Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Local naturalists invite water-enthusiasts to water-temperature survey weekend to mark “Doors Open to Ontario Nature’s” 75th Anniversary celebration

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted July 2, 2006

by Pauline Donaldson, MVFN Public Relations Chair

Local naturalists invite water-enthusiasts to water-temperature survey weekend to mark “Doors Open to Ontario Nature’s” 75th Anniversary celebration

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists invite water-enthusiasts to take water temperatures in the Mississippi watershed over the August holiday weekend, August 5-7. MVFN is organizing a volunteer-driven water-temperature survey of the entire Mississippi River Watershed. Why the interest in taking temperatures in lakes and rivers, and why on the August holiday weekend? Water temperature is an important characteristic of aquatic habitat. Maximum annual surface temperatures, which typically occur here around the first week in August, are a key factor determining the species of fish and other aquatic life present.

The water-temperature survey weekend is MVFN’s contribution to “Doors Open to Ontario Nature”, a year long project celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Ontario Nature. It was 75 years ago that a University of Toronto Professor and zoology director at the Royal Ontario Museum proposed that natural history clubs join together to speak with one voice for nature conservation in Ontario. To mark the occasion, 75 projects are being hosted by the 140 plus conservation groups comprising the Ontario Nature Network.

The goal of the project is very simple, says Tracy Moore, Eastern Regional Director for Ontario Nature. “It will be a fun opportunity that connects people with nature, but it also serves to gather some very important data and raise awareness of climate change and its potential effects on our beautiful Eastern Ontario landscape”. MVFN’s theme this year on “Change in Our Natural World” started with a seminar on national and global climate change issues. Subsequent talks focused on its potential impact in various areas. MVFN members initiated local monitoring activities which, like the water-temperature project, focus on impacts of climate change in our own backyards. It is known, for example, that water-temperatures in some fresh water lakes in Ontario are on the rise, and, as MVFN heard from John Casselman (OMNR) in March, small changes in fresh water temperatures can lead to rather dramatic shifts in fish populations.

The water temperature project will involve individuals as well as members of naturalist, fish and game clubs, and cottage and lake associations with a direct interest in the watershed, in monitoring waters of the Mississippi Watershed. The results, coming from all across the watershed, should complement other monitoring work already being done and contribute to a better understanding of the watershed as we prepare for climate change. Participants can contact their local lake association for suggestions on where to sample, or choose their favourite stretch of river or lake and sample temperatures with friends and family. Reporting forms for temperature readings, and guidelines for participating, including tips for home-made depth sampling devices (such as the one shown in the photo) and choosing the right thermometer, will be available from participating lake associations.

The information can also be picked up at the MVFN booth at The Art of Being Green Festival in Lanark Village July 15-16, or viewed at MVFN’s website at www.mvfn.ca. For questions, the public can contact project coordinator Cliff Bennett at 613-256-5013 or by e-mail: .

All data collected will be provided to Mississippi Valley Conservation and MVFN will prepare an overview of the study findings for the public.

Continue reading...

Climate Change Outreach Project – Plant Watch 2006

MVFN Plant Watch – 2006 Wildflowers

Invitation to participate in MVFN’S Local Plant Watch Wildflower watch

TrilliumWatch closely for changes in plants and trees of the Mississippi River watershed over the coming years. This spring (2006) MVFN will begin recording the first bloom date for area wildflowers at a variety of locations (some have started already of course). Results will be tabulated and posted later in the spring and summer. These can be used to compare with results in the coming years, as part of our climate change awareness project.

Flowers to watch for 2006 and forms

A group of MVFN members took the first step this spring (2006) by selecting the wildflower species to watch. These include plants representing a variety of preferred habitats (see full details of MVFN Plant Watch wildflowers chosen and form to record observations). We ask others to join in monitoring. On the wildflower watch forms check the wildflowers to monitor for 2006 and fill in the location, plant and flowering dates on the sheets as indicated. Then submit to Sheila Edwards at (email to be posted soon) or send to MVFN Wildflower Watch c/o Janine de Salaberry, RR# 2 Almonte, KOA 1A0.

April temperatures are on the rise!
Many climate variables affect plant growth and flowering. Length of growing season is one key climate variable affecting plant growth. Another variable is mean temperature. A graph of Ottawa’s mean April temperatures from the 1930’s to 2005 (based on climate data from Environment Canada) shows that although there is variation from year to year, a warming trend, which scientists predict will continue, is evident. How will this affect the growth and the flowering time of wildflowers and other plants?

MVFN Plant Watch Form

Continue reading...

Ecologist used paleolimnology to take naturalists ‘back in time’

Ecologist used paleolimnology to take naturalists ‘back in time’

By Pauline Donaldson

On Thursday November 24th , we hosted the third speaker in our series, “Change in our Natural World”. Guest speaker, Dr. Brian Cumming, is Associate Professor in the Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory at Queens University (PEARL). The PEARL scientists use techniques of paleolimnology (study of fresh water ecosystems in the past) to provide an historical perspective on environmental change. Data collected is used to determine natural environmental variability in the past, and to test models used to study current global environmental change.

Dr. Cumming’s research can track natural changes in an ecosystem over impressively long time periods (millions of years) in the past, while at the same time uncovering detailed decade by decade information about this time period. Sophisticated sampling techniques and analyses can reveal patterns of temperature, acidity and other changes in a lake over long periods of time. Changes in lake temperature, for example, affect the type of algae and other species which will flourish. These changes can be deduced by analyzing which types of fossil algae are predominant in the lake sediment deposited during a particular time period. Cylindrical cores removed from lake bottom sediment are first calibrated to establish the relationship between depth and timing of deposition (age).

Some of the background work which was done to establish the protocols and the relationships between algal type and the environmental conditions in which they flourished, were done in British Columbia where there is a huge diversity of lake types. This knowledge was then applied when examining sediment cores from lakes in the Canadian Prairies.

From these studies, Dr. Cumming has concluded that abrupt millennial-scale shifts in climate were likely common on the North American continent in the past six thousand years. These natural shifts are more severe and prolonged than the meteorological and historical records indicate. Although the mechanisms behind these changes are unclear, the findings have profound implications for the natural environment and the infrastructures of our communities. Water management plans, for example, may be inadequate if predictions of variations in water availability and water levels are based only on short-term records.

The presentation concluded with many good questions from the audience, followed by refreshments and further discussion. Please join us again in the New Year, on January 19th, when we welcome the fourth guest speaker in the series “Change in our Natural World”. Art Dyke will tell us about “Change in the Arctic”.

 

Continue reading...

Conservation Overview

Red Winged BlackbirdUpdate from Cliff Bennett, October 7, 2004

Dear MVFN members living in Mississippi Mills,

For almost three years now, I have participated on the steering committee for the creation of the Community Official Plan (COP) for the amalgamated town of Mississippi Mills. As a part of this process, I conducted a questionnaire at two regular MVFN meetings in the fall of 2001, asking what you felt the main issues were. Your answer was to

protect the natural environment,

protection of our groundwater and

protection of locally significant wetlands.

I have met with several groups of MVFN members and special advisors to flesh out wording on the above issues and have presented the results to the COP process. The first draft of the COP is now completed and is available for your perusal. You can get a copy from the municipal centre. Also, the local libraries have one and I think it is now on the town website (www.mississippimills.ca). Please get one, read it and pass me back your thoughts.

Meanwhile, here is my report on the draft and how successful I was in getting our issues recognized.

Coming up in October and November is a series of public input sessions on the new COP. You are most welcome to attend. The most important public input session for MVFN members is the one on Environment and Ground Water, Saturday, October 30, in the Old Almonte Town Hall. Mark it now on your calendar.

After the input sessions are completed, the committee will meet over Dec. Jan. to merge new ideas and corrections into the COP, leading to completion of the final draft which goes to Council for approval and then on to the Ontario Government for its input and approval. Please call me if you have any concerns or questions.


Protection of the Environment

I am pleased to report the Plan states wording for environmental protection in great abundance. The environment holds a whole section (3.1) of its own under Land Use Policies. Right in the first section, 1.1 of the Introduction under purpose of the Plan, words used are……..strengthen the environmental…………..fabric

and “The Plan presents a commitment to sustainable development and………..environmental protection

Entitled Environmental Land Use Policies (3.1), the Plan uses wording as follows “The protection of the environmental features, water resources and ecosystems………..are of central importance to the long term health and prosperity……..” “The challenge…………….is to act so that the integrity of the environment can be preserved………………..”

3.1.1, Goals and Objectives, states clearly “It is a goal of this plan to protect and enhance the quality of the environment and the long-term health of the ecosystem. All other goals should attempt to satisfy the environmental goal” In #10 of objectives, the Plan goes on to say “Establish clear policies……for situations ……..”which do not meet the environmental goals and actions of the Plan.”( I do wonder here whether the “clear policies” will be cast only to meet a way for developers to get around environmental goals of the Plan).

Concerns in this section:

1)The Plan uses many intangible words such as strengthen, commitment, protection, integrity, offer, etc. What do these words mean? How does the municipality measure these? Where are the rules governing the use of these words. The real proof of this and future Council commitment will be found in the Zoning By-Law which will accompany this Plan.

2)The Plan also uses many “weasel” words such as “attempt to”, which makes it too easy for a Council and/or a developer to find a way around environmental concerns.


Protection of our Groundwater

On this issue, we (MVFN) gained much success although several of our points were not included in the COP.

The Provincial Policy Statement  states:

2.4.1 The quality and quantity of ground water and surface water and the function of sensitive ground water recharge/discharge area, aquifers and headwaters will be protected or enhanced.

MVFN Recommendations (draft COP details in italics)

Identification and inventory

Identify and delineate size, quantity, quality and location of all aquifer systems including headwaters and sensitive ground water recharge/discharge areas within the boundaries of Mississippi Mills, as well as those shared with adjacent municipalities.The COP draft, under General Policies, 4.1, p.116, has a substantive paragraph on this matter to include all water resources in MM. It identifies three main approaches to Groundwater Protection; Identification and mapping; Watershed Planning and Site Specific Development Review Criteria. The exciting aspect of this policy is the treatment of the Policy as a Land Use issue. This brings the policy into an existing forum rather than creating a new one.

Conduct an inventory of all current users of groundwater and amounts used, related to each specific aquifer. Inventory shall be updated every five years.Although alluded to, the COP draft fails to mention the need for an inventory of all current major users of our ground water, related to specific aquifers nor does it mention any updating of such an inventory on a 5yr, basis.

Develop an agreed upon criteria for assessing sources of discharge/recharge areas on private property.Draft COP covers this adequately under 4.1.3, p.117 entitled Site Specific Development Criteria.

Protection and Management

New industrial, commercial and institutional development requiring use of ground water shall necessitate an environmental impact study (EIS).Accepted for over 50,000 litres per day.

Protect, through buffer zones, site plan controls and other control mechanisms, all groundwater ecosystems.Accepted

Conduct an assessment report on all potential and known threats affecting the health of groundwater, including cumulative impacts. This report shall be renewed every five years.This policy of MVFN’s was not included in the Draft. In earlier discussions, we felt strongly that it is very important.

Development activities and land uses which impact the land’s capacity to absorb rainwater into existing aquifer systems, shall be restricted.This policy was not included. In the Almonte Ward, storm water drainage policies in the new Draft, are necessary for there is not much room for absorption. However, on the fringes of the town, we are paving over the ground, preventing absorption into the aquifers.

Groundwater, as a renewable resource, must be managed sustainably. No extraction from an aquifer system shall be allowed which consumes groundwater at a greater rate than can be replenished by that system.This idea was not included in the draft COP. However, in 4.1.3 (i) p.118, any new development tapping into the aquifer, must demonstrate there is sufficient water for existing users. It does not have to demonstrate whether or not the system can adequately replenish itself. I would think it would be in a developer’s interests to ensure there was going to be enough water.

All development activities and land uses which may cause contamination of groundwater including recharge/discharge areas, shall be disallowed.In committee discussions, it was felt this was too strong a policy and that this issue is covered under the requirements for environmental impact studies.

No new extraction of groundwater activities shall be allowed unless applicant can prove such water taking will have no detrimental impact on existing uses.Covered above.

Private landowners impacted by enforcement of regulations concerning protection of groundwater and recharge/discharge areas shall be considered for compensation.This idea was not included. I will fight moreso, to get it included. The Plan rightly includes setbacks from sensitive areas. For instance, if a setback takes some agriculture land out of productions, the farmer should be compensated.

The municipality shall recognize and cooperate with landowners as stewards of their own environment.Well covered throughout the entire Draft COP


Locally Significant Wetlands

Recommendations from Preliminary Issues Report from MVFN.

This report was arrived at through a group meeting with representative from Ducks Unlimited, follow-up requests for comments from group members, Federation of Ontario Naturalists, Canadian Environmental Law Association, OMNR officials and members of MVFN plus research of relevant documents and publications.

Comments below are in italics.

Issue 3.1 statement 1

…………should we protect locally significant wetlands (LSW’s)?

1) It was a unanimous “yes”. MM should establish a policy of precaution-protection until adequate and informed data and science is available to better understand the function and value of wetlands locally and within a watershed context.

We were successful in including this protection in the Draft Plan. However, The Plan fails to take a precaution-protection approach and is only focussed on the present day situation.

2) The group felt we should make the first entry in the OP not too detailed but to build in triggers or flags that would show up in site-specific cases concerning LSW’ s.

A pro-active triggers and flags approach is not included in the Draft Plan.

3) Consultation, connectivity and education should be the main process used in protection of our wetlands.

No mention is made of this policy, especially education.

4) Locally Significant Wetlands (LSW’s) should be identified, through a classification process. The most significant ones should be on an initial list in the OP, with provision for additions at later dates though amendment to the OP.

Provision is made for this through MNR. However, there have been none done so far and cannot therefore be listed in The Plan. There is no mention of the establishment of an inventory of LSW’s in the Draft. Only that, when one is evaluated, it will be added to the Plan through an OP amendment. I will continue to press for a pre-assessment inventory.

5) Most locally significant wetlands (4-7) have already been identified by MNR. These should be our initial list entered in the OP.

Done.

6) Stewardship Council, field naturalists, Ducks Unlimited, local Fish and Game Clubs, landowners and EAC should be involved in the education process.

This should be stated in a LSW education policy.

7) A buffer zone should be mentioned but not defined except in definition section. Buffer requirements should be site specific as each case arises.

This amount of flexibility is not included in the Plan. Only a 30m setback unless this is not practicable.

8 ) At least initially, only permanent LSWs should be considered for listing.

This distinction is not mentioned.

9) Strong recognition of land owners as stewards should be registered in the OP.

Done, many times.

10) References must be made to other relevant Acts i.e.: Drainage, Riparian Rights etc.

Some are, in some places.

11) We should steer clear of the beavers issue and also temporary wetlands.

done.

12) Paramount is recognition of importance of all wetlands in their role of protecting and enhancing the ground water.

Well stated in general policies.

13) Private landowners impacted by enforcement of regulations concerning LSWs should be considered for compensation where applicable

Not mentioned. I shall continue to press for this, especially where a setback takes land out of production.

14) As the natural heritage policy, as set forth in the PPS, allows for varying degrees of protection at the municipal level, MM should take a progressive approach and strive for the Pathfinder Policies level.

Was agreed upon in discussions but is not mentioned in this Draft.

15) As MM is divided almost in half between the Canadian Shield and St.Lawrence/Great Lakes Lowland significant areas, it is the recommendation of this report that the PPS concerning Canadian Shield wetlands be adopted for all of MM.

The Plan arbitrarily states protection will be the non-shield policies, and only in relation to PSW’s. I don’t think the Province will let us get away with that one. As you can see, we recommended Shield protection for all LSW’s.

16) Issues involving LSWs should be discussed with land owner groups on a continuing basis.

Should be included in an education policy section but isn’t.

17) MM must strive for broad public support on wetland policies implementation

Again, part of an education policy, which isn’t there.

General concerns

In general, The Plan seems to only protect and enhance the environmental values of locally significant wetlands in relation to development (3.1.2.1, p.24). How do these wetlands get protected when development is not going on. For example, regular maintenance of roads, private dumping of garbage in the wrong place, spraying chemicals on the land etc.

Another example of this is in 3.1.2.3. where the Draft suggests preserving vegetation along waterways and roadways on in connection to development. There are many other concerns about carss zones along watercourses besides development.

 

Continue reading...

Conservation: Wetland Protection Policies

 
Wetland Protection Policies recommended by MVFN (2002)
Wetland
Here is the final wording arrived at regarding protection of locally significant wetland  resources in Mississippi Mills, which was submitted on Friday September 13, 2002 to the Mississippi Mills Official Plan Steering Committee.Thank you to the dozen or so members who sent in comments and suggestions.

Recommendations from Preliminary Issues Report from MVFN.

This report was arrived at through a group meeting with representative from Ducks Unlimited, follow-up requests for comments from group members, Federation of Ontario Naturalists, Canadian Environmental Law Association, OMNR officials and members of MVFN plus research of relevant documents and publications. (See references below)

Issue 3.1 statement 1

…………should we protect locally significant wetlands (LSW’s)?

1) It was a unanimous “yes”. MM should establish a policy of precaution-protection until adequate and informed data and science is available to better understand the function and value of  wetlands locally and within a watershed context.

2) The group felt we should make the first entry in the OP not too detailed but to build in triggers or flags that would show up in site-specific cases concerning LSW’ s.

3) Consultation, connectivity and education should be the main process used in protection of our wetlands.

4) Locally Significant Wetlands (LSW’s) should be identified, through a classification process. The most significant ones should be on an initial list in the OP, with provision for additions at later dates though amendment to the OP.

5) Most locally significant wetlands (4-7) have already been identified by MNR. These should be our initial list entered in the OP.

6) Stewardship Council, field naturalists, Ducks Unlimited, local Fish and Game Clubs, landowners  and EAC should be involved in the education process.

7) A buffer zone should be mentioned but not defined except in definition section. Buffer requirements should be site specific as each case arises.

8 ) At least initially, only permanent LSWs should be considered for listing.

9) Strong recognition of land owners as stewards should be registered in the OP.

10) References must be made to other relevant Acts i.e.: Drainage, Riparian Rights etc.

11) We should steer clear of the beavers issue and also temporary wetlands.

12) Paramount is recognition of importance of all wetlands in their role of protecting and enhancing the ground water.

13) Private landowners impacted by enforcement of regulations concerning LSWs should be considered for compensation where applicable

14) As the natural heritage policy, as set forth in the PPS, allows for varying degrees of protection at the municipal level, MM should take a progressive approach and strive for the Pathfinder Policies level.

15) As MM is divided almost in half between the Canadian Shield and St.Lawrence/Great Lakes Lowland significant areas, it is the recommendation of this report that the PPS concerning Canadian Shield wetlands be adopted for all of MM.

16) Issues involving LSWs should be discussed with land owner groups on a continuing basis.

17) MM must strive for broad public support on wetland policies implementation.    

References

Ducks Unlimited-Scott Muir, Jamie Fortune (Ducks Unlimited is conducting a pilot project to test new technologies for wetland identification and delineation. Results should be available by year’s end.)

Federation of Ontario Naturalists, Linda Pimm.

Canadian Environmental Law Society-Theresa McLenaghan

OMNR-Shaun Thompson

Natural Heritage Planning Policy in Ontario-A Review of County and Regional Plans Aug. 1999

Natural Heritage Reference Manual for PPS 2.3    OMNR June, 1999

Rural Wetlands in Ontario-A Guide to Landowners-Ducks Unlimited

Caring For Your Land-A Stewardship Handbook-University of Guelph 1998

Environmental Commissioner’s Reports-All issues

Submitted by Cliff Bennett on behalf of MVFN    

Continue reading...