Sav­ing sala­man­ders and snap­ping tur­tles

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE -

Vic­to­ria Vanier, Ste. Cather­ine de Hat­ley

When Mar­got Hey­er­hoff moved to a farm in Hat­ley Town­ship over­look­ing Lake Mas­saw­ippi with her hus­band Peter in 2002, she prob­a­bly wouldn’t have guessed that, ten years later, she would be the pres­i­dent of a Con­ser­va­tion Trust try­ing to pro­tect

what’s left of the unique, beau­ti­ful and en­dan­gered ecosys­tem that once sur­rounded the lake.

“I be­came in­volved in it all rather ac­ci­den­tally. In 2009, some peo­ple met to talk about in­ap­pro­pri­ate de­vel­op­ment around the lake. David Rit­ten­house be­gan do­ing re­search and got the Mas­saw­ippi Foun­da­tion up and go­ing,” ex­plained Mrs. Hey­er­hoff. Af­ter a chance meet­ing with Mr. Rit­ten­house, she be­gan help­ing him with the daunt­ing task of get­ting a con­ser­va­tion or­ga­ni­za­tion off the ground. “When David died in Au­gust of last year, it was a pre­car­i­ous time for the Foun­da­tion. I had to step into his shoes to keep it go­ing.”

The Mas­saw­ippi Con­ser­va­tion Trust, which op­er­ates un­der the Mas­saw­ippi Foun­da­tion, aims to pro­tect as much of the Mas­saw­ippi Val­ley as pos­si­ble, fo­cussing first on a six kilo­me­tre stretch of land on the western side of Lake Mas­saw­ippi. Mrs. Hey­er­hoff took me on a tour of that area that be­gins right at the shore and rises steeply to form a com­mand­ing ridge, im­press­ing me with her fear­less driv­ing skills on a tiny dirt road that me­an­dered up the moun­tain.

“It’s not about the beauty of the land, but its bi­ol­ogy. The bi­ol­o­gists de­ter­mine the ar­eas that are im­por­tant eco­log­i­cally,” she said when we stopped to look at the dense plant life by the side of the road. Show­ing me the com­pre­hen­sive re­port on the land around the lake by

a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion whose aim is to pro­tect the nat­u­ral ar­eas of the Ap­palachi­ans, I could see that the ‘hot spots’ of high con­cen­tra­tions of threat­ened species of an­i­mals and plants were right where we were.

“The Ap­palachian cor­ri­dor is re­ally a cor­ri­dor of move­ment for plants and an­i­mals,” con­tin­ued Mrs. Hey­er­hoff. That geo­graph- ical eco-re­gion, to which the Mas­saw­ippi Val­ley is a part of, is un­der threat of be­ing sep­a­rated into ‘eco­log­i­cal is­lands’ by de­vel­op­ment. Keep­ing this cor­ri­dor open is crit­i­cal to sus­tain much of the unique flora and fauna in the Mas­saw­ippi Val­ley and other ar­eas of the Ap­palachi­ans.


to bi­ol­o­gist Caro­line Daguet, there is much in this area to pro­tect: “A num­ber of key ar­eas around Lake Mas­saw­ippi present rich hard­wood for­est stands on steep slopes, and are very sen­si­tive to any hu­man dis­tur­bance sus­cep­ti­ble to re­sult in soil ero­sion. A num­ber of plant species at risk, des­ig­nated Vul­ner­a­ble in Quebec due to their sen­si­tiv­ity to over­har­vest­ing can be found

there (e.g. Maid­en­hair Fern, Wild Gin­ger, Os­trich Fern, Large-flow­ered Bell­wort, etc.). A num­ber of per­ma­nent and in­ter­mit­tent streams flow through hard­wood and mixed for­est and rep­re­sent a key habi­tat for lun­g­less sala­man­ders such as the North­ern Dusky Sala­man­der and Spring Sala­man­der, both of which are species at risk in Quebec and/or Canada.

The wa­ter­shed also fea­tures a num­ber of wet­lands and me­an­der­ing wa­ter­courses: es­sen­tial habi­tats for tur­tle pop­u­la­tions, in­clud­ing the Wood Tur­tle and Snap­ping Tur­tle.”

Al­though most of the land right along the lake has been de­vel­oped, a good por­tion of the six kilo­me­tre long ridge is steep, dense for­est where few de­vel­op­ers have tried to build, but that seems to be chang­ing. “Be­fore, it was very dif­fi­cult and costly to build on steep land. But now, with mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, it’s eas­ier,” men­tioned Mrs. Hey­er­hoff. We saw sev­eral ar­eas on our tour where flat ar­eas had been dug into the side of the moun­tain, where con­struc­tion was sure to fol­low.

The veg­e­ta­tion along the skinny road was lush with firs and pines, huge maid­en­hair ferns; even the un­trained eye can see the ex­cep­tional beauty of this place. “Some­times places are so spe­cial they be­come sa­cred. There are lots of nice places around the lake, com­pletely suit­able for hu­man habi­tat, but this ridge is sa­cred,” Mar­got com­mented.

There are sev­eral ways in which the Mas­saw­ippi Foun­da­tion is try­ing to con­serve this land. Land own­ers can do­nate their land to the Trust as an eco-gift, do­nate just a servi­tude on their land that lim­its ac­tiv­ity and de­vel­op­ment, or turn their land into a pri­vate na­ture re­serve, con­tin­u­ing to own it. The Con­ser­va­tion Mas­saw­ippi Trust also plans to buy land or servi­tudes in this first, im­por­tant des­ig­nated area. “Land own­ers don’t have to give us their land. With a con­ser­va­tion servi­tude, for ex­am­ple, the own­ers feel sat­is­fied and we know the land is pro­tected.”

The Foun­da­tion also re­cently sent out in­for­ma­tion pam­phlets to homes in the re­gion to raise aware­ness about the fragil- We would like to dou­ble thank our chil­dren for the won­der­ful gift of a he­li­copter ride and BBQ to cel­e­brate our 60th Wed­ding An­niver­sary. Spe­cial thanks to Chef Keefer and as­sis­tant Tracy for beef made to per­fec­tion. Also thank you to our fam­i­lies, neigh­bours and friends for the gifts, flow­ers, cards phone calls and vis­its to make our an­niver­sary such a spe­cial mem­ory.

Wilder and Cather­ine Hatch P.S. Many mem­o­ries have gone by and all were made pos­si­ble by my wife, I thank you for ev­ery­one.

Wilder ity of the area. “It should be their busi­ness that it re­mains healthy; it’s all of our busi­ness that this area re­mains healthy and un­touched. We need to have col­lab­o­ra­tion with the own­ers who should be pleased with them­selves in the end.”

The first piece of land to be do­nated to the Trust was done so by an 86 year-old woman from New York City. “Louise Ran­som’s fam­ily be­gan com­ing here in 1910 and she had owned the prop­erty since 1952. She has done a real ser­vice to the community; she not only gave us our first prop­erty, but gave us a mone­tary do­na­tion to stew­ard the land. Even on that five and a half acre piece of land, the bi­ol­o­gists found many in­ter­est­ing species,” said the Foun­da­tion pres­i­dent.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Ste. Cather­ine-deHat­ley, where this land is lo­cated, is sup­port­ive of the Con­ser­va­tion Mas­saw­ippi Trust and their goals. “Once they learnt that we would like to have some trails for peo­ple for low im­pact ac­tiv­i­ties like hik­ing or cross-coun­try ski­ing, that we didn’t want it all locked up, they un­der­stood.”

Asked why this project was so im­por­tant to her, Mrs. Hey­er­hoff an­swered: “I feel that this is the time; this prob­lem needs to be ad­dressed or it will be too late. Ev­ery­one would re­gret the loss of these spe­cial lands which de­fine us, our cor­ner of the world, the Mas­saw­ippi Val­ley. We’re at a turn­ing point where it could slip away.”

To learn more about the Mas­saw­ippi Foun­da­tion or the Mas­saw­ippi Con­ser­va­tion Trust, visit their web­site.


Photo Jour­nal

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

p. 12

Photo cour­tesy

For our July 4th edition, we were sent the wrong pho­to­graph of one of our young­sters with Bobby Orr. Here you have the ‘real’ Lo­gan Gustin with the hockey leg­end.

Pho­to­svic­to­ria Vanier

Mar­got Hey­er­hoff, the pres­i­dent of the Mas­saw­ippi Con­ser­va­tion Trust, says the time to act is now if the en­dan­gered eco-sys­tem of the im­pres­sive ridge seen in the back­ground is to be saved

Photo scour­tesy

De­vel­op­ers have be­gun dig­ging into the side of the ma­jes­tic ridge.

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