Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Addendum to Appleton Wetland Report strengthens recommendation to restore historic (lower) water levels

A report entitled The Appleton Wetland; Its Decline, Cause and Recommended Action released by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) Appleton Wetland Research Group in 2014 clearly identified the manipulation of water levels for hydro operations in Almonte (and across Reach 18 of the Mississippi River) as the cause of the dying maple trees in the Appleton Wetland. That report strongly recommended amendment of the Mississippi River Water Management Plan to restore levels to historic (lower) values to permit recovery of healthy tree growth in the wetland.

The research group has recently completed an analysis of data on power production potential across Reach 18 and impact of manipulation of water levels in Almonte. The report on the power analysis is in the form of a supplement to the original report and includes Addendum Number 1: Reach 18 Power Production, and Appendix R: Reach 18 Power Production. The new sections have been added to the original report on the MVFN website, and is found here  (

The conclusion from the information presented in the addendum is that since there is no increase in power production that could possibly justify the higher water levels, the case for amending the Mississippi River Water Management Plan water levels to historic (lower) values to protect the wetland is even stronger.

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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.













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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Enjoy Field Naturalists’ Wet and Wild!

Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

February 6, 2014

 Enjoy Field Naturalists’ Wet and Wild!

By Cathy Keddy

Watch Dr. Keddy’s MVFN “Wet and Wild” Presentation here on video

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) 2013-2014 public lecture series, Knowing and Caring Connect Us to Nature, continues February 20 with its 5th presentation, “Wet and Wild!” Anyone who possesses a curiosity or appreciation for wild nature will enjoy these lectures. Cottagers, hunters, fishermen, canoeists, hikers, campers, artists and seasoned field naturalists alike will find something to interest them as we explore what lives in Lanark County and how best to protect it for future generations. Refreshments are offered at each lecture.

Keddy photo a-f

Many wetland species, such as the ones in the photos above, are dependent upon annual flood pulses: (a) white ibis (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), (b) Mississippi gopher frog (M. Redmer), (c) dragonfly (C. Rubec), (d) tambaqui (M. Goulding), (e) furbish lousewort (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), and (f ) Plymouth gentian (Paul Keddy).

At this upcoming meeting we will take a look on the wet side of Lanark County. Dr. Paul Keddy, a professor of ecology for over 30 years and author of Earth, Water, Fire: An Ecological Profile of Lanark County, will give a presentation on wetland communities—the places you have to wear big boots. He has studied wetlands, forests and other upland communities of the Ottawa Valley, the Maritimes, and the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. Keddy has authored several prize-winning books on ecology and received a National Wetlands Award for Science Research. He has advised groups including The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, and Earthjustice.

All life contains water. From distant space, Earth appears as a mosaic of blue and green, blue for water, green for plants. This talk will be about the connections between green and blue—wetlands. The surrounding uplands interact with the low wetlands. For example, amphibians, such as tree frogs, over-winter in the forest, while nutrients and runoff from the forest enter the wetland.

Wetlands have always influenced us. Early civilizations first arose along the edges of rivers in the fertile soils of floodplains. Wetlands continue to produce many benefits for humans—along with fertile soils for agriculture, they provide food including fish and waterbirds. Additionally, wetlands have other vital roles that are less obvious. They produce oxygen, store carbon, and process nitrogen. Of course, wetlands have also been a cause of human suffering, such as providing habitat for mosquitoes that carry malaria. And, for thousands of years, human cities in low areas have flooded during periods of high water. Philosophers and theologians may enquire how it is that one system can be both life-giving and death-dealing.

This promises to be an entertaining night—fish that breathe air and eat fruit, mosses that drown trees, plants that eat insects, and frogs that climb trees. We will also be introduced to the world’s largest wetlands, wetlands that perch on hillsides, wetlands that burn, and of course, wetlands that flood. Our neighbourhood wetlands and what we can do to conserve them will also be featured. Wetlands are one of the most productive habitats on Earth, and they support many kinds of life.

Signed copies of Dr. Keddy’s book on Lanark County’s natural heritage will be available for purchase at the meeting.

Hear about wet and go wild, at MVFN’s next lecture, “Wet and Wild,” where Dr. Keddy will describe the wonders of wetlands on Thursday, February 20, 7:30pm at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089.




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Wetlands: What can you do?

What can you do for the Wetlands? Here is some simple advice from some expert guest speakers at MVFN’s natural history lectures:

Pat Ferris of MAPLE :

1. Mark off 10 m from shore and do nothing. This, in a nutshell is MAPLE’s (MAPLE was the Mutual Association for the Preservation of the Lake Environment) “MAPLE 10” program. A natural shoreline is the ‘ribbon’ of life which is absolutely essential for many species and for healthy water.

 2. Relax. Would you like to re-vegetate your shoreline? Let low-maintenance native plants sprout from the natural seed bank. For help and information with shoreline planting consult Mississippi Valley Conservation Other nearby conservation authorities also offer clean water programs

shoreline bobs lake

3. Remember the lesson of Bert and Ernie? Build less, enjoy more. The best erosion control is natural shoreline vegetation. Remove retaining walls and install only low impact docks.

Brian Potter, OMNR:

1. Remember that wetlands are not just water, not just land, but a vital link between land and water, and critical to watershed health – providing critical habitat plus playing an essential role in proper working of the hydrologic cycle i.e. for groundwater re-charge, natural water purification, flood control etc. Some significant wetlands in our watershed include Mississippi Lake, Wolf Grove wetlands, Kerr Lake, Clayton/Taylor Lake.


Photo Cathy Keddy

2. Wetlands are disappearing at an alarming rate. Encourage your municipality and conservation authorities to put resources into proper inventory of wetlands, and protection through good planning and vigilance. Look into programs available for individuals and groups to help preserve wetlands:

-Land Stewardship and Habitat Restoration Program,  (
-Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program
-Adopt a Pond

3. Support research on buffer zones around wetlands. As more work is done on this, researchers are finding more examples of species for which the current requirements for the size of buffers or upland areas are insufficient.

Michael Runtz, Carleton University

1. Consider the natural cycling of areas inhabited by beavers. You might think you have a beaver problem but your beaver could well be one of those 2-yr old beaver who has just been kicked out of home and has set up a last minute den just to get through the winter. If so, he may go elsewhere the next year.


2. Beavers play the role of engineer when it comes to creating nutrient rich ponds, teeming with life. Water levels are raised, new species are attracted, and the forest gradually acquires a pond, marsh, and ribbon of grassland. The habitats thus created by this impressive rodent are vital to the health of our watershed.

3. Get kids/grandkids off the computer and out into nature. Value nature, it is the best show in town. Michael says he never gives nature a bad review!


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Making a splash – locals promote World Wetlands Day

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by Cliff Bennett
January 31, 2005

Making a splash – locals promote World Wetlands Day

HeronWorldwide, February 2 is celebrated as World Wetlands Day. The theme for 2005 is the cultural and biological diversity of wetlands and the slogan “There’s wealth in wetland diversity – don’t lose it”, provides an especially fitting occasion to promote local awareness of the importance of wetlands and activities geared toward this.

“Increasingly, the eyes of the world are focused on local stewardship roles with heavy reliance on citizen involvement to protect the natural environment,” says Cliff Bennett, an amateur naturalist, former politician and past president of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN). “We need to engage the public and do everything we can to oversee the ongoing protection of our wetlands and wildlife habitat, even those in our local urban areas.

The Nature Lover’s Bookshop in Lanark Village will host an informal discussion on wetlands as an awareness raising activity February 6; in Carleton Place, the Good Food Company Restaurant will feature a range of fish and rice dishes on the menu throughout February; several students in local schools will work to raise awareness in their classrooms and schools following exams and local teachers have expressed an interest in participating in activities. Other efforts to raise awareness include the distribution of posters and information packages to schools, educators and youth groups, as well as organizing slide shows and other public events.

“Often, we forget what a valuable resource our wetlands are and the benefits they offer to us,” says MFVN member Celina Tuttle. “I am hopeful these activities will lead to broader discussion and other activities throughout the year.” Tuttle is preparing to launch a frog watch of the vernal pond at the end of her block. She remembers a chorus of frogs there each spring when she first moved to the area. However, in recent years the frogs haven’t been as vocal. “I’d like to understand why that is,” she says, “and get to know my neighbours and others in the community in the process.” Tuttle says she became involved in organizing activities around World Wetlands Day to promote collaboration among local organizations and people that carry out activities benefiting wetlands, wildlife, and people.

The MFVN works to increase public interest in and appreciation and respect for the natural world within the Mississippi River watershed. This area includes Mississippi Mills, Carleton Place, Lanark Highlands, Beckwith and surrounding areas. The group offers monthly events, from presentations to field trips, on a range of topics.

For more information:

Celina Tuttle, Carleton Place, tel: 613-253-3135, email:

Cliff Bennett, Almonte, tel: 613-256-5013, email:


World Wetlands Day marks the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971. The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 138 Contracting Parties to the Convention, with 1328 wetland sites, totaling 111.9 million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.

The Convention on Wetlands came into force for Canada on 15 May 1981. Canada presently has 36 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance, with a surface area of 13,051,501 hectares.

Wetlands provide many valuable functions such as:

  • Recharge and discharge of groundwater
  • Flood and storm surge protection
  • Critical habitat for wildlife
  • Act as a natural filter and removes contaminants (i.e. improves water quality)
  • Wetland vegetation (e.g. grasses, sedges, and cattails) traps sediment and prevents the loss of land (i.e. erosion)
  • Nutrient retention, removal and transport
  • Recreation, cultural and educational purposes.
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