January 9, 2015
The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) have recently launched an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board in order to prevent development that would destroy a portion of the Burnt Lands Alvar, a provincially significant Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI), one of several natural treasures in Lanark County.
A developer was given provisional approval on November 10, 2014 by the Lanark County Land Division Committee to build a cluster lot housing development between Ramsay Concession 12 and Golden Line Road, south of March Road. This development would violate provincial and municipal regulations for this ANSI by degrading the ANSI landscape and its ecological functions, and it could set a precedent for further development in the Burnt Lands.
Alvars, which date back to about 10,000 years ago, support distinctive flora and fauna, and are found in very few places – parts of Ontario and the U.S. Great Lakes Region, and in a few regions in Sweden and Estonia. The Burnt Lands Alvar is considered the fourth best example in all of North America.
These natural features are characterized by limestone plains with thin or no soil. Often flooded in the spring and affected by drought in midsummer, they are home to a very hardy group of flora and fauna that have adapted to the harsh conditions of the alvar.
The Burnt Lands Alvar ANSI is located east of Almonte, straddling Ramsay Ward and the City of Ottawa, on either side of the March Road. It is an outstanding example of alvar habitat – combining alvar pavement, alvar grasslands, alvar shrub lands, treed alvar and wetlands. Besides its unique flora, the alvar also supports 82 breeding bird species, 48 butterfly species, 98 species of owlet moths, globally rare species of land snail, globally rare invertebrates, and a kind of carabid beetle found nowhere else in the world. Although the alvar is not a prairie, it hosts many prairie species such as prairie sawflies and a thriving population of wingless prairie leafhoppers.
Conserving biodiversity is essential for Ontario’s long-term prosperity and environmental health. The treasures of our natural world need to be preserved for future generations. The cluster lot development in the ANSI would cause widespread disturbance and degrade flora and fauna, including the habitat of endangered species and threatened species. It would also compromise connectivity to adjacent alvar properties and introduce many non-native species.
The Provincial Policy Statement, the Lanark County Official Plan and the Mississippi Mills Official Plan all require protection of the habitat of endangered species and threatened species. Furthermore, they require that there shall be no negative impact on the ANSI or its ecological functions, or on adjacent lands.
Part of the Burnt Lands Alvar ANSI is private land, and many private landowners cherish their land and provide good stewardship; part is a Nature Reserve Class Provincial Park; and part is owned by the City of Ottawa.
In addition to submitting an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board to halt this development, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists have started a campaign to publicize the issue and raise funds for the appeal process. The campaign begins with a short presentation by Ken Allison, past president of both MVFN and the Ottawa Field-Naturalist’s Club, on January 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the United Church Hall, 106 Elgin Street, Almonte, before the featured lecture.
Presentation by Ken Allison – What is an Alvar? Burnt Lands Alvar: A rare ecosytem of execptional quality