by Priya NagpalI am high school student from Ottawa. At my school I run the environment club with a group of friends and have been involved with environmental leadership. When I saw an application for a grant to attend the Ontario Nature Youth Summit for Biodiversity and Environmental Leadership, I decided to go for it and apply. When OFNC told me that I had received the grant and would have the opportunity to attend the summit I was excited; I could not wait!
The summit took place in Orillia and our facilities were surrounded by a beautiful forest. I was able to meet people from all over Ontario and learn about environmental initiatives taking place in their hometowns’ from school pollinator projects to community gardens. It was great to meet so many youth who share my interests
I attended a number of workshops ranging from different topics over the course of the summit. In “Livin’ La Vida Local” I learned about the impact of eating local and different programs put in place to making eating local easier. This workshop was hosted by Youth Council members who had faced challenges eating local especially while at university.
There was also a workshop about emotional intelligence that I really enjoyed. Matt Tod, the speaker, talked about what emotional intelligence is and how to become aware of it. In this interactive workshop, we learned what the qualities of a good leader are. This provided us with many tips to improve our leadership skills to become better environmental leaders at home.
During our weekend in Orillia an Aboriginal leader from the local community joined us. He brought all of us together with his captivating stories by the campfire and shared many important lessons.
I also went canoeing one morning on Lake Couchiching. It was wonderful to be out on the calm water in the early hours. Some students went on a birding hike and others braved the cold water and went for the polar dip.
Overall the summit gave me some ideas for my environment club and showed me different ways to protect the environment. Thanks OFNC for this opportunity!
By Jessica Sutton
Jessica Sutton is a 2nd-year University of Ottawa student in Environmental Studies and Biology. This fall, Jessica is volunteering with the OFNC through the Community Service Learning (CSL) program.
Report from the 2014 Youth Summit
The November monthly meeting kicked off with a presentation by Emma Kirke and Emily Pollington – two youth from the Ottawa-Gatineau area who attended the 2014 Ontario Nature Youth Summit in September. The OFNC sponsored Emma and Emily to attend this yearly event that brings together Ontario youth interested in biodiversity and sustainability. The theme for this year’s summit was “Community Action”.
Emma and Emily talked about the various workshops they participated in:
- Reptile and amphibian ramble – a workshop to try out the Ontario Reptile/Amphibian Atlas Program. The program helps users identify reptiles and amphibians, and users can contribute pictures and sighting details to the atlas.
- How to ‘be the change’ – a workshop about personal and community changes that can be made to better the environment.
- Becoming a hero for sustainability – a workshop about communication and leadership, how to step up and take action on environmental issues, and what to expect with these initiatives.
Other workshops included Ontario’s birds of prey, DIY terrarium, Medicinal plants of Ontario (with an Aboriginal elder instructor), and a Pollinator and pesticide debate about whether or not neonicotinoids should be banned. Since attending the Youth Summit, Emily has applied for a position on the Ontario Youth Nature Council, and Emma has become more active within her school’s Eco-Club. Congratulations to Emma and Emily on a successful summit – the club looks forward to sponsoring local youth to attend next year’s summit.
The Conservation Plan for the Ottawa Valley
Gary Bell, who works for the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), then gave a captivating presentation on NCC’s conservation goals for the Ottawa Valley and how these goals are to be accomplished. In the fall of 2013, the NCC completed a Natural Area Conservation Plan (NACP) for the Ottawa Valley, in collaboration with a number of partners including the City of Ottawa, the National Capital Commission, and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The new Ottawa Valley NACP plan incorporates a broad area of the Ottawa Valley in both Ontario and Quebec, from approximately Deep River in the west to Hawkesbury in the east. The NACP sets priorities within a 5-year timeframe.
The biggest issue in determining land conservation priorities is first identifying land that will have the greatest conservation impact if protected. This requires a detailed understanding of the species diversity in an area, as well as its vulnerability to threats such as development and invasive species. To determine which areas to prioritize for protection through acquisition, large datasets for the Ottawa Valley were compiled. Based on specific factors (e.g., size of natural area, species diversity and significance, connectivity, invasive species, etc.), all natural areas in the Ottawa Valley were evaluated to identify primary and secondary priorities. Primary priority lands will now focus interest of potential partner organizations for purchase and protection activity.
The Ottawa Valley is rich, with large areas of forests and wetlands. Within the valley, certain rare ecosystem types have been selected as priorities for conservation focus. These include ecosystem types occurring on shallow limestone, including karst and alvar ecosystems. Large core natural areas have also been highlighted as high priorities for conservation.
Gary highlighted some specific priority areas within the Ottawa Valley that have been selected as conservation targets by the NCC in the NACP. Some of these are already well known to OFNC members as high-quality natural areas.
- Alfred Bog – The majority of this large, provincially significant wetland is owned by Ontario Parks and the NCC. During the 1980s and 1990s, the OFNC played a major role in raising funds and public support to purchase and conserve about 95% of the bog. Some remaining privately owned areas are of high priority for protection by NCC.
- Burnt Lands Alvar – There is a high abundance of rare species at this well-known alvar. Much of the alvar is owned by the NCC and managed by Ontario Parks. Remaining areas are conservation priorities for NCC.
- Wolf Grove – This large natural area in eastern Lanark County has a unique association of plant species and provincially significant wetlands. The NCC currently owns a 91-hectare property at Wolf Grove, and the eventual goal is to transform it into much larger protected area, of perhaps up to 500 hectares.
- Plantagenet Cave System – East of Ottawa (off of Old Highway 17), this natural area is home to many rare species and ancient cedars. The area is close to a limestone escarpment and contains the largest sinkhole in Ontario. An asphalt plant is currently being proposed in this area. Many of local residents and property-owners support the area being protected. Some are donating their property.
- Ottawa Valley Caves (Gervais Caves property) – This newly purchased property consists of freshwater, underwater caves that are connected to the Ottawa River. There is immense diversity in these caves: 53 known fish species, and 13 freshwater mussel species are found in pools throughout the caves. One of the most interesting aspects of the Ottawa Valley Caves is the presence of Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), a species at risk. NCC’s recent purchase of this property was made possible by an OFNC donation of funds from the bequest of Violetta Czasak, an OFNC member who passed away last year.
Overall, the 5-year goals of the NCC are to establish 500 hectares of high priority land in the Ottawa Valley, assist partners in acquiring key lands, and promote partnerships to enhance habitat connection and conservation. To accomplish these goals, the NCC will be promoting science-based site planning, improving our knowledge of key ecosystems, and lastly, raising a whopping $3.8 million.
Hearing about the conservation work of the NCC, especially at a local scale, was very inspirational. Generous and thoughtful donors are helping to conserve and protect many important areas. The OFNC is very proud to play a role in this important work, so that high priority conservation lands may be protected forever.
By Sarah Wray
Reprinted with permission from Trail & Landscape 2014; 48(1)
On Saturday I had 3 workshops; “Snapshot Biodiversity”, “Foraging Foods from Forests and Slimes”, and “Scales and Citizen Science”. In Snapshot Biodiversity I learnt how to take pictures in different settings and really think about what it is you are trying to capture and portray. My favorite workshop on Saturday would be Slimes, Scales and Citizen Science since it was very hands on with going and looking for reptiles and amphibians in the back fields of Geneva Park. I learnt a lot about myths and issues that concern specific species and cause humans to impact their population numbers.
In the evening there were a number of university presentations introducing us to different programs and opportunities for the future. We also watched the movie Sharkwater which shows the problem of shark finning and how the disappearance of sharks would cause a huge reduction in the amount of oxygen in our atmosphere. During the team challenge the green team (which I was in) won the cheer competition for creating a green protest.
On Sunday I had 2 more workshops; “Medicinal Plants of Ontario” and “Birds of Prey”. Birds of Prey was my ultimate favorite workshop since they had real birds and I learnt a lot about their lifestyles.Sunday was also the day ROB STEWART, the renowned filmmaker and conservationist came to give us an insight on his journey and future projects. It was really interesting to hear about his struggles and how many times his movie Sharkwater got rejected but then managed to overcome these set-backs. One really interesting fact I learnt was that to keep our earth from getting hotter we would need to leave 80% of all known oil reserves in the ground and convert to more renewable energy.
This Youth Summit has changed me since I’m a lot more aware of some of the threats and concerns on many species not just well known but more low key species in Canada and how if change isn’t made now there will not be green future. I hope to continue pursuing my interest in the environment and possibly look towards a career path in environmental studies. My thanks to the OFNC for providing me with this wonderful opportunity and letting me pursue my interest in a greener world.
Editor’s note: Sarah is currently a Grade 10 student at Nepean High School, very active in competitive soccer and numerous school activities, and an enthusiastic volunteer at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden.
By Natalie Sopinka
At the November monthly meeting members were treated to an overview of the Ontario Nature Youth Summit by OFNC ambassador Sarah Wray, and amazed by Bruce Di Labio’s ability to recall memories of birding at Lac Deschênes.
Sarah Wray attends youth summit
When she’s not playing soccer and basketball, you can find Sarah Wray, a grade 10 student at Nepean High School, volunteering in the FWG’s Butterfly Meadow. This year Sarah was sponsored by the OFNC to attend the 4th annual Ontario Nature Youth Summit held at the YMCA Geneva Park in Orillia. Sarah enthusiastically shared her stories and photos from the summit with OFNC members at the meeting.
During the summit Sarah learned how to identify edible mushrooms and medicinal plants and take photographs of wildlife from unique and unusual perspectives. She also found out which birds of prey vomit. Sarah’s new favourite bird, the turkey vulture, will vomit when under the threat of predation in hopes their regurgitated stomach contents will distract the predator.
The summit’s keynote speaker was Canadian filmmaker and conservationist Rob Stewart, whose words inspired and motivated Sarah. Sarah told OFNC members that it’s “not just polar bears” that need our attention; we must also consider the many small-scale and local conservation issues that need to be addressed too. Find out more about the summit here!
Bruce Di Labio’s work at Lac Deschênes
Bruce Di Labio is tackling local conservation issues through his work on the Lac Deschênes IBA (important bird area). The large lake, comprising various habitats (e.g., grasslands, deep waters, mud flats, rapids), is a valuable feeding and resting stop for birds that travel between James and Hudson Bays and the Atlantic shores. Over 350 species have been recorded in the Lac Deschenes IBA, with several new species spotted since 2011 (e.g., razorbill, violet-green and cave swallow).
Bruce started birding at Lac Deschênes when a bicycle was his only mode of transport and a pay phone call to alert fellow birders cost 10¢. At the meeting, he took OFNC members on a journey through his meticulously kept records. He first observed Arctic terns in Lac Deschênes on June 11, 1972, their distinctive short legs perched on log booms. Armed with 10-pound Tasco binoculars, Bruce observed over 2000 red throated loons circle frantically through the air on a foggy day in November 1984. An army of 2500 black scoters flew in on October 21, 1987 and an epic 11 000 brant on May 26, 2011. Be sure to check out Bruce’s Lac Deschênes birding spots: Britannia Point, Britannia Pier, Dick Bell Park and Shirleys Bay. More on Lac Deschênes here!
Continuing bird records will ensure Lac Deschenes remains an IBA. Although the Bird Status Line is no longer in service due to operating costs, members can still submit counts to the OFNC (email@example.com) and Bob Cermak (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The meeting ended with Bruce receiving one of the OFNC’s new lens wipes. The lens wipe attaches to your camera, binoculars, hand lens and glasses. Lens wipes are on sale now for $8 each or 2 for $15. Also available are handcrafted maple hiking sticks donated by Gillian Marsden ($20 each).