Burnt Lands Alvar
MVFN Concludes Campaign to Influence Proposed Development on Burnt Lands Alvar
The almost year-long efforts of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) to oppose a proposed small development at the southern edge of Burnt Lands Alvar on Golden Line Road in Ramsay Ward, came to a conclusion with an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing on December 7, 2015. The MVFN alvar team fought for changes to the development right up to about a week before the hearing, when they withdrew from the hearing after exhausting all of their options.
The County of Lanark and the Municipality of Mississippi Mills Official Plans allow cluster-lot developments within the alvar (even though it is a sensitive area and a designated Area of Natural and Scientific Interest) if an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is conducted and steps are taken to mitigate environmental damage to the footprint of the development. As these steps had been shown in the original application, the proposed development project had been approved conditionally and could proceed. It was on these grounds that MVFN felt it could make an impact by opposing the project as planned. The MVFN alvar team strove to force many improvements to the EIS for the proposed development.
By opposing the development, MVFN has raised awareness of the public as to the existence of the Burnt Lands Alvar, its location, what an alvar is, and the unique and fragile ecosystems which make Burnt Lands Alvar an ecological treasure. Also, MVFN’s opposition to this particular development has arguably influenced the local municipality to begin processes to change its Community Official Plan and accompanying Zoning By-Laws to ensure future similar development schemes cannot occur on regulated lands in Mississippi Mills.
A significant impact of MVFN’s alvar appeal was to have three additional on-site visits by ecologists and other experts take place, in late spring, summer and early autumn. These field studies added significantly to the developer’s previous EIS study, which had included only one cursory assessment of the Alvar ecology. Two other important concessions were achieved by the MVFN team, to place the roadway in the least damaging location, and the other to change the location of the turning circle, also to minimize impact. Other positive influences from the MVFN team can be seen throughout the final EIS report.
The Alvar OMB team, led by MVFN member Tineke Kuiper, included several qualified specialists and other supporting persons. Key to the effort was a team of lawyers from the Canadian Environment Law Association, which was provided free of costs to MVFN.
The other significant component of MVFN’s appeal effort was the MVFN fund-raising team, led by MVFN Chair of the Environmental Issues Committee Theresa Peluso. They conducted an amazing fund-raising campaign which allowed the MVFN Alvar team to hire a planner and two ecologists and pay other related costs. When final invoices are in, the MVFN Finance Committee will publish a financial statement.
Although MVFN had withdrawn their appeal prior to the hearing, MVFN President Cliff Bennett and a member of the lawyer team, attended the short OMB hearing as a professional courtesy. The final judgments of the OMB will be handed down by mid-January and a final MVFN report will be issued at that time. For any enquiries on MVFN’s involvement in this project, please contact Cliff Bennett at 613 256-5013 or
Photos by Pauline Donaldson were taken during a 2015 walk on Burnt Lands Alvar led by Ken Allison .
Announcing butterfly count: SW Ottawa & Burnt Lands Alvar
By Ken Allison
On Saturday, July 4, the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club will be holding the 14th annual Manion Corners Butterfly Count. Similar to Christmas Bird Counts, this event is an all-day survey of a 24-km diameter circle. Although this count is facilitated by the Ottawa club, the count area is centred on Manion Corners (southwest of Ottawa) and includes several important butterfly areas such as the Long Swamp and the Burnt Lands alvar.
Appalachian Brown butterfly. Photo Ken Allison
Burnt Lands Alvar is home to Burnt Lands Alvar Provincial Park and the alvar itself, much of which is situated within Mississippi Mills, is a designated Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI). If you are intrigued by recent attention focused on the alvar and the guided walks on the alvar this spring (focused primarily on habitat and the unique and rare plant species), this event will give you a chance to see the rich butterfly fauna of the ANSI. Jeff Skevington and Peter Hall are the coordinators for the count. You might recognize Peter’s name as he is one of the authors of The Butterflies of Canada, which is the standard ‘go-to’ guide book on Canadian butterflies.
If you wish to participate in the count, meet at the parking lot at the intersection of Dwyer Hill Road and March Road at 8:30 a.m. This is a ‘child-friendly’ event and is a great opportunity to introduce children to the interesting world of butterflies. The count goes all day until 4:30 p.m. and this is followed by a meeting, at 6 pm, for a compilation and pot luck dinner. All participants are invited to the compilation and it is always a very enjoyable event with great food and fun interactions with a group of real enthusiasts. If you can’t make it to the compilation, arrangements can be made to get your data in sometime during the afternoon before you leave.
There is a $4 charge to participants, to support the publication of the count results. No experience is necessary – the organizers will put teams together on Saturday morning and match up people so that everyone has a chance to learn from the experts. If you have binoculars and a butterfly net, please bring them along. Butterflies may be captured for identification and release. Rubber boots are recommended, as some of the sites have a lot of poison ivy, especially in the Burnt Lands.
The rain date for this event will be Sunday, July 5 at 8:30 am. Call Jeff Skevington Friday evening at 613-720-2862 if there is any doubt about the weather or for specific questions regarding this event.
MVFN Burnt Lands Alvar Tour
Ken Allison will lead a tour for MVFN members and friends; a spring tour of Burnt Lands Alvar, on Saturday morning, May 30, 2015.
We will spend the morning searching for the special plants that thrive in this habitat, such as Fringed Polygala, Seneca Snakeroot and New Jersey Tea. Hopefully, some of the lady’s-slippers will be in bloom. We will also be looking at any birds and butterflies that are present.
We will be looking at alvar woodland, alvar meadows, alvar wetland, and the regenerating burn site to see a variety of different habitats.
Date: Saturday, May 30, 2015
Time: Meet at location at 7:30 a.m.
Location: Meet along Golden Line Road beside Burnt Lands Alvar Provincial Park area (marked by signs on the fence) at 7:30 a.m. There is roadside parking.
Bring: mosquito repellent, binoculars and a camera. Rubber boots are strongly recommended as parts of the alvar can be flooded a few inches deep early in the year and there are patches of poison ivy.
NOTE: You must pre-register for this event.
To register, please contact Gretta Bradley at or 613-256-4202. Please remember to give your name and the event/s you are registering for.
NOTE: If you wish to become an MVFN member or renew, please complete a Membership Form. Memberships dues are very reasonable and include all MVFN events and lectures, as well as supporting MVFN’s many local conservation and education initiatives.
Photos below are from a May 2009 Burnt Lands Alvar Tour led by Paul Catling (orange shirt). In spite of the nearly constant rain that day, the wonder of the alvar in springtime kept everyone so mesmerized that no one noticed the rain!
Enhance Your Summer – with Art and Experiences!
at the Silent Auction Fundraiser for the Alvar
Now that spring is FINALLY here, and summer’s just around the corner, you’ll want to make the most of the warm weather and the cool breezes, and all that our community has to offer. How about doing that – as well as enjoying great food and company – and at the same time contributing to the preservation of a natural treasure, the Burnt Lands Alvar?
All you need to do is participate in the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ 2015 Spring Gathering on Thursday, May 21 at the Almonte Civitan Hall, where you can enjoy a great meal, a fascinating talk by the evening’s keynote speaker, Jean Lauriault, an expert on the mysteries of Monarch butterflies, and – a silent auction. All funds raised from this silent auction will go towards supporting MVFN’s efforts to preserve the Burnt Lands Alvar. Remember to purchase or reserve your tickets by Thursday, May 14!
What is on offer at this silent auction? Paintings and art work galore – by Amelia Ah You, Jennifer Noxon, and Mary Pal, as well as a variety of other fine art creations with a nature theme.
What if you’re keen to explore the outdoors and learn about nature? Well, you can bid on several amazing experiences – crewing on a sailboat, a nature tour, a day of birding in Prince Edward County, or a geological Alvar tour. For other experiences closer to home, why not bid on a night of musical entertainment, a garden tour and lunch for six people, Spanish lessons, or bilingual home tutoring?
Perhaps there’s a special person in your life in need of some rest and relaxation? What better treat than a biodynamic massage, a Reiki treatment, a massage treatment certificate, a special package from Soul Scents, or a sailboat excursion followed by a scrumptious lunch?
If you’re looking for ways to spruce up your abode, there will be something for that too in our silent auction! A home-styling session, a garden consultation, a cubic yard of compost delivered to your home, or a monthly bouquet of fresh flowers are all sure to provide that extra oomph.
Although you can bid on a few pieces of silent auction fine art while they are displayed at Mill Street Books in Almonte (from May 12 to 20), bidding on these will continue on until the close of bidding during the May 21st Spring Gathering event. All other auction items are available for bidding at the MVFN Spring Gathering only. Watch the MVFN website and Burnt Lands Alvar Campaign FB page for an updated listing of all silent auction items, as well as our weekly featured silent auction item. Tickets ($40) for the 2015 Spring Gathering Dinner, Keynote Presentation and Silent Auction are available from Gilligallou Bird Store (Almonte); Reads Book Shop (CP) and The Office, Perth; or contact Brenda Boyd: or 613-256-2706 to reserve.
We hope to see you at our Spring Gathering, and out and about this summer, enjoying the fruits of your hard-earned bidding!
Town of Mississippi Mills set to hear your views on environmental zoning for Burnt Lands Alvar!
One very effective way you can help protect natural areas is to support municipal government when they consider policy changes that enhance protection of natural areas or restrict development in these areas.
If you live in the Town of Mississippi Mills, you have that chance Tuesday, May 5, 2015. Council is set to consider public opinion on a proposal to rezone much of Burnt Lands Alvar as an environmental protection zone. This is a good thing! If you agree, then write to tell Council that you support this rezoning (details of where to write are below in the public notice attached).
Or attend the public meeting to speak in support of the rezoning or hand deliver your letter to the Town Clerk, and the chance to sign in and register your name to be informed of the Council decision.
When: May 5, 2015 at 6:30 pm.
Where: Town of Mississippi Mills Council Chambers, 3131 Old Perth Road, Almonte, Ontario.
THE PURPOSE AND INTENT of the Official Plan and Zoning By-law Amendments are to provide environmental protection for the Burnt Land ANSI from intensive rural development by amending rural development policies in the Community Official Plan and placing the lands within the Burnt Lands ANSI within an Environmental Protection (EP) Zone.
ANY PERSON may attend the public meeting and/or make written or verbal representation either in support of or in opposition to the proposed Official Plan Amendment and the Zoning By-law Amendment. Written submissions regarding the proposed amendments are to be filed with the Town Clerk at the Town of Mississippi Mills Municipal Office, 3131 Old Perth Road, R.R. #2, P.O. Box 400, Almonte, Ontario, K0A 1A0.
Further information about the Burnt Lands Alvar may be found elsewhere on our website; as well as an opportunity to donate to our Burnt Lands Alvar Campaign.