|The Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club
President's Perspective - fall 2012
Ann MacKenzie, OFNC president
The Conservation Challenge
Since January 2012, the club has not had a conservation committee.
We still recognize the importance of conservation and have not abandoned the field. We are just doing things a bit differently than before. This change was forced on us when we could not find a chair for the conservation committee after Ken Young took over the role of treasurer.
At the same time, some in the club were already questioning the effectiveness of attending meetings, reviewing documents and submitting comments to governments (that were usually ignored) on local environmental issues. Politicians have become very good at using words that sound good but when examined closely are vague or meaningless. The recent federal and provincial budgets were particularly discouraging as governments tried to bully through measures that would seriously weaken past gains.
So what are we doing? What else should we / could we do? We are not a radical organization. Big attention-getting gestures are not our style.
Council recognized that many members of the club are interested in conservation issues but do not necessarily wish to be a member of a standing committee. As a result, a Google Group was formed that allows anyone in the group to raise an issue and others in the group to get involved in the discussion if they wish. You are welcome to join if you have not already done so. Click here and look for the button "Apply to join group."
Those who feel strongly about an issue can take the lead in a course of action. This allows the club to stay involved on key issues with members spending time and effort only on those topics they consider worthwhile.
Another way of considering developments or issues is through presentation / discussion meetings at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden meeting space (see Coming Events). One was on the Boreal Forest agreement and another is scheduled for the Ottawa Forests and Greenspace Advisory Committee (October 3). Again, this is a means for interested members to get more in-depth information on an issue on an ad hoc basis.
On urgent issues, where support is needed quickly, we are now doing emails to members alerting them to a need to take action. If you want to be notified of these, then you must provide your email to the membership chair, Henry Steger - firstname.lastname@example.org. These emails are usually further supported by more information on our website. The Bulletin Board on the left side of the website can link you to a wide variety of current topics.
The more traditional tools of letters and petitions are certainly used, often to ensure that our views are on the record. One recent example was the issue of requesting a ban on the hunting of snapping turtles in Ontario. The summer T&L has an excellent article by Pauline Catling on the threats to Blandings Turtles in Ontario; threats that also impact snappers.
The same issue of T&L also contains an excellent article by Paul Catling et al. on Ostrander Point and the potential impact of wind turbines. It ends with a list of what you can do. Raising awareness of such important issues is a key component of the club's conservation role and our publications are tools available to us. If an issue concerns you then please write it up for T&L.
Another critical aspect of conservation is knowing what needs protection and setting baselines for the future. The club has always been an active player in the many bioblitzes that are held for nearby areas. In the April 2011 T&L, Christine Hanrahan provided a thorough description of a series of bioblitzes in the Larose Forest southeast of Ottawa. More recently, she helped the Mississippi-Madawaska Land Trust Conservancy with their bioblitz of the High Lonesome property near Arnprior. You can't underestimate the importance of documenting the biodiversity of an area as a tool to defend that land. Thank you Christine and the other bioblitzers!!
Sometimes conservation is best achieved by protecting the land through ownership. In that regard your club has played a major role in the eastern Ontario region. Most of you are familiar with the Alfred Bog and the pivotal role of the OFNC in its preservation. We have also provided financial support to the Nature Conservancy to help them purchase land in the Frontenac Arch north of Kingston and in the Wolf Grove area of Arnprior.
In a perfect world, the OFNC would have an active and informed Conservation Committee keeping an ear to the ground and an eye on the horizon on behalf of us all. Without one, we can still fulfill our conservation role, albeit with more onus on all of us, individually and collectively. As with many things in life, there are several ways of achieving a desired goal.