Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

2016 Champion for Nature Ray Holland

The 2016 Champion for Nature Award was presented to Ray by Lynda Bennett (Bennett and Georgina Doe were co-nominators of Ray for the award) at MVFN’s Spring Gathering in May.

Lynda Bennett:

“It is my pleasure to introduce Ray Holland to receive the Champion for Nature Award.

Ray, a resident of Pakenham, and an MVFN member, has spent his lifetime studying birds and their habitat. He has personally been responsible for rescuing many bird species during his whole time (41 years) in Canada.

He was a “transporting angel” of injured birds to Kitt Chubb, of Verona, Ontario, for treatment.

As an example of local help, he watched over and cared for the female Bullock’s Oriole found in Pakenham last March. Over a 5 week period, he daily monitored her, not allowing birders or photographers to come too close. One morning, at minus 31 degrees celsius, Ray found her lying on the ground. He carefully picked her up, wrapped her in a blanket, and transported her to the Wild Bird Care Centre in Nepean. Her recovery was insured.

In the 1980’s Ray helped Kathy Nihei, the original director of the Centre, save hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls nests and eggs before they were plowed into the ground, locally.

There is nothing Ray would not do to protect any living species. He generously shares bird sightings with local observers, with excellent directions for observation. His findings are forwarded to the bird committee of the Ottawa Field Naturalists Club.

Ray is a well-deserved recipient of this Champion for Nature Award.”

Ray Holland is presented with a Champion for Nature Award by MVFN President Brenda Boyd

NOTE: Sadly, Ray Holland passed away in August 2016. And, recovering at the Wild Bird Care Centre, the bird he rescued was confirmed to indeed be a Bullock’s Oriole. The following summer, mere weeks after Ray’s passing, the bird was flown back to British Columbia. Read story about the Pakenham Bullock’s Oriole returning home.



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2016 Champion for Nature Dr. Tineke Kuiper

For work involving the identification, preservation and protection of the flora and fauna of the Mississippi Mills area for present and future generations, Dr. Tineke Kuiper is awarded a 2016 MVFN Champion for Nature Award.

Tineke Kuiper is a long-time MVFN member and former member of the MVFN Board of Directors, serving on committees of the club and as a very successful Program Chair for many years.

Tineke Kuiper has also spent countless volunteer hours over the last several years working on the revision of the Environmental Land Use Policies of the Community Official Plan (COP) of the Municipality of Mississippi Mills. This has involved a great deal of study of the official plans of other Ontario municipalities, of the Provincial Policy Statement of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, of the Natural Heritage Reference Manual of the Ministry of Natural resources and Forestry, and extensive consultations with planners and experts from the public and private sectors.

MVFN President Brenda Boyd (right) presents a Champion for Nature award to Dr. Tineke Kuiper

Tineke has worked with assistance from the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority to undertake and prepare GIS mapping of the Natural Heritage System of Mississippi Mills. Tineke has consulted continuously with municipal officials and staff during this work and has made detailed presentations on Natural Heritage to the Municipality of Mississippi Mills Council, all as a volunteer. Natural Heritage amendments to the Official Plan are required under provincial legislation and policy in order to protect and preserve the natural environment. For Mississippi Mills these amendments also provide a strategy to help preserve and protect the rural character of our municipality, a principal theme in our current COP, while maintaining a balanced approach to allow for development.

Tineke Kuiper also led an important MVFN appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board against a Cluster Lot development proposal in the Southeast corner of the Burnt Lands Alvar ANSI, a project which threatened (and may still threaten) to fragment and whittle away the Burnt Lands Alvar, a provincially designated Significant Life Science Area of Natural and Scientific Interest. An enormous amount of work was undertaken by Dr. Kuiper to prepare the appeal and find the required experts to present it.  Although the appeal eventually had to be withdrawn, it very significantly sensitized the public, municipal Councillors and officials to the existence and importance of the alvar landscape and this ANSI. The appeal highlighted and underlined the need, still underway, to identify a Natural Heritage System in the Municipality of Mississippi Mills, and to put into place appropriate policies and prescriptions protecting natural heritage system spaces in the Community Official Plan.

Congratulations Tineke!

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2015 Champion for Nature Howard Clifford

Last night at the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists Spring Gathering, Howard Clifford was presented with an MVFN Champion for Nature Award. The presentation was made by friend and fellow-MMLT board member Mary Vandenhoff.

“Howard is a founding member of the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust (MMLT) and has been for the last five years the President, leading that organization to be one of the acknowledged innovators in the Land Trust movement in Ontario. A friendly and thoughtful man, he is highly respected for his deep understanding of the importance of Nature and his passion for sharing his knowledge of it.  The head of one of the largest of the Ontario Land Trusts advised that we “wrap him in bubble wrap” – and MMLT members surely wish they could.  You could say that like John Muir before him, he is a worthy Voice of Nature.”

Cliff, Howard, Mary

l-r: Cliff Bennett, Howard Clifford, Mary Vandenhoff. Photo by Pauline Donaldson


Nature has no greater champion than Howard, long time member of MVFN.

Howard is a founding member of the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust and has been for the last five years the President, leading that organization to be one of the acknowledged innovators in the Land Trust movement in Ontario. A friendly and thoughtful man, he is highly respected for his deep understanding of the importance of Nature and his passion for sharing his knowledge of it.  The head of one of the largest of the Ontario Land Trusts advised that MMLT  “wrap him in bubble wrap” – and MMLT members surely wish they could.  You could say that like John Muir before him, he is a worthy Voice of Nature.

Howard and his wife Jean and family own cliffLAND, a 1250 acre special  wilderness tract of land in North Lavant.  This property was the first property formally put under a conservation easement with the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust, in order to ensure that it remains a wilderness sanctuary in perpetuity.  This they have done not only from a personal commitment to and love of nature, but for the benefit of the community, now and in the future.  The Clifford’s see wilderness areas in our region as an integral part of a healthy community. In that light, they have generously and strategically ensured that this tract will be accessible to future generations.

cliffLAND is home to Blueberry Mountain, which has been identified as one the Seven Wonders of Lanark County.  In the past two years, Howard has annually welcomed and engaged (often accompanied personally) over 1000 local, national and international visitors to the top of the mountain, sharing his love of nature and people and making their visits memorable and educational.  It is becoming a popular tourist attraction, and an important natural asset in the county.

Howard works to introduce to the wilds special groups for whom wilderness has restorative and health benefits.  He has a particular interest in youth and has hosted, on repeated occasions, groups from the local schools and youth centres.  He established the Blueberry Mountain Under 6 and Under 12 clubs to recognize with certificates (and sometimes even cakes) those who have walked to the top of Blueberry Mountain.  He has a special knack of making children marvel at and appreciate the natural world around them, and they (over 200) are delighted to be members of these clubs. Special recognition is also provided to those at the other end of the age spectrum.  His Over 80 Club now numbers 17, demonstrating that in later years, one can still enjoy the walk and absorb the quiet pleasure of sitting on top of the world in Lanark Highlands.

Howard shares his knowledge and affection of nature through inventive theatrical means.  Young and old alike have experienced the world and lives of the great naturalists Grey Owl, Thoreau, or John Muir, as Howard, up on top of Blueberry Mountain emerges from the bush to do moving impersonations of these heroes whose passions Howard shares.  So impressive are these performances, he has been invited to perform them in several other locations around Ontario.

One example of forward thinking was Howard’s proposal to utilize new approaches and technologies to better understand our natural heritage.  Some scientists in the United States had begun to use audio recorders to capture, identify,  and archive natural soundscapes. Others have made recordings of the sounds of certain fauna (bats, whales, certain birds of special interest) in the course their research.  Learning about these practices, Howard immediately saw the potential to supplement traditional annual monitoring of conserved lands with sound recordings, helping to track changes in habitat health. There can be changes, not notable visually but clearly evident through the changes in sound, especially with the assistance of special software able to deconstruct the recordings made.

An important educational application of audio recorders and amplifiers is to provide the public with an opportunity to listen to the sounds of nature amplified through headphones.  Several “soundscaping” opportunities have amply demonstrated how this enhanced listening experience leads to increased attention to sound, whether the frogs, birds, or the wind in the trees (as binoculars enhance bird watching).  Howard’s curiosity and initiative has shown that another world surrounds us, waiting to be appreciated and understood.

Well aware of the scientific evidence now proving what we all feel intuitively, that exposure to wilderness and nature have a healing influence on people, this gentle man is working to  contribute to community health and well being through  nature appreciation. He has generously shared his appreciation of wilderness with groups of children, young people and adults who have visited Land Trust properties, and helped them to learn about and experience nature. Privately, he has provided reassurance to challenged young people and facilitated peaceful final days for the dying. Publicly, he encourages all to experience and take advantage of the powerful mental and spiritual healing benefits of nature, and he has been pursuing new initiatives, to see if partnerships with community health organizations might broaden the range of beneficiaries.

In all these ways, Howard Clifford is a true Champion of Nature.

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MVFN Champion for Nature Award and Nomination Form

Nomination Form for Award of MVFN Champion For Nature

Terms of Reference  for Granting a Champion for Nature Award

The MVFN Champion For Nature Awards were established in 2008 to provide opportunities to acknowledge, celebrate and congratulate the efforts of individuals or groups, whether MVFN members or non-members, who have been truly outstanding Champions for our Natural World in Ontario’s Mississippi River Watershed.

The MVFN Champion For Nature Awards are awarded annually or when appropriate to deserving individuals and groups that have, within Lanark County, West Carleton and area demonstrated their commitment to nature protection and conservation through active involvement as volunteers, or professionals. Their actions will have helped raise awareness and contributed toward the protection of our local natural heritage.


  • Any member or person may nominate a recipient for this award.
  • Nominations must be submitted to the Board of Directors (BOD) using the approved application form, at least one month before an Annual or General Meeting of the members, to allow the process to follow through prior to making a presentation event for the award, including a press release. The nomination must have a seconder.
  • Nomination applications shall be reviewed by a three (3) member subcommittee appointed by the BOD. This subcommittee shall assess and validate the merits of the application and submit their recommendation to the BOD for approval.
  • Members may not nominate or second themselves nor nominate any immediate family member. Members of the BOD shall declare a conflict of interest in the case of a family member being a nominee for an award, and shall not exercise a vote.
  • Nominations may be submitted more than once but only once per calendar year.
  • the award shall be the prescribed certificate, framed appropriately.
  • nomination forms are on the MVFN website (see link to pdf above) or may be obtained from MVFN President Cliff Bennett at 613-256-5013 or
  • Completed forms may be submitted by mail to MVFN, P.O. Box 1617, Almonte, ON or submitted in person to an MVFN board member.

In 2014 an MVFN Champion for Nature Award was presented to  David White.  For further information about the award and a list of past winners follow the link under About.





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2014 Champion for Nature David White

David White has contributed greatly to natural heritage conservation in Lanark County by creating and making accessible a flora for the County. David’s flora includes: descriptions and photographs of significant places for flora, photographs of special plants, and a list of all the plant species (aliens distinguished from native) found in the County including their degree of rarity, habitat type, and locations. Further, David keeps the plant species names on this list up-to-date with new published taxonomic literature—a huge task.  This natural heritage resource has been developed and is maintained entirely through volunteer time.  It is available online, at, to all interested in our flora.











Above l-r: Lobelia spicata (Pale Spike Lobelia), Cardamine concatenata (Cut-leaved Toothwort), Halenia deflexa (Spurred-gentian); photos from

David White 2014

Cathy Keddy presents the 2014 MVFN Champion for Nature Award to David White at the May 15 Spring Gathering in Almonte. Photo Pauline Donaldson

David’s flora has very practical nature conservation applications. One of the most important is in assessing the value of our natural areas and setting priorities for protection. By comparing a species list for a property to David’s species status information, we can determine the significance of the plant species found on the property.

Thus, thanks to MVFN’s 2014 Champion for Nature, David White, information about all plant species in Lanark County is available and can be used in developing plans for conservation of these species.

David White’s Plants of Lanark County website is at




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