Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Natural Heritage Plan Workshop

The Municipality of Mississippi Mills is holding a workshop on March 1st,  to share the Natural Heritage Plan for the municipality and to obtain public input to the plan. Details below and at the town website at  http://www.mississippimills.ca/en/news/index.aspx?newsId=8427c6f5-420c-4185-91d4-1e4ac746dd48

For further information about the Natural Heritage System concept and MVFN’s role, under the leadership of Dr. Tineke Kuiper, in development of a plan for Mississippi Mills, see this description in an article by Dr. Kuiper:  http://mvfn.ca/upcoming-council-vote-on-the-adoption-of-the-natural-heritage-system-concept-plan/

NATURAL HERITAGE PLAN WORKSHOP DETAILS:

Wednesday, March 1, 2017 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Almonte Old Town Hall, 14 Bridge Street, Almonte, ON

ALL MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC are invited to attend a workshop to review and comment on the Municipality of Mississippi Mills Natural Heritage Plan Workshop.

THIS WORKSHOP is an opportunity to review the preliminary information and material associated with the Natural Heritage Plan, as well as a chance to discuss and comment on the Natural Heritage Plan.  Please join us in order to provide your insight.

THE WORKSHOP will be held on:  Wednesday, March 1, 2017 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Almonte Old Town Hall, 14 Bridge Street, Almonte, ON.

If you require additional information, please contact the Municipal Planner, Stephen Stirling, at (613) 256-2064 ext.259.

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Town of Mississippi Mills set to hear your views on environmental zoning for Burnt Lands Alvar

NOTE: Featured photo with this post is of the wildflower Hairy Beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus). photo by Ken Allison

One of the most effective ways you can help protect natural areas is to support municipal government when they consider policy changes to 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 their proposed rezoning of  much of Burnt Lands Alvar as an environmental protection zone. This is a good thing! If you agree, then attend the public meeting in support of the rezoning (or write to tell Council that you support this rezoning. Details for submitting comments are found below and on the Public Meeting Notice). Even if you do not intend to speak, attendance at the meeting would afford you the opportunity to hand deliver your written views or to simply be an observer and register your name to be informed of the Council decision, which will be made at a later date. If you cannot attend, you may wish to make your opinion known to the town by submitting your written comment, as mentioned.

When: May 5, 2015 at 6:30 pm.

Where: Town of Mississippi Mills Council Chambers, 3131 Old Perth Road, Almonte, Ontario.

What:

  • 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.

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Appleton Wetland Report kicks off new MVFN series

Poster for our September talk

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) natural history lecture series resumes for a new season Thursday, September 18 in Almonte. The theme for this year’s series is a twist on the conundrum “When A Tree Falls in the Forest, Does Anyone Hear?”  If no one is there to hear the sound of a tree as it crashes through the undergrowth to the forest floor, was it ever there?” Nature teaches us that when we ignore the ‘crashing trees’, we do so at our own peril. Like a stone dropped into a pond, the impacts of changes to our natural environment grow in an ever-widening circle, reaching into every aspect of our lives. This year’s speakers will challenge us to inform ourselves and engage or perhaps reengage with important issues affecting our natural world.

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The Appleton Silver Maple Swamp. photo by Al Seaman

The series begins with an issue close to home with a talk based on the Appleton Wetlands and the findings outlined in an MVFN report The Appleton Wetland: Its Decline, Cause and Recommended Action released last month. The Appleton silver maple swamp, which has been flooded each spring for generations, is designated as a provincially significant wetland and an ANSI, or area of natural and scientific interest – declared by the provincial government in recognition of its unique ecological features. By 2006 however, extensive damage to the flood-tolerant trees in the wetland became obvious.  Concerns about the decline were raised to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority  to no avail. In 2011, and again in 2013, MVFN formed a research group to examine the possible causes of damage to the trees, including the possibility of adverse effects due to continually high water levels as a result of ongoing power generation operations in Almonte.

Speaker for The Appleton Wetland Report presentation will be Al Seaman, a Professional Engineer, and member of MVFN’s Appleton Wetland Research Group and lead author of the report released in August. Mr. Seaman, an Almonte resident and native of the northwestern Quebec mining town of Noranda, graduated from McGill University as an Electrical Engineer.  Early on in his career Al realized that goals of industry do not always respect the requirements of pristine nature.

Seaman’s lecture topic is ‘The River’, specifically the Mississippi River with a focus on the stretch from Almonte to Appleton. Mr. Seaman will endeavour to demonstrate the impact of changing water levels on the extensive Appleton wetland.

All are welcome to this MVFN presentation. Find out why water levels matter and get answers to all your questions about the detailed findings of the research group! The talk takes place at 7:30 pm, Thursday, September 18, 2014 at the Almonte United Church Social Hall, 106 Elgin St., Almonte, ON. There is a non-member fee of $5. Refreshments will be available. For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Gretta Bradley at .

 

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How will Mississippi Mills grow over the next 20 years?

Excerpt of Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists Press Release February 23, 2014

 by Tineke Kuiper

How will Mississippi Mills grow over the next 20 years?

This is usually a question that Town Planners ponder while they develop well-integrated approaches for future growth, yet it should really be of interest to all of us. In 2005, leaders and volunteers in our community came together and created our first Community Official Plan (COP). The COP is a legal document containing the goals, objectives and policies that will guide the development, growth and change of the Town of Mississippi Mills over a 20-year period. The vision adopted by Town Council at the time was and still is:

“Mississippi Mills is an outstanding urban and rural community that is recognized for its natural and architectural beauty, high quality of life and respect for its heritage and environment. In its vision of the future, the community will be seen to promote and manage balanced economic growth.”

Every five years the COP is reviewed and updated to take into account changes in the community and provincial policy requirements. The Plan builds on the tradition of responsible stewardship of the resources and assets of the community.

 Mississippi Mills

The Town of Almonte (population ~5200) is located about 50 km from the centre of Ottawa, and as such it is an exurban town rather, than a suburb of Ottawa. The profile of our town is gradually changing from that of a rural mill town in an agricultural setting in the late fifties, to a self-sufficient, up to date and lively place with fine community spirit and cultural aspirations. It has gained a reputation as a good place to live and so, it also appeals as an exurban bedroom community for Ottawa and a retirement community. Both longtime residents and many newcomers alike share a strong sense of history, and optimism about the future of the community. Over the next 20 years, the municipality is expected to grow at a moderate annualized rate of 2.0%.

There are several villages, hamlets and settlement areas in the rural areas, and growth has varied. Between 1981-2001 annualized growth in Ramsay ward accelerated to 4.67% (with most dwellings on private services) compared to 2.45% in Pakenham ward and 1.03% in Almonte ward. The haphazard growth during that period dramatically changed the rural character and physical landscape of Ramsay. There were increased concerns about the loss of natural areas and the health of the environment, loss of farmland and noticeable impacts on the local agricultural industry. Most noticeable was the visual impact of scattered rural residences and country estate lot subdivisions. There were also concerns about cost and economies of scale of providing services to a dispersed population and urban sprawl.

 Fragmentation

Subdivisions often cut through natural areas. This breaks the natural area into two pieces, or fragments, thereby fragmenting wildlife habitat and altering wildlife movement patterns. The fragmentation of a large forest and wetland habitat into smaller patches disrupts ecological processes and reduces the availability of habitat for some species. It is the greatest threat to native biodiversity. Some forest fragments are too small to maintain viable breeding populations of certain wildlife species, especially bird species that require forest interior habitat (i.e., habitat that is in the interior of a forest, a long way from the forest edge). Ecological changes resulting from fragmentation include the introduction of invasive, exotic (non-native) species and increased predation and parasitism. Creating small, isolated forest patches can also interfere with pollination, seed dispersal, wildlife migration and breeding. Ultimately, these changes can result in the local loss of species.

While at first glance some may look nice, country estate lot subdivisions contribute strongly to fragmentation, much more so than normal severances (Figure 1). They directly impact biodiversity, through the direct removal of habitat, through the loss of interior habitat, through the introduction of non-native plants, and through predation/harassment by domestic animals, especially housecats. These effects are well documented in the scientific literature. Country estates lot subdivisions are also detrimental to the sustainability of villages, as residents of such subdivisions do not appear to support village services and amenities, but tend to commute to suburban areas, strip malls, etc., to conduct their business and shopping. As a result, many municipalities, such as Ottawa and Kingston, have now banned country estate lot subdivisions.

 Urban Sprawl

In a recent article in The Millstone (February 3, 2014), Brian Barth paints a picture of how urban sprawl in the USA, in the form of rural subdivisions and strip malls, has consumed many small rural towns, which prior to this had an unequivocally rural mentality and identity, like Mississippi Mills. This is a picture that is also being played out in Canada. He suggested that Ottawa is certainly not growing at the rate of cities like Atlanta, but its sprawl will eventually consume the communities around it. If the footprint of the Greater Toronto Area were to be transplanted to Ottawa, half of Lanark County would already be in it, he said. Urban sprawl consumes agricultural lands, natural areas such as wetlands and forested lands, adding impervious cover in its place.

 Smart Growth instead of Urban Sprawl

One of the alternative development strategies to counteract urban sprawl is the concept of Smart Growth, an idea developed in the early nineties, and a strategy adopted in our 2005 COP, and promoted by the Province. Smart Growth is about reducing sprawl, it’s about growth management, it’s about creating livable communities, it’s about economic growth, it’s about protecting the environment, it’s about efficient government – it’s about all of these things! Communities across the country are using creative strategies to develop in ways that preserve natural lands and critical environmental areas, protect water and air quality, and reuse already-developed land. They conserve resources by reinvesting in existing infrastructure and reclaiming historic buildings. By designing neighborhoods that have shops, offices, schools, churches, parks, and other amenities near homes, communities are giving their residents and visitors the option of walking, bicycling, taking public transportation, or driving as they go about their business. Through smart growth approaches that enhance neighborhoods and involve local residents in development decisions, these communities are creating vibrant places to live, work, and play. The high quality of life in these communities makes them economically competitive, creates business opportunities, and improves the local tax base.

 Smart Growth Principles

Based on the experience of communities that have used smart growth approaches to create and maintain great neighborhoods, the Smart Growth Network developed a set of ten basic principles:

1. Mix land uses

2. Take advantage of compact building design

3. Create a range of housing opportunities and choices

4. Create walkable neighborhoods

5. Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place

6. Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas

7. Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities

8. Provide a variety of transportation choices

9. Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective

10. Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions

Preserve important Natural Heritage Areas

One of the principles of smart growth is to ensure that important natural areas are protected from development, so that critical habitat is preserved, and nature is able to run its course, providing fresh air and clean water. . . [the first step is . . . identifying and characterizing the most important areas and in developing a system of interconnected Core natural areas that will greatly benefit the community.] Based on mapped data, provided by OMNR, on provincially significant wetlands, significant woodlands, areas of natural and scientific interest, wildlife and other features, the first phase has been completed and several important Natural Heritage Core areas, such as the Wolf Grove and Pakenham wetland complexes, the Appleton wetlands, and the Burnt Lands Alvar, can now be designated. This information is important, as it allows for planning decisions on the appropriate location of development, as well as set an appropriate level of protection for individual Core areas. The next phase of this project will be completed within the next few years.

Difficult decisions ahead for Council

The current COP is not saying no to development, but rather provides direction on how to develop in a way residents have said they hope to see their community progress. Council is grappling with the question of how much development is appropriate and how we should go about doing it without losing the small town and rural character and natural heritage areas that we all highly prize and that our COP tries to help maintain. Thus, Councillors face some tough decisions. Your input is important at this time. A public meeting is being planned. Stay tuned.

 

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