A new batch of butternut seedlings have been sent into the world to pull the endangered tree back from the brink – but this spring’s lot may have been the last.

Landowners flocked to the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority’s specialized cold storage facility on Dilworth Road this spring to pick up their baby butternut trees, carefully grown at the Ferguson Forestry Centre from resilient seeds harvested across Eastern Ontario.

Butternut trees in Canada and the US have been decimated by the butternut canker, an incurable fungal disease that scientists believe originated in Asia.

Since 2005, the RVCA has planted a total of 29,000 new butternuts across Eastern Ontario, partnering with landowners and other groups willing to care for the fragile trees on their properties.

But that could end now that proposed changes to the provincial Endangered Species Act have been signed into law.

The new rules, included in the Province of Ontario’s More Homes, More Choice Act, will allow developers to pay into a province-wide conservation fund instead of supporting localized, targeted efforts to save or replace the threatened species they disrupt. It’s unclear how the provincial pool of money would be doled out: money paid for local butternut destruction may no longer fund local butternut recovery.

That could leave the RVCA’s program without the critical funding it needs to collect resilient seeds to nurture new seedlings for reforestation. And it’s been a hugely successful model, if only because landowners have been so eager to plant the disappearing trees.

“I haven’t had a butternut on my property for more than 60 years,” said Mountain resident Fred Baker, who participated in the program for the first time this spring. He picked up 20 seedlings on May 10. “It’s a good, natural food for animals and wildlife, beautiful wood to work with, great saw logs if you can get them to that size. They’re beautiful to sit under.”

Progress is achingly slow: of the 2,000 free seedlings handed out this spring, only about 30 per cent will live to age five, according to program manager Rosemary Fleguel.

“It’s a slow, steady drip to get butternuts back onto the landscape,” she said. “But it’s still 30 per cent more than what was there, and they’re from genetically superior parent trees. What we don’t know is how many of these seedlings will be able to fend off the canker disease into maturity to produce seeds of their own.”

Fleguel estimates that 50 to 60 per cent of the population in eastern Ontario has died or is no longer reproducing since she started monitoring the trees in 1992.

“I’d say about 50 per cent still exist as viable trees, but every year a certain percentage fall off the edge,” she said. “The urgency to find these tolerant trees cannot be overstated.”

For the complete story, click here: www.rvca.ca/blog/butternut-recovery-at-risk-under-proposed-endangered-species-act-changes

Published in General Interest

It’s a busy week for technicians working for Conservation Authorities (CA) in Eastern Ontario.

Of the 37 such entities in Ontario, 4 are located in this corner of Eastern Ontario; Mississippi and Rideau Valley Conservation, in the Ottawa River watershed, and Quinte and Cataraqui, in the Lake Ontario watershed.

They have put out notices this week about spring flooding and its impact on some of the lakes within their systems.

They also all received notification that the portion of their funding that the Province of Ontario provides for natural hazard management is being cut this year.

In the case of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) for example, the allocation is dropping from $242,000 last year, to $125,000 this year.

The $242,000 annual payment, which had remained the same since 1996, was the Province’s contribution towards the RVCA’s efforts to mitigate against flood erosion, maintain infrastructure such as the Bolingbroke dam, and monitor stream flows, maintain a flood watch and generate flood warning messages, and produce mapping of flood plains.

“These are core functions,” said Sommer Casgrain-Robertson, General Manager of RVCA, “which the Province has always supported. “The $242,000 was about 2% of our annual budget, and it is now about 1%. The municipalities within the watershed provide about 50% of our funding, and the rest comes from user fees, application fees and fundraising. The Province, through the Ministry of the Environment, also contributes funding towards source water protection for drinking water.”

Flood water protection and monitoring had been a direct service of the Ministry of Natural Resources before it was downloaded to the Conservation Authorities in the 1990’s and at first the Province provided a significant share of the funding, but with inflation and other cost increases over 23 years, that share had diminished over that time to 2% until it was cut in half last week.

“We are not going to change our flood mitigation and monitoring operations, said Casgrain. “Over the next few months our board will decided how to handle the financial implications.”

We know the Province was up against a significant financial hurdle, and we knew the budget would contain cuts, we were waiting to see if our funding would be cut, but since our funding is so limited it was not a cut we were expecting. And when you consider that with climate change, we are definitely seeing an increase in extreme weather events, this is coming at a time when we probably should be looking at doing more in this area.”

The RVCA board is made up of appointees from member municipalities. One of the options they could consider would be to make up the shortfall by increasing the contribution from member municipalities towards natural hazards, which would lead to decreases in other municipal services or increases in municipal taxes.

The Mississippi Valley Conservations Authority (MVCA) is seeing a provincial funding cut from $248,000 to $128,000.

In a written statement, MVCA staff talked about the scope of the program that is supported by provincial funding.

“Through our watershed planning, programs and services, we put as much effort into preventing flooding as we do into responding when weather conditions overwhelm the system. Examples, particularly at this time of year, include: monitoring water levels and weather forecasts, operating water control structures, providing advanced notice of flooding to area municipalities and residents, and coordinating with emergency responders. We operate five Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry, 11 smaller MVCA dams, and 2 facilities on behalf of Ontario Power Generation. Our on the ground presence throughout the watershed and daily monitoring of water flows, levels and weather conditions, allows us to understand and predict how water is coming off the land.”

They also said that they are not contemplating making any changes to their core operations in the short term in response to the sudden cut in provincial funding.

“We will look internally and at existing programs and reserves to compensate while continuing to work on the ground, maintaining the same level of service that member municipalities and other partners have come to rely on,” said Sally McIntyre, General Manager.

On a province-wide basis, the funding envelope for Conservation Authority natural hazard funding has been decreased from $7.4 million to $3.7 million.

The Ministry of Natural Resources, under Minister John Yakabuski, who represents the riding of Renfrew, is also undertaking a review of the Conservation Authorities Act, with a view towards improving “public transparency and consistency” according to a government news release.

The release quotes Minister Yakabuski: "Our government is putting people first to help communities and families prepare and respond to climate change," said John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. "Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our regulations is a critical component of our government's strategy for strengthening Ontario's resiliency to extreme weather events."

Published in General Interest
Wednesday, 24 April 2019 16:37

Flood Watches

A flood watch has been issued by the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority for properties around Bob’s Lake and Christie Lake, as these lakes are at capacity.

Although the water level increases are now almost stabilized, the water levels may still increase with the forecasted rain.

A flood warning has been issued by the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority for the entire Mississippi River watershed. Water levels on Mazinaw, Marble, and Little Marble Lakes have peaked and are beginning to recede, and are are expected to be close to summer levels by the end of the week.

Levels on Kashwakamak Lake and Buckshot Creek should begin dropping by the end of this week. Flows out of Crotch Lake to High Falls are still increasing and are expected to peak on or around April 26. Levels on Dalhousie Lake have receded since their early peak but could rise above this season’s high of 157.8 metres on Thursday

In the Quinte Watershed, It is expected that rivers in the northern region of the Moira and the Salmon watersheds will approach 2014 flood levels this week.

The Cataraqui Region Conservation Association did not project major flooding in their most recent release, which was a week ago on April 17

Published in Lanark County

The Friends of the Tay Watershed Association has announced the recipients of their 2018 Environmental Awards, recognising three individuals and organisations that have made a significant contribution to the protection and care of the Tay watershed and the environment in general.

Noelle Reeves, Tay Valley Township Planner, received the association’s award for Contribution to the Tay Watershed. As the municipal planner for a rural municipality with 26 lakes and several rivers, Noelle has taken to heart her very important responsibility for guiding the sustainability of those tremendous assets for the public benefit of the residents of Tay Valley Township and the natural environment which forms such an integral part of what makes the Township so special.

For ‘Contribution to Water Resources at the provincial, national or international level’ the recipient was Ontario Nature. Ontario Nature was one of the leaders in the province-wide movement that resulted in the removal of Schedule 10 from Bill 66. Schedule 10 of the “Open-for-Business” Act would have permitted development to bypass the legislative protection in several provincial acts, for water, natural heritage and farmland in municipalities across Ontario, undermining safeguards to our environment and the health of our communities.

Graham Beck, Little Stream Bakery, was the recipient of the award for ‘Contribution to the General Environment’. For many years, Little Stream Bakery has quietly provided grants to area organisations as a member of the international organisation known as “1% for the Planet”, a volunteer community of businesses dedicated to increasing charitable assistance to the environment, with the donation of 1% of their revenue.

These 2018 award recipients were voted the best in their categories from a list of 10 dedicated candidate individuals and organisations. The Friends of the Tay Watershed thank the recipients for their significant contributions to the stewardship of our natural environment.

The Friends of the Tay Watershed is a non-profit charitable association founded in 2001 to deliver programs and activities, and cooperate with other organizations with complementary interests, to ensure the health of the water and related natural resources of the Tay Watershed for present and future generations.

Published in General Interest

There are a range of syrup makers in our part of the world. Syrup is, at its core, a very simple process, a lot of home syrup makers are able to make enough for family and friends with a one time investment of anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to a few thousand depending on how they want to go about it.

It is also a bigger business. Commercial syrup makers can invest in the hundreds of thousands and bring in extended family or paid labourers for several weeks for 10,000 + tap operations, reverse osmosis machines and high end tanks and evaporators. We have the whole range in our area, and from the most basic to the most sophisticated, they are all equally dependent on the weather.

Not that long ago, winter weather patterns were a lot more predictable in this part of the world. The beginnings of spring, when the temperature rose above zero in the daytime for more than a day or two, tended to be sometime in early to mid March. Those who put up lines in the bush would work away in the second half of February to catch the earliest run and maximize the coveted early sweet sap, from which they produced the coveted, subtle extra light and light syrup that consumers loved so much.

There are now a lot of small scale, hobby operations around, and this is reflected in the local hardware stores carrying more and more syrup supplies each year, and even a dedicated store that has been set up by Northway Home Hardware, which sells evaporators and boiling pans, etc.

But for hobbyists, and professionals alike, the last couple of years have been a challenge because the season has been so early, and so extended. It’s all about hurry up and wait. Before the February long weekend is over it’s time to get the buckets out, find the drill bit and get ready to get started.

One local producer, who keeps records, said the last two years were the first time they started boiling sap in February (the 22nd in 2017, and the 21st this year) in at least 40 years with one exception, a first boil on February 28th in 2000.

You see where I am going here. Are these record early starts to the syrup season indications of the impacts of climate change?

The answer seems to be that on their own, two years of an early syrup season do not indicate climate change. But when we look back at the past 10 – 15 years and see that the start date, the length of the season, the stop and start nature of it as we go through warmer and colder spells each December, is different than it was before. This has an impact on the way syrup is produced, but fortunately it has not had a severe impact on production. For us hobbyists, it is not a big deal, there is not that much at stake, but for commercial producers who are constantly investing in their business and spend time in the off-season managing their sugar bush for the long run, the un-knowable impacts of climate change on syrup production over the next 25 to 50 years are something to think about.

We do know that sugar maples are resilient, the sap may run better and sweeter some years, based on a number of factors such as water in the ground, heat units in the previous summer etc., but even when stressed for a year or two the trees tend to recover and the sap has kept flowing for millenia.

Syrup producers have noticed that, with longer summers and shorter winters, trees are growing faster than they were, and the medium term impact of this change is not known.

We do know that sugar maples have a limited range. Is the limit of that range going to move north, as long term weather conditions change?

There is something special about syrup season. The milky colour of the early sap, the smells as the weather warms up, etc., the fleeting beginnings of spring.

I must say it was odd to be tapping this year in February as the ground was already softening up from heaving frost, snow was retreating everywhere and streams that normally break through in mid-season were already bubbling.

We don’t know if there is any reason to speculate that our maple based syrup culture may become a victim of climate change, but even those of us who have only dabbled in syruping for 15 or 20 years are becoming aware of changes in the seasons, and it is impossible not to wonder whether the tradition that predates us by a long, long time will continue into the near future or not.

Published in Editorials
Wednesday, 13 December 2017 12:10

Sydenham Lake Stewardship Plan Completed

Gord Rodgers of French Planning Services and Bill Peairs, Chair of Sydenham Lake Association, presented Council with the final version of the Sydenham Lake Plan, which was developed over the past two years. An attractive readable 31 page document, its overall goal is to “identify and protect the significant social, natural and physical features that make the lake and its surrounding area a healthy natural environment and a desirable place for people to live and visit.”

Of the 52 recommended actions in the plan, Rodgers focussed on the 11 that were relevant to the Township. (At least one of these, the protection of the dark sky, is already under implementation, with the upgrading of Sydenham streetlights.)

The final recommendation was that a working group be established, with representatives from the Lake Association, the Township and the Cataraqui Regional Conservation Authority (CRCA). This group would meet annually to “guide the plan and its actions into the future.”

Rodgers thanked the Township and the CRCA for their support and encouragement, and said that money from the Ministry of the Environment’s Source Water Protection Fund had made the plan possible.

(The complete plan is currently available in draft form on the SLA website).

In answer to Councillor McDougall’s query about possible sources of funding for other Township Lake Associations to do similar Lake Plans, Rodgers said it was very difficult. However, he did suggest that a more modest plan could probably be achieved without the help of a consultant, if there were volunteers willing and able to do the necessary work.

Proposed Shooting Range in Portland District
Council was asked to consider approval of a private shooting range proposed by Scanlon Road resident Stephen Saunders.

Private shooting ranges fall under the jurisdiction of the Chief Firearms Officer of the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and are strictly controlled and monitored bi-annually. One of the conditions for establishing a range is a letter from the local municipality sating ; a) that the Municipality has no objection to the range, and b) the range would not contravene any municipal by-laws relating to the use of the range and discharging of firearms. Planner Lindsay Mills notes that there is nothing in the Township’s zoning by-law, or the provincial Planning Act that would prevent the use.

Council was unanimous in its agreement that it was important to notify neighbours of the proposal, so they would have the opportunity to speak to Council if they had concerns. CAO Orr said that there was no established process for this, and Council again agreed that he should follow the same timeline and notification protocol used for severance applications.

Recruitment Woes
South Frontenac Township is currently without a Manager of Development Services (MDS), or a Chief Building Official. The position of MDS was recently created, in response to increasing development pressures and the stated goal of seeking delegated authority to approve subdivisions and plans of condominium by 2018. The first round of recruitment was unsuccessful, and in the second round, Forbes Symon was hired. However, after six months, Mr Symon left this September for a similar position in Perth, where he lived. To date, no suitable replacement has been found.

Before re-advertising in the new year, Mayor Vandewal suggested Council might wish to discuss whether they even wanted to continue with the recently-created position.

The answer was clear. “It was a great advantage, having a Development Services Manager for six months. It would be a mistake to lose sight of that” (Sutherland); “That position offered comfort and confidence”, (McDougall); “The Development Services Manager brought strength and breadth of experience - it’s hard to have lost that,” (Schjerning). The rest of Council were equally supportive of continuing to recruit for the position.

The Building Department has had what Orr calls “a chronic problem” keeping anyone in the position of Chief Building Official since Councillor Alan Revill retired from the job in early 2012. Since then there have been three full-time hires and four Acting CBO’s appointed in between: most recently, Ryan Arcand left in November after eleven months as CBO to return to the City of Kingston. Staff are currently interviewing applicants. In spite of a seasonal drop in demand, the remaining building official is not able to keep up with the workload. Orr summarizes: “staff are also exploring other creative options on how to deliver service, however, it is premature to comment on their feasibility or possibility.”


Opponents of the Johnston Point 15 lot development on Loughborough Lake have not given up the fight. The development received draft approval from the Ontario Municipal Board over a year ago last spring.

That approval included a number of conditions that need to be met by the applicant, Magenta Waterfront Development Corporation, before the plan can be approved and the lots created. Among those are conditions related to endangered species at that location. Early in November, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) posted a notice on the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) web site. The notice concerns a so-called “overall benefit” permit that the ministry is intending to issue regarding two species at risk that have been identified on the 36 acre parcel known as Johnston’s Point. It relates to two species, the Gray (aka Black) Ratsnake and the Blandings Turtle.

If the ministry issues the permit, it will be based on a commitment by the applicant to take measures to offset any harm that is done to the habitat with greater measures to improve the habitat, achieving an “overall benefit”.

A delegation on Tuesday Night (November 28) urged Council to support their opposition to the “Overall Benefit” permit on the grounds that two other species at risk have been identified at Johnston’s Point, bats and whip-poor-wills.

“The benefit permit completely disregards significant evidence gathered by citizens of South Frontenac regarding the presence of at least two more species: Little Brown Myotis Bats (Endangered), as well as Eastern Whip-poor-will (Species at Risk)” said Roel Vertegaal in a letter to council.

The Eastern Whip-poor-will was mentioned in the draft condominium approval from the OMB. One of the conditions was the delivery of a study concerning the presence of whip-poor-will. The opponents presented a report that they commissioned, which was prepared by Cambium Engineering, which found whip-poor-wills on the site on three sampling dates in June, 6 on one night, 16 on another, and 11 on a third.

The report also says that there is “probable breeding” within the proposed condominium area.

It also concludes: “The General Habitat Description for the Eastern Whip-poor-will states that an area extending 500 meters from the centre of defended territories is considered part of the general habitat for this species. Therefore, the entirety of the peninsula is considered Eastern Whip-poor-will habitat under the ESA [Endangered Species Act] and damaging or destroying the forested areas without appropriate authorization is prohibited.”

While the conditions for the approval of the condominium are being worked on, some of the lots that have not yet been created have been sold. As well, work has been proceeding on a road that will access those lots.

The development is also being marketed by a corporation called Boneliving, which builds what it calls “Net-Zero Energy Ready High Performance Homes” out of steel “on unique lots”.

In addition to the proposed Johnston’s Point development, Boneliving lists properties on Sweetfern Lane on Inverary Lake.

Evonne Potts, one of the opponents of the project, told the News that she is concerned about the amount of roadwork and shoreline work that has already been done at the site when the condominium approval is still pending.

Joe Gallivan, Manager of Planning for Frontenac County, said that while there are limits to work that can be done on properties before planning is completed in some jurisdictions, there is little in place in South Frontenac to limit that kind of work. He also said that selling lots that have not yet been created but are in process can be done, although the sales are by necessity conditional on planning approval.


For 18 years, David Craig built conventional homes.

Then, he saw the film Garbage Warrior, a 2007 documentary about Mike Reynolds, who came up with the Earthship style of building. Intrigued, he went to take a course from Reynolds in New Mexico.

When he got back to Canada, he quit his job (“it was a good job,” he said) and began building Earthships. He has two of these completed and sold under his belt.

Craig’s company, Talking Trees Communities, is one of the ‘stakeholders’ in C & T North Frontenac’s One Small Town project.

Craig’s part, and indeed his vision, is to create a community of Earthships.

“Eighty-nine would work, 111 would be nice,” he said.

Currently, Craig is working out of the house beside the liquor store in Plevna that’s serving as the overall project’s headquarters.

“I don’t have any say in this building, I’m just in it,” he said. “It’s all of our offices.”

He’d really rather be out there building Earthships.

“To make the projects viable, we’d need 300 to 500 acres,” he said.

For those unfamiliar with the Earthship design concept, they are based on six principles or human needs:

• thermal/solar heating and cooling
• solar and wind electricity
• self-contained sewage treatment
• building with natural and recycled materials
• water harvesting and long-term storage
• some internal food production capabilities.

Craig’s design is based on Reynolds’ but he’s modified it somewhat. He retains the six principles and recycles tires to create the thermal mass which is a crucial component to the heating/cooling system but he’s scrapped the horseshoe concept which he deemed unnecessary to the functions of the house and added some insulation to the thermal mass.

But it’s essentially still the off-grid, self-sustaining plan Reynolds came up with in the early ’70s.

“The conventional house is a freezing, useless box,” he said. “An Earthship will stay at 15 degrees year ’round.

“Now that’s too cold for most people in the winter so you’ll need an additional heating source but nowhere near as much as you do in a conventional home, regardless of how it’s insulated.”

He said the owner of the home plays a big part in the design in terms of how many solar panels are used, size of the greenhouse and accoutrements as well as actual construction if desired but $150 per square foot is “middle ground” building cost for these homes.

The actual plan for One Small Town is very much still in the planning stages but for Craig location and/or construction of the other components (medical centre, electrical generating plant, aquaculture facility, apiary and wood products) is a non-issue. He’s ready to start building houses as soon as the land is secured and subdivided.

“We (the Earthship component) don’t need the power,” he said.

Wednesday, 02 August 2017 14:05

Discovering the richness of Rose Hill

The general public will have a unique opportunity to visit Rose Hill Nature Reserve on Saturday, August 19th to explore the new trails and learn about the rich biodiversity found there. Rose Hill is a 358-acre wilderness property in the rugged, hilly landscape north east of Denbigh in Addington Highlands.

In the spring of 2017, the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust (MMLT) engaged a professional ecologist to prepare a scientific report describing the natural history and ecological features of the Nature Reserve, as well as conduct fieldwork to inventory the species on the property. At our August 19th event, visitors will hear about some of the discoveries of the field study and learn about the ecological significance of Rose Hill.

An initial field study was conducted in 2012 when the first 100-acre parcel was acquired by the Land Trust. That first report stated that one of the most remarkable aspects of this property is its lack of invasive plant species which gives a pretty good indication of its relatively untouched, wild condition. This year’s study will provide MMLT with the necessary information to prepare a long-term management plan for the Nature Reserve. Land trusts are mandated to protect the properties in their care forever, which in legal terms means a 999 year commitment, renewable.

Over the past year, area volunteers have extended the trail network by opening up a long-unused trail around Fufflemucker Pond. Visitors will be guided along the trail from and to the lovely picnic spot beside the pond where we’ll gather to hear Cathy Keddy, the Chair of MMLT’s Ecological Stewardship Committee, share the findings of the field study to date. After lunch, you can meander along the trail around the perimeter of the pond looking for the rare species described.

Registration for the nature walk is at 10:30 a.m. at the Brodey Trail entrance on Rose Hill Rd. Admission is $10. Bring along a picnic lunch to enjoy beside Fufflemucker Pond. Don’t forget your camera – the scenery is beautiful and you may catch a shot of something special.

Directions to Rose Hill Nature Reserve are provided below:

From Kaladar at the junction of Hwy 7 and Hwy 41, travel north for 65.4 km to Rose Hill Rd. and turn right.
Area residents from the east can take Buckshot Lake Rd. from Plevna to Hwy 41.
Follow Rose Hill Rd. for about 1.6 km to the Brodey Trail entrance (marked) to climb to Fufflemucker Pond. Parking is at the road side.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017 12:18

Neonics impact aquatic ecosystems

Neonics are pesticides that are coated onto many seeds sown on Ontario farms. During sowing, a lot of the neonics gets into the atmosphere as dust and a lot more gets into the soil. Some that gets into the soil is carried down into the groundwater and out into streams by rainwater.

Neonicotinoids (neonics) have been shown by UK and US research to affect much more than just honey bees. In addition, the "facts" in commonly circulated 'fact sheets', such as for imidacloprid, stretch some points to make the neonics seem harmless. One fact sheet states that imidacloprid quickly breaks down in soil and water but the actual number of days for its breakdown in soils varies from 28¬–1250 days. In November 2016, Health Canada proposed a ban on imidacloprid.

There are questions about the actual benefits of neonics. At least three studies cast doubt on the utility and monetary benefits of neonics. One experiment compared soybean yield from neonic-coated soybeans to yield without the neonics. They found no increase in yield due to the neonics over two years of study.

Imidacloprid dissolves in water and is toxic to aquatic invertebrates at 10–100 nanograms per litre (100 nanograms =0.0000001 grams). US EPA found that the concentration of this neonic in many streams regularly exceeds toxic levels for aquatic invertebrates including crustaceans. Mayflies are the most sensitive. The EPA stated that impacts have cascading effects on food webs and on ecosystem functions.

So the arguments about neonics are not just about honey bees. Aquatic systems also are affected. And apparently, the financial benefits to farmers that the big chemical corporations advertize may not be there. And the ecological impacts are much greater than they say.

More information:


Published in General Interest
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