Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

MVFN Concludes Campaign to Influence Proposed Development on Burnt Lands Alvar

The almost year-long efforts of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) to oppose a proposed small development at the southern edge of Burnt Lands Alvar on Golden Line Road in Ramsay Ward, came to a conclusion with an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing on December 7, 2015. The MVFN alvar team fought for changes to the development right up to about a week before the hearing, when they withdrew from the hearing after exhausting all of their options.

Allison Alvar walk 2015, photo by Pauline Donaldson

Allison walk ram's head (1280x960)The County of  Lanark and the Municipality of Mississippi Mills Official Plans allow cluster-lot developments within the alvar  (even though it is a sensitive area and a designated Area of Natural and Scientific Interest) if an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is conducted and steps are taken to mitigate environmental damage to the footprint of the development. As these steps had been shown in the original application, the proposed development project had been approved conditionally and could proceed. It was on these grounds that MVFN felt it could make an impact by opposing the project as planned. The MVFN alvar team strove to force many improvements to the EIS for the proposed development.

By opposing the development, MVFN has raised awareness of the public as to the existence of the Burnt Lands Alvar, its location, what an alvar is, and the unique and fragile ecosystems which make Burnt Lands Alvar an ecological treasure.  Also, MVFN’s opposition to this particular development has arguably influenced the local municipality to begin processes to change its Community Official Plan and accompanying Zoning By-Laws to ensure future similar development schemes cannot occur on regulated lands in Mississippi Mills.

A significant impact of MVFN’s alvar appeal was to have three additional on-site visits by ecologists and other experts take place, in late spring, summer and early autumn. These field studies added significantly to the developer’s previous EIS study, which had included only one cursory assessment of the Alvar ecology. Two other important concessions were achieved by the MVFN team, to place the roadway in the least damaging location, and the other to change the location of the turning circle, also to minimize impact. Other positive influences from the MVFN team can be seen throughout the final EIS report.

The Alvar OMB team, led by MVFN member Tineke Kuiper, included several qualified specialists and other supporting persons. Key to the effort was a team of lawyers from the Canadian Environment Law Association, which was provided free of costs to MVFN.

The other significant component of MVFN’s appeal effort was the MVFN fund-raising team, led by MVFN Chair of the Environmental Issues Committee Theresa Peluso. They conducted an amazing fund-raising campaign which allowed the MVFN Alvar team to hire a planner and two ecologists and pay other related costs. When final invoices are in, the MVFN Finance Committee will publish a financial statement.

Although MVFN had withdrawn their appeal prior to the hearing, MVFN President Cliff Bennett and a member of the lawyer team, attended the short OMB hearing as a professional courtesy. The final judgments of the OMB will be handed down by mid-January and a final MVFN report will be issued at that time. For any enquiries on MVFN’s involvement in this project, please contact Cliff Bennett at 613 256-5013 or .

Photos by Pauline Donaldson were taken during a 2015 walk on Burnt Lands Alvar led by Ken Allison .

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Live music by The Jimmy Tri-Tone Band: featured item, Burnt Lands Alvar Silent Auction

This weeks’ featured item in the Burnt Lands Alvar Silent Auction Fundraiser is live music for your event:  by The Jimmy Tri-Tone Band.

The Burnt Lands Alvar Silent Auction will take place at MVFN’s Spring Gathering 2015, May 21, 2015 at the Almonte Civitan Hall. All proceeds will go to the Burnt Lands Alvar Campaign. Get ready to bid on this item if you have your ticket for this event. A recent list of other silent auction items which will be part of the auction is posted here. If you do not already have a ticket, unfortunately tickets are no longer available for this sold out  annual dinner, silent auction and keynote presentation. However, if you would like to make a donation to MVFN’s efforts to preserve the Burnt Lands Alvar from development, visit our donate now page for more information about the alvar.



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Burnt Lands Alvar Walk

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
June 13, 2002
Written by Sarah Coulber

Almonte Home to Precious and Rare Ecosystem

The sun shone for an enthusiastic group who explored the Burnt Lands Alvar, (Almonte area) with Shaun Thompson of the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). Organized by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN), it was a welcomed opportunity to learn about this rare ecosystem. All alvars are unique and exist only in Sweden and the Great Lakes Basin which adds significance to our alvar!

Alvars occur only on limestone bedrock covered with little or no soil. Shaun showed us areas where the frost heaved the soil and rock and explained that the shallow depth of soil partly contributes to the stress of plants and animals that live there, making survival in the cold winters and hot summers difficult. Some of the native inhabitants that have adapted to alvars (some of which were spotted) include the stunning blue-eyed grass, yellow lady slipper orchids, smooth green snakes and red-bellied snakes.

This valuable land has recently been transferred from the Department of National Defense to the MNR, Ontario Parks and the Nature Conservancy of Canada. A management plan will be created in the future to decide how to best protect and utilize this land.

Stay tuned for upcoming activities with the MVFN such as canoe outings and the fall program listing.

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