bogs, rocks and minerals, glacial effects, plants and animals scarcely looked for?

A second fundamental of good planning is to provide protected areas of representative and adequate natural features, especially those that are rare and uncommon. There are many reasons for this need but paramount are: to see, enjoy, and understand how nature works without the impact of humans and to obtain a base line to measure our progress in managing resources beyond our preserves. Give nature a chance!

We are convinced if nature in our Community Forests is adequately inventoried and protected we will derive the greatest benefits of all kinds. We produced a position paper as such which follows. We gave this to the consultants and members of the steering committee and hope it influences the outcome of their work. At present, their response is favourable but what action is taken remains to be seen.

What do you think should be done with our Community Forests? Will you help in our efforts? What should be done by the MVFN?

Please contact our President, Sandy Atack, at 256-6912 if you wish to talk about this important issue. It’s your environment.

Jim Bendell, Chair, Natural Resources Committee, MVFN.

MVFN’s position on our Community Forests
(Summary Approved by the Board of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists)

1. The Community Forests of Lanark County, as with associated Crown Lands, contain many features that are unique and uncommon globally. Included are: rocks, minerals, fossils, glacial features, soils, waters and wetlands, plants, animals and human history.

2. The Community Forests and Crown Lands are public lands and the public determines their stewardship.

3. Natural features have immense values, including economic, cultural, spiritual, ecologic, educational, scientific and recreational.

4. The inventory of natural features on our public lands is
inadequate and therefore careful planning for their use is severely compromised. Immediate attention must be given to an adequate inventory of our Community Forests.

5. We must have protected areas that are adequate and representative of all natural values. Protected areas are essential to obtain the greatest benefits from natural values and from the best use of areas beyond ­ that are managed.

6. The MVFN will help as much as possible in the identification and care of natural values. We welcome questions and comments.

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
June 13, 2002
Written by Sarah Coulber

Almonte Home to Precious and Rare Ecosystem

The sun shone for an enthusiastic group who explored the Burnt Lands Alvar, (Almonte area) with Shaun Thompson of the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). Organized by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN), it was a welcomed opportunity to learn about this rare ecosystem. All alvars are unique and exist only in Sweden and the Great Lakes Basin which adds significance to our alvar!

Alvars occur only on limestone bedrock covered with little or no soil. Shaun showed us areas where the frost heaved the soil and rock and explained that the shallow depth of soil partly contributes to the stress of plants and animals that live there, making survival in the cold winters and hot summers difficult. Some of the native inhabitants that have adapted to alvars (some of which were spotted) include the stunning blue-eyed grass, yellow lady slipper orchids, smooth green snakes and red-bellied snakes.

This valuable land has recently been transferred from the Department of National Defense to the MNR, Ontario Parks and the Nature Conservancy of Canada. A management plan will be created in the future to decide how to best protect and utilize this land.

Stay tuned for upcoming activities with the MVFN such as canoe outings and the fall program listing.