| Apr 05, 2007

Feature Article - April 5, 2007

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Feature Article - April 5, 2007

What is the Frontenac Arch?by Jeff Green

Don Ross has spent years promoting an idea that many people find hard to get their heads around.

The idea is that an hourglass-shaped land bridge that connects the southern edge of the Canadian Shield with the ancient Adirondack Mountains in New York State is worth studying, supporting, and celebrating.

In November of 2002, the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve became the third in Ontario, and the 12th in Canada, to be so designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).


“Technically, the Adirondack Mountains have the same geology as the Shield,” Don Ross said when interviewed from the Frontenac Arch Biosphere office in the village of Lansdowne in Leeds-Grenville County. “They have the same granite type, known as Grenville Province. The Frontenac Arch is almost like a wildlife highway between the Shield and the Adirondacks, being crossed by an east-set migratory route, the St. Lawrence Valley. Songbirds follow one of these two routes year after year, as do bats, butterfly species, and dragonfly species. These animals disperse seeds as they travel, hence a migration of flora and fauna as well.”

One rather large example of the migratory patterns was a Moose, nicknamed Alice, who was radio collared near Saranac Lake in 2001, and who turned up in Frontenac Park some time later.

The boundaries of the Frontenac Arch are described as “flexible, diverse, and adaptive, representing the land that it encompasses,” according to the biosphere reserve’s website. At this time, the southern edge of the reserve is bordered by Gananoque and Brockville, and it narrows as it moves to the northwest until it is bordered by Seeley’s Bay and Delta. With the recent inclusion of the entire South Frontenac Township, the Frontenac Arch Biosphere reserve has gained much more territory, including Frontenac Park.

“The inclusion of South Frontenac is something we saw happening from the beginning,” said Ross. “The holdback was that Ontario Parks did not know whether it wanted to be in or out. They were in the process of beginning a management plan for the park, and it was hard for them to make a decision in 2002. But now they have, and we’re delighted to have South Frontenac in the reserve.”

As Don Ross pointed out when he visited South Frontenac Council earlier this winter, being part of the reserve does not impinge on the rights of South Frontenac Township or the landowners within its boundaries. The reserve is designed to promote activities, not to limit them.

Indeed, Don Ross said that one of the attractions of South Frontenac, as a township, is the comprehensive Official Plan that the township put in place some five years ago.

“It is really a model for other jurisdictions,” he said.

The Frontenac Arch biosphere has three broad goals, which Don Ross calls pillars: “The first pillar is conservation. The Frontenac Arch is one of the most significant ecological areas in the world, and includes two provincial parks (Frontenac Park and Charleston Lake Park), a national park (St. Lawrence Islands National Park) and Queen’s University Biological Station.” One program the reserve is sponsoring is a species-at-risk study.

The second pillar is sustainable development, which the biosphere reserve fosters through programs such as the Local Flavours initiative. This connects local farmers with people who want to purchase fresh, locally produced produce. Other programs include a study, completed last year, on the prospects for sustainable development along the Thousand Islands Parkway Corridor. There are also tourism initiatives, such as paddling tour maps, and a sustainable tourism development project.

The third pillar is to provide support for education and knowledge about sustainable development; one of the prime vehicles for this is the summer camp that has been established at Landon Bay near Gananoque. The camp runs in July and August, with each week being devoted to a different theme.

The greatest way the Biosphere Reserve seeks to accomplish its goals is through partnerships with other organizations. By bringing South Frontenac into the fold, groups such as the South Frontenac Sustainability Committee and the National Farmer’s Union local will find like-minded people from the east to work with.

As the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve looks to the future, the possibility of looking south to extend all the way to the Adirondack Mountains is always there.

“On the American side, Adirondack State Park is a biosphere reserve, but the Bush government hasn’t exactly been warm and fuzzy towards the idea of a reserve such as we’ve developed in Ontario. But we have developed partnerships with Fish and Wildlife, and an NGO called Saving the River,” Don Ross said.

One thing is certain. If and when the Americans are ready, the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve will be more than happy to expand its borders to include the entire Arch.

As one of the programs of the South Frontenac Natural Environment Committee, Don Ross will be speaking about the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve at the Sydenham Town Hall on April 18, from 7-9pm. Further information can be found at www.fabr.ca

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