dropseed meadow
Alvar dropseed meadow. Photo: © Ken Allison

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) club, a local member of the Ontario Nature Network has a mandate to promote a better understanding and conservation of the natural world within the Carleton Place, Mississippi Mills and nearby areas of the Mississippi River watershed. The club’s activities include a Young Naturalist program, natural history lectures, nature walks, paddling and birding programs and conservation and environmental awareness initiatives.

Presently MVFN is drawing attention to the ecological sensitivity of Burnt Lands Alvar and the development pressure it faces. Burnt Lands Alvar (on both private and public land straddling the City of Ottawa and municipality of Mississippi Mills, north and east of Almonte) is a unique ecosystem of exceptional quality, with outstanding examples of alvar grasslands and other alvar habitats, and home to locally and globally rare species. Earlier this year MVFN formed an ad hoc ‘Burnt Lands Alvar Campaign committee’ to raise awareness and funds to challenge a housing development project within the alvar. “It would be a tragedy if an ecosystem that has lasted 10,000 years is allowed to be fragmented to the point where it becomes unviable. The Ontario Provincial Policy Statement, the Lanark County Official Plan and the Mississippi Mills Official Plan all require protection of this special natural heritage area. Unfortunately, it has been left to ordinary citizens like us to fight this battle,” explains MVFN’s President Cliff Bennett.

Hairy beardtongue - Allison
Hairy Beardtongue, a summer wildflower on the alvar Photo: © Ken Allison

The campaign continues to draw crowds to its popular pub night fundraisers. The March 6th pub night at Moose McGuire’s in Almonte duplicated the success of the first. A large crowd enjoyed music of the Jimmy Tri-Tone Band, a trivia challenge, etc. When not up dancing, pub goers donated generously to the campaign, or took part in the draw and silent auction. “People came to show their support for the campaign to protect the Burnt Lands Alvar, and stayed to enjoy the camaraderie of old friends and new acquaintances”, said Gretta Bradley of the campaign committee.

Due to their popularity, one more pub night is planned. To celebrate the return of spring to the alvar, the campaign goes to a “lively spot with all the trappings of a pub”, Ballygiblin’s Restaurant and Pub, 151 Bridge St., Carleton Place, Friday April 10th (7- 9 pm) . Rubber boots optional! Again, the popular trivia quiz, heads-or-tails, silent auction and music of The Jimmy Tri-Tone Band will provide the entertainment. For those wishing to arrive early, organizers point out Ballygiblin’s salads, ribeye steak, butter chicken and gluten-free menu items, such as curried salmon salad, which are sure to entice those who opt to enjoy a Friday night dinner; or, for the more adventurous, the fried pickles or quinoa poppers with a pint!

Spring Underfoot-Donaldson
Spring underfoot on Burnt Lands Alvar Photo: © Pauline Donaldson

There is no charge for the April 10th event. Attend just to connect with people who genuinely care about this wild space (Burnt Lands Alvar) with its unique ecology. For further information about the alvar and the campaign, contact the MVFN alvar committee at mvfnblalvar@gmail.com, visit http://mvfn.ca/ or find ‘Burnt Lands Alvar Campaign’ on Facebook.