by the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club
27 November 2002
Summary: While supporting the preservation of francophone heritage in Eastern Ontario, the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club is opposed to the proposal to locate the Francoscenie project on conservation land in Larose Forest. We hope that this otherwise worthy project can be established at a more appropriate location in Clarence-Rockland and the United Counties of Prescott-Russell.
The Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club (OFNC) is the oldest national history club in North America (incorporated 1879), with over 900 individual memberships. Most of our members live in the Ottawa area. In accordance with our Charter, these comments address natural environment issues.
Being aware that the Ontario population East of Ottawa is largely francophone, we understand the desire of the residents of Prescott-Russell to establish events and institutions that help to preserve their cultural heritage.
In the same way, the people of Prescott-Russell will understand that the Ottawa Field Naturalists try to preserve the natural heritage in the Ottawa region and its surrounding municipalities. By natural heritage, we mean all the wild living plants and animals (the biodiversity) and the lands (the habitat) where they can survive. Larose Forest is an important part of the natural habitat, being a large area of public land that is presently zoned for conservation in the Prescott-Russell Official Plan. Its future as a biodiversity reserve depends upon responsible stewardship by the United Counties of Prescott-Russell, and the City of Clarence-Rockland.
Consequently, while supporting the preservation of francophone heritage, we consider that the proposed venue in Larose Forest is inappropriate. We believe that alternative locations can be found that meet the needs of the francophone community, and their anglophone friends, in a dignified and appropriate way.
The ecological value of Larose Forest
At 27,000 acres, or approximately 11,000 ha, Larose Forest is a relatively large area that includes wetlands and riparian zones. In the past the area was logged and cleared for agriculture, but thanks to the vision of Ferdinand Larose, it was replanted in the 1920s. While the area has continued to be logged since then, it has partially reverted from predominantly red pine to a natural succession of species, and presently supports a remarkably high biodiversity. One example of this is a bird list (attached) compiled recently by OFNC: it includes 82 separate species, of which 69 species are known to breed in the forest, and another 10 species have been observed and are believed to breed in the forest, and just 3 other species that are not expected to breed there. It also offers important habitat for overwintering and resident bird species. This large variety of species cannot continue to survive in the forest unless the area remains intact and undeveloped.
Although we know that the forest is important, few scientific studies have as yet been carried out. There is a definite need for systematic surveys of fauna and flora in the forest. The surveys undertaken by volunteers for the breeding bird atlas are therefore doubly important. Twenty years ago, work was done over a five-year period in the forest for the first Breeding Bird Atlas. All of the forest is included for this current atlas project which runs from 2001 to 2005. Further bird studies will be carried out over the next three years as part of this project.
In testimony to the ecological value of the Larose Forest, the Ottawa Wildlife Festival (one of many festivals across Canada celebrating National Wildlife Week) in April 2001 presented a posthumous award to Ferdinand Larose for his work in championing and creating the present day forest which bears his name. The organizers of the festival also wanted to recognize the vital importance of this forest to wildlife. The Mayor of Clarence-Rockland, and the Member of Parliament for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, Don Boudria, attended the presentation and accepted the award on behalf of the late Dr. Larose.
The development proposal
While the 353 acres proposed to be rezoned may appear to be small compared to the total, the effects would be much greater, since biodiversity depends upon the preservation of large areas of a variety of land types in close proximity. Also, we understand that this would be just phase 1 of a multi-phased tourist development. The concept of providing public land at low cost in return for economic development is tempting to municipalities, but misguided when the requested land has conservation zoning status. Agreeing to rezone this land would set a bad precedent that would undoubtedly be cited in other situations before municipal authorities and the Ontario Municipal Board. We agree that the Francoscenie project should be encouraged to start up and expand, but this should not take place on important conservation land in Larose Forest. The proposed financial guarantees could be adapted instead to alternative ways to accommodate the desirable aspects of the proposal.
If the United Counties and the City of Clarence-Rockland take their stewardship of these lands seriously, they will disallow the rezoning proposal and retain the conservation status of the entire forest, while assisting the Francoscenie project to find an appropriate location.
Perhaps the best solution would be to acquire some abandoned or low-grade farmland that includes mature trees and other natural, scenic amenities outside the conservation area. Possible expansion later on could then take place without further jeopardizing the conservation status of the forest. Over a number of years, the cost of acquiring land can be recovered through a leasing or other agreement.
The Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club asks the United Counties of Prescott-Russell and the City of Clarence-Rockland to take seriously the stewardship responsibilities granted to them by the Province, by preserving all of the present conservation status of the Larose Forest. To dissipate or impair the natural heritage in the name of preserving the cultural heritage would be a misguided course of action.
We need both of these important aspects of our heritage to be preserved.
Larose Forest bird list (taxonomic order)
The Larose Forest includes wetlands, open areas along trails and riparian zones, which combine to create an interesting habitat mosaic attracting a diversity of bird species. The following list combines the observations of Ghislaine Rozon (1971 to present) and Christine Hanrahan (2001 and 2002 Breeding Bird Atlas data).
Total number of species observed in Larose Forest: 82
* = Species known to breed in the forest (some breeding evidence found)
*? = Species thought to breed in the forest but no evidence has yet been found
R = Resident species which can usually be found year-round
W = Winter visitors
*?Great Blue Heron
*Northern Goshawk (R)
*Ruffed Grouse (R)
*Mourning Dove (R)
*?Great Horned Owl
Northern Hawk Owl (W)
*Downy Woodpecker (R)
*Hairy Woodpecker (R)
*Pileated Woodpecker (R)
*Eastern Wood Pewee
*Great Crested Flycatcher
*American Crow (R)
*Common Raven (R)
*Black-capped Chickadee (R)
*Red-breasted Nuthatch (R)
*White-breasted Nuthatch (R)
*Brown Creeper (R)
*Golden-crowned Kinglet (R)
*?Ruby Crowned Kinglet
*Cape May Warbler
*Black-throated Green Warbler
*White Crowned Sparrow
Pine Grosbeak (W)
Common Redpoll (W)