By: Erin Postma
A few weeks ago we had the A2A Celebration Gala. It was a night dedicated to celebrating the A2A region and all the work that has been done over the past few years by the organization.
It was so great to see all the work that has been done over the past few months come together.
There was delicious food, great people and wonderful entertainment!
The night was a huge success and would not have been possible without the support of so many people.
Check out some of the photos below for an sneak peak of what goes on at an A2A Celebration Gala.
Thanks to Anna Hermes for taking such wonderful photos!
By: Erin Postma
This past weekend was the A2A Celebration Gala. It was a night dedicated to celebrating the A2A region and all the work that has been done over the past few years by our organization, the A2A Collaborative.
The theme of the evening was “A Pilgrimage for Nature,” in honour of the first time any one person has trekked the complete international 650 km trek from Adirondack Park to Algonquin Park!
Below you will find my thoughts and impressions:
I had a wonderful time! At the start of the Gala I was stationed at the registration table and got to meet everyone as they came through. I could also hear the buzz of conversation in the room from where I sat out in the hall. It was great to see people reconnecting with old friends and making new ones! And it was wonderful to have the opportunity to connect with people who I had only ever met online over the last few months.
The music and live auction delivered by David Archiblad were wonderful. He is a very talented musician and performer; he had the crowd engaged and laughing all night! Jamie Findlay gave a lovely talk about his time on the trail, it was great to hear some highlights, lowlights and funny stories.
It was so great to see all the work that has been done over the past few months come together.
The night was a huge success and would not have been possible without the support of so many people.
Thank you to everyone who came out to the gala.
Thank you to everyone who was not able to make the event but still managed to support A2A
Thank you to everyone who donated to our silent auction and live auction.
Thank you to David Archibald for sharing your wonderful music with us as well as your fantastic auctioneering skills.
Thank you to Jamie Findlay for giving a lovely talk about his time on the trail.
Thank you Pan Chancho for providing us with delicious desserts.
Thank you to the Delta Hotel for allowing us to host our event at your hotel. Thank you to all the staff for providing support throughout the whole process.
Thank you to the board members of A2A for all your work you have put into planning such an amazing event.
We are so grateful to everyone who has supported us and will continue to support us. Your support matters! With your support we can continue our work in connecting lands and people across the Algonquin to Adirondacks region. All proceeds from this year's gala will go towards supporting various projects taken on by A2A, such as conservation action planning, road ecology, mapping, education and connectivity projects.
"The name Jack O-Lantern comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack. Stingy Jack tricked the devil for his own monetary gain."
By: Erin Postma
It’s about that time of year again where people decorate their doorsteps with pumpkins carved with a variety of faces. Carving pumpkins was always an exciting event at my house. We would visit a local pumpkin patch and pick out the best one. My dad would carve and and my siblings and I would scoop out the guts (that was always my favourite part). I always had fun choosing what face my pumpkin would be sporting that year. As I got older it became less of a family event, but I still try to carve out some time on a gloomy afternoon, put on a halloween movie, drink some hot chocolate and carve a pumpkin. This year I couldn’t help but wonder why we carve pumpkins and I did a little bit of research into the history behind it.
The practice of decorating Jack O’lanters originated in Ireland. However they used to carve large turnips instead of pumpkins. The name Jack O-Lantern comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack. Stingy Jack tricked the devil for his own monetary gain. When Jack died he wasn’t allowed in heaven and the devil didn't let him into hell. Jack was sentenced to roam to the earth for eternity. The Irish would carve turnips to scare away Jack's wandering soul. When the Irish immigrants moved to the US they brought this tradition with them. However they started carving pumpkins instead of turnips , as they were native to the region.
Samhain is an ancient Irish festival celebrating the end of summer. It was held on November 1st. The world of the gods was believed to be made visible to humans on the evening of Samhain. The gods would play tricks on their mortal worshippers.
In the 8th Century the Roman Catholic church moved all Saints Day to November 1st. This meant that All Hallows Eve (Halloween) fell on October 31st. Traditions from Samhain remained, such as wearing disguises to hide yourself from the souls wandering around and carving pumpkins were incorporated into Halloween. We have been carving pumpkins for October 31st ever since.
I hope you can get outside this week and visit your local pumpkin patch. Pick out your favourite pumpkin, bring it home, cut it open, scoop out its guts then carve it with a creative face. Maybe even roast the pumpkin seeds - they make a great snack!
Here is a list of some local pumpkin patches you should visit!
FrontenacHastings, Lennox, Addington, Prince Edward. Ottawa
“For some parts of the trek I felt like I was sort of flying by the seat of my pants.” Jamieson Findlay.
By: Erin Postma
Jamieson Findlay works for Nature Canada as a science and conservation writer. Jamie learned about the A2A Trail about 4 years ago when he was working for Parks Canada. He came across the Algonquin to Adirondack Trail while he was writing a piece on animal travellers; Alice the moose was one of them. The A2A trail “A Pilgrimage for Nature” is based on the migration path of Alice.
On August 12, 2023 Jamieson Findlay and his friend Bill Barkley embarked on a 650 km journey from Adirondack Park to Algonquin Park. This exciting trek was a collaborative effort with Nature Canada, a leading conservation organization dedicated to protecting Canada's wildlife and their natural habitats. On September 16th, 36 days after they began their journey, Jamie along with Bill crossed into Algonquin Park. This week I had the pleasure of talking to Jamie about his experience on the trail.
Here are a few excerpts from my interview with Jamie.
Erin: Why did you want to hike the Pilgrimage for Nature Trail?
Jamie: There were a few different reasons why I was drawn towards hiking the “Pilgrimage for Nature Trail.'' The Adirondacks are one of my favourite places. My parents also live near the Thousand islands so I am familiar with parts of the A2A region. The Pilgrimage for Nature seemed like a more manageable through-hike than others, like the Appalachian Trail. I was ready to do something out of the ordinary. I spend a lot of time at work in front of a screen and I wanted to take this opportunity to get out into nature and really experience it. My friend Bill was also interested in doing the hike. The time was right and everything seemed to come together in a way that created a perfect opportunity to do this trek.
Erin: Do you have any previous experience with long distance hiking or through hikes?
Jamie: Growing up I spent a lot of time outdoors. My family really enjoyed hiking, camping and canoeing, but I am not a hardcore hiker or backpacker. I did a hike to the Everest Base Camp, which was a 2-week long trip, but it was very different from the A2A trek.
Erin: How did you prepare for the trek?
Jamie: Unfortunately, I did not have much time to prepare for the trek due to a very busy spring and summer. I was able to do a few short hikes in Gatineau Park. I tried out a few different packs and broke in my hiking shoes. I would usually put some stuff in the pack, like a case of beer, in an attempt to prepare for carrying the packs on the trail. I wished I’d had more time to study the route. For some parts of the trek I felt like I was sort of flying by the seat of my pants.
Erin: What was the highlight of the trek?
Jamie: Overall the trek was a great experience. I learned a lot, particularly from Bill. Bill has excellent backcountry skills and knows a lot about nature. My favourite parts of the trail were the first part of the hike through the backcountry of the Adirondacks. I also loved the last section from Barry’s Bay to Algonquin Park. I followed a rail trail that went along the Madawaska River and was a very beautiful part of the hike.
I also met many people along the way. Everyone we met was very friendly and interested in the trek; some people even offered us a free place to stay. A highlight was getting a horse and buggy ride from an Amish farmer who was very nice. We also stayed with a very interesting couple who taught us a lot about the history and conservation of the Adirondacks. But some of the best nights were staying in town and stopping in at the local pub for a beer and some french fries!
Erin: What was the hardest part of hiking the trail?
Jamie: The hardest part of the hike were the long sections of walking along paved roads. Walking 7-8 hours a day on pavement with heavy packs is not fun. That’s why, towards the end of the trek, I switched to biking. There were also some nights where we were not sure where we were going to sleep. There were no B&Bs or campgrounds around so we had to “hobo” camp some nights. Sometimes we would just pitch a tent on public lands, but there was always apprehension and uncertainty that came with that. One evening was particularly bad. The mosquitoes were bad, there was no water and we spent the evening listening to some coyotes fighting nearby. Bill usually insisted on breakfast and coffee in the morning, but that morning we skipped it and headed out right away.
Erin: Bill had to leave, to go back to his orchard part way through the trek. How did Bill's departure change the experience?
Jamie: Bill and I got along really well; we had a great time together and shared a lot of laughs. I was able to learn a lot from Bill. It wasn’t the same when he had to go back to his orchard. It was nice for me to have someone to share the experience with. When Bill left I was joined by my friend Lisa, who hiked with me for 4 days. I was only on my own for about 10 days near the end of the trek. By the end I was tired of walking and thinking about getting back to work and finally experiencing the accumulative effects of the pack. The end was not the same as the beginning. I missed having a hiking partner.
Erin: Did anything surprise you about the trail?
Jamie: Something that surprised me was the amount of people I came across that did not know about the A2A corridor. People knew a lot about the A2A region and the area they were living in, but they were not aware that it was part of this big ecological corridor. It's important to get people to see their backyards as an important piece of the bigger ecological picture. Many people were very happy to talk to me and learn more about the corridor.
Erin: Any animal encounters?
Jamie: We encountered some wildlife along the way including turtles, salamanders, mink (we believe) and coyotes. We had one pretty interesting encounter with coyotes. One night we could hear a pack close by that sounded like they were fighting. Unfortunately we didn't see any moose, bears or wolves. It's sad to say but we encountered a lot of roadkill. I think that we must have seen more dead animals than live ones.
Erin: Did you notice changes in the trail as you moved further north? Changes in terrain, ecology, people?
Jamie: The route starts in the High Peaks and Five Ponds areas which are all wilderness and you are hiking through the backcountry. Then once you leave Adirondack Park you enter the St. Lawrence Lowlands, where you find lots of agricultural land and settled towns. Then as we made our way north we entered the semi-highlands and then returned to the wilderness. The wilderness sections bookend the route. Leaving the wilderness meant hiking a lot of paved roads instead of trails. Throughout the hike, the people we met were all very friendly and interested in the hike. It was interesting in certain areas of the United States, like upstate New York, we noticed that people were very open about their political stances.
Erin: If you could pass on any advice to others wanting to complete a thorough hike of the A2A trail, what would it be?
Jamie: If people would like to do the whole trail, I would suggest using different modes of transportation. There are times along the trail where biking or canoeing would have been better than walking. I had access to a lot of help and resources from people along the way, which I was very thankful for. Tapping into this network of people along the trail that are connected with A2A would be beneficial. I found that people were very willing and happy to help him along the way. Some general advice for being in the backcountry is to be prepared. There is no connectivity in some spots so you have to be very self-sufficient. Also pack as light as possible; those packs get heavy!
I just want to thank Jamie for taking time out of his schedule to talk to me about the trek! If you want to learn more about Jamie's trek and the Pilgrimage for nature click the button below.
If you want to support the work of A2A click the button below
“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” F Scott Fitzgerald
By Erin Postma
As a kid, I loved summer. The days were filled with sandcastle building, ice cream treats and lake swims. Not to mention, there’s no school! Summer was the best!
Now that I’m a bit older, I find that I get so excited for the end of summer. I get excited by seeing the first red leaves, waking up to the first chilly morning and getting a chance to eat anything labeled ‘pumpkin spice’. Without thought or provocation, I fell in love with fall - and all the beauty that comes with it.
Here in the A2A region, fall is an amazing time of the year. We get to experience the many wonders of fall such as the autumn morning fog, the leaves changing and the crisp fall air. Fall is a great time of the year to get outside and enjoy the wonders that come with the season.
I like to plan a camping trip every fall so I can spend a few days surrounded by the fall colours. There is something about taking a stroll through a colourful landscape that makes me feel very nostalgic and comforted. The fall colours, those rich reds, warm yellows and vibrant oranges, are colours used in colour therapy to convey positive feelings of fun, cheerfulness and enthusiasm. And the crunching noise made as you crush the fallen leaves underfoot can be a real smile-maker.
The fall climate makes the outdoors more appealing. The cooler temperatures make the outdoors more inviting, it is not too cold or too hot. The fall air is crisp and cool, which makes getting fresh oxygen easier. And while getting fresh oxygen is important for us to function properly, it also helps with the release of serotonin, which is a happy hormone. Fall also has a certain smell, it is a mix of rain, earth and leaves, and to me it just smells like nature!
With the weather changing and the sun setting earlier and earlier, it is important to get outside to improve your mental wellbeing. Taking a short walk during the day or sitting outside bundled in a blanket can help improve your mood, reduce stress and help fight off seasonal affective disorder. It is hard not to worry about the upcoming winter, but try to enjoy the fall. Take advantage of the beautiful fall weather and get outside while you can!
With the fall comes so many great outdoor activities. Fall is the best season to go hiking. The beautiful scenery and perfect weather creates ideal hiking conditions. Fall is also a great time to go camping! There are also many outdoor fall activities such as apple picking, visiting a pumpkin pack or going to a corn maze.
The best part about getting outside in fall for me is that there are usually less people around. I find it easier to book a camping site, enjoy solitude with nature, see unencumbered views and take photos without people getting in the way. Outdoor spots are usually packed with people during the summer, making them less enjoyable. I find getting outside in fall much less stressful and an overall better experience.
Fall provides us with many beautiful opportunities to get outside. I hope you all are able to get outside and see the fall colors or enjoy one of the many fun fall activities, or even just sit outside with a nice cozy sweater and a warm drink. If you live in the A2A region I highly encourage you to take a hike or a walk this fall!
Preserving tradition, restoring rivers
By Aleisha Pannozzo
This month, I had the opportunity to interview Kayla Sunday, Environmental Programs Manager, and Britney Bourdages, Environmental Projects and Remedial Action Plan Coordinator, of the Environment Program at Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA). Through our chat, Kayla and Britney shared the amazing work that the MCA’s Environment Program has undertaken in their territory. They have a substantial aquatics program that focuses on the health of the Kaniatarowanenneh (St. Lawrence River), as well as a terrestrial program that involves culturally based environmental assessments, turtle incubation programs, stewardship initiatives and much, much more.
MCA’s Environment Program strives to achieve Sken:nen (Peace) for all of creation by undertaking projects and services that respect, preserve, and protect the natural world (MCA). The aquatics program heavily focuses on the health of the St. Lawrence River—and for good reason. Akwesasronon have lived alongside the St. Lawrence River for thousands of years and have always lived in harmony with the natural environment.
“We turn our minds to all the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water. They also give themselves to us as food. We are grateful that we can still find pure water. So, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and thanks. Now our minds are one.”
This excerpt is from Ohen:ton Karihwateh:kwen (Thanksgiving Address), which is recited at the opening and closing of ceremonial gatherings and other significant events, as a reminder of essential elements to be collectively thankful for. Fish are important to the Mohawks, and their relationship has been disrupted by environmental contamination. The creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway opened up opportunities for industrial factories, and this operational hub became the source of decades of industrial pollution that severely degraded the health of the river and its surrounding community (L.A Times). In 1987, after data indicated the severity of the situation, the St. Lawrence River Cornwall/Akwesasne area was designated as an Area of Concern (AOC) by the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
At the time, the MCA played a key role in seeking this designation due to the widespread impact that Akwesasronon experienced over decades as a result of this extensive industrial pollution. This contamination not only affected the health of the river but also the cultural traditions of the Mohawks who relied on the river and its fish for food.
A remedial action plan (RAP) was developed to define water quality issues and identify specific remedial actions needed to improve the health of the river, local ecosystems, and local communities. It focuses on Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs)— impairments from human activity that negatively affect the use or enjoyment of the river. The St. Lawrence River Area of Concern at Cornwall and Akwesasne has 14 BUIs, 7 of which have been deemed ‘unimpaired’ since the last assessment in 2022 (St. Lawrence River RAP). Due to the nature of the relationship between the river and Mohawks, MCA is in the process of creating Cultural Delisting Criteria to ensure a more holistic and complete overview of the BUIs, which were established in the late 80s and only included Western scientific criteria.
They continue to be at the center of collaborating with various government departments, agencies, and environmental organizations to restore the health of the St. Lawrence River and preserve the cultural traditions that are so intimately woven with it. Please read below to learn about the amazing work that the Environment Program is doing to restore the health of the St. Lawrence River. For a deeper dive into MCA's extensive range of projects beyond the river, I invite you to explore their website and Facebook page.
I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to two remarkable women who play pivotal roles in the Environment Program at MCA— Kayla Sunday and Britney Bourdages. Their willingness to generously share their time with me to discuss the multitude of projects underway at MCA has been instrumental in shedding light on the vital work being done in Akwesasne and along the St. Lawrence River. This piece would not be possible without their wealth of knowledge, invaluable insights and contributions.
Eutrophication Monitoring Study
In partnership with the River Institute (RI) and Raisin Region Conservation Authority, MCA is conducting a 2-year eutrophication monitoring study. The purpose is to conduct water quality monitoring in tributaries, tributary mouths and at offshore areas within the St. Lawrence River Area of Concern at Cornwall and Akwesasne. They will be assessing nitrogen, phosphorus, and fecal coliform levels, to help assess the status of BUI #8- Eutrophication and Undesirable Algae. In addition to monitoring for algal blooms, they will be sampling benthic invertebrates for further analysis of water quality. In the event that test results determine unhealthy levels of these nutrients, point sources of contamination will be identified.
MCA is in their second year of osprey monitoring to inform the Remedial Action Plan for BUI #3- Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations. One of the delisting criteria for this BUI includes the presence of successfully reproducing osprey in the Area of Concern for a minimum 5 years. In 2023, they observed 3 successful nests, with chicks reaching fledgling status; however, not all nests were successful, with some remaining vacant or experiencing unsuccessful reproduction. Ospreys are a type of hawk that are protected under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. The St. Lawrence River provides important habitat and is a critical food source for ospreys who depend on fish from the river. These birds impact fish population sizes, maintaining the delicate balance of the food web, and ultimately contributing to the health and vitality of the river (River Rapport).
Fish Contaminant Study
In the Fall of 2020, the MCA led a 2 year contamination study for local fish found in Akwesasne waters that have previously been under-sampled through provincial fish contaminant monitoring programs. Over 300 fish were sampled and sent to the lab to be tested for mercury and PCB. The data is currently being analyzed to help inform consumption guidelines and will be used to inform BUI #1 Restriction on Fish and Wildlife Consumption. Lake sturgeon and American eel— both culturally significant species to Akwesasronon—are presently being sampled and will be sent to the lab for contaminant testing to provide a comprehensive study that is inclusive to their values. If any eels are sick, morbidly injured or dead, they will also be necropsied to determine if they were from stocked or native populations, which will help determine the effectiveness of stocking programs and provide further insight into the health of native populations.
Fish Identification Nearshore Study (FINS)
The Fish Identification Nearshore Study (FINS) began in 2015 as a partnership between MCA and the RI in an effort to understand and monitor changes in nearshore fish communities in the Upper St. Lawrence River and its tributaries. This research project is the most comprehensive study of its kind and has resulted in one of the largest datasets for the upper St. Lawrence River. MCA has secured funding for the next few years to conduct an MCA-led Akwesasne Chapter of this project. The goal is assess nearshore populations and water quality parameters to help determine future restoration projects and provide data to inform our knowledge in relation to the current health of our shoreline communities. Methods for FINS include using drones to lessen impacts on the ecosystem, so a strong focus for the MCA has been training for aerial drone certification. A few weeks ago the RI and MCA FINS teams identified an invasive species, the rusty crawfish, at yellow island. They are an aggressive species that easily spreads and can outcompete for resources with native crawfish. They’ll be documenting their spread in Akwesasne and the upper St. Lawrence River to better manage their invasive population.
Understanding Sturgeon to Protect our Future
As the oldest and largest native fish species found in the North American great lakes system, lake sturgeon have swam our waters for over 200 million years. Yet, their survival is being threatened by human activity. Poor water quality, over-harvesting, habitat degradation and fragmentation (via dams and other barriers) have endangered the Great Lakes-upper St. Lawrence population in Ontario. Complicating matters, lake sturgeon are late-maturing and only reproduce every 4 years on average, making repopulation all the more difficult (NWF). Recognizing the severity of the situation, MCA is conducting an initiative funded by the Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk (AFSAR) to assess populations of lake sturgeon in the St. Lawrence river. They will monitor, survey and implement initiatives, such as spawning beds, to restore populations. They recently received telemetry equipment courtesy of the Canadian Wildlife Foundation, which will be used to better understand spatial movements of lake sturgeon to identify critical habitats for remediation or restoration. So far they have tagged 20-30 sturgeon through work with Traditional Practitioners— fisher-people who work with sturgeon for ceremonial purposes. These practitioners are integral to preserving cultural traditions and facilitating the transmission of cultural knowledge that has been passed down for millennia.
Lake sturgeon hold deep cultural significance to the Mohawks of Akwesasne. From the art of fishing, to the intricacies of cleaning, smoking and eating, these traditional practices flow through generations and continue to this day. Rooted in family and community sharing, these skills are often taught in Kanien’keha (Mohawk language) (SRMT). The MCA, along with partners such as the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, continue to work towards the conservation of lake sturgeon to protect populations— and by extension, Mohawk heritage. Community workshops for lake sturgeon and American eel are planned for this year to nurture this connection and celebrate their traditional uses, from food preparation, medicinal uses and textiles, ensuring that their cultural legacy continues to thrive.
We are currently experiencing the worst wildfire season on record, and I can't help wondering how we got to this point?
By Erin Postma
Eco-anxiety is the fear of environmental cataclysm that comes from observing the impact of climate change and the effect it could have on your future. Eco-anxiety is something that I have been experiencing these last few weeks, and I don't think I am alone. Every time I turn on the news or check social media, all I see are the various natural disasters occurring all over the world, specifically the wildfires. It breaks my heart to see our country, as well as countries around the world, burning. Eco-anxiety can feel overwhelming, and it makes it difficult to act or celebrate success stories. I find myself stuck in this feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. I can’t help but wonder, how did we get here? How did we let it get to this point? The worry that we are feeling is legitimate. Climate change is here, and it is a real threat.
We are currently experiencing the worst wildfire season on record. As of Tuesday, over 1,000 wildfires were burning across Canada— with 650 deemed out of control. These wildfires have caused people to evacuate their homes, caused damage to many structures, and have resulted in multiple fatalities. They have destroyed entire ecosystems. The wildfires have also caused a significant decrease in air quality across the country and the United States. The effects of these wildfires have been devastating and are felt all over the country.
These wildfires are devastating but not shocking. Mother Nature has given us so many signs. She has shown us time and time again the path we are headed down if we don't make a change. But none of these signs seem enough to trigger the change needed. What needs to happen for us to take climate change seriously and make a drastic change? I don't understand how we can stand by while our beautiful planet is suffering.
We have entered a period of warming and wildfires. Climate change has led to the accumulation of dry biomass, increased heat waves and the alteration of the water cycle. All of these factors are increasing the intensity and frequency of wildfires. We need to be prepared to face more frequent and higher-intensity fires. Regions that have never experienced large-scale fires need to be ready.
The A2A region has a history of wildfires, but nothing like the fires we currently see burning in British Columbia or the Northwest Territories. However, that doesn't mean we won't experience fires of this magnitude in the future. According to a study in the Adirondacks, it is not likely that we will be heavily impacted by wildfires—but with the unpredictable weather brought about by climate change, we can't be sure (Benett, Adirondack Explorer). There are a few ecological factors that protect the A2A region from being devastated by wildfires. The region is less prone to wildfires due to its generally humid climate, biodiversity, land management, and connectivity.
Even though out-of-control, devastating wildfires don't occur often in the A2A region, it doesn't mean they won't. We are living in unpredictable and unprecedented times. No area is immune to the effects of climate change. In the event they do happen, we need to prepare and take preventative measures. There are things we can do to stop these wildfires. We need to practice proper forest management, including using prescribed burns. We need to encourage the protection and preservation of biodiversity. We need to fight climate change and curb our greenhouse gas emissions.
Wildfires are scary and cause devastation, but they are also necessary and can have positive effects when controlled. Prescribed burns can help lower the risk of unpredictable, uncontrollable wildfires. Humans have been using prescribed burns for thousands of years. Many species require fire to survive and reproduce. Wildfires move the layer of decaying material from the forest floor—this helps increase soil fertility. There are plants that require fire for germination. Wildfires can also help manage invasive species. Fire can be a wonderful life-bringing force when used responsibly. Unfortunately, because of human irresponsibility, it has become a force associated with death and destruction. I am mad and terrified about the future of the planet. I feel a little bit helpless but not hopeless. I know there are people out there who care and are working hard to make a positive impact.
Anthropogenic climate change has brought about countless out-of-control wildfires, yet another reason we need to act quickly to curb the effects of climate change before it is too late. I am scared about what the future of our planet might look like. How can we watch our world burn but continue with business as usual? We need to turn our eco-anxiety into eco-action. What happens next is up to us -good or bad, scary or scarier.
The Pilgrimage for Nature Trail is symbolic of the regions need for ecological connectivity
By: Aleisha Pannozzo
As an avid hiker and nature enthusiast, I have always appreciated how my body and mind feel after a good hike on a beautiful trail. There is something about the sound of leaves and twigs crunching below my feet, the symphony of chirping birds, and the gentle breeze between the trees. My favourite trails are those that wrap around a serene lake or trace the unhurried pace of a tranquil stream. The sound of gentle water has this uncanny ability to drown out your thoughts and immerse you in the present moment. There is no worrying about the future, yesterday's mistakes, or tomorrow's uncertainty. There is only Now.
Nature has this amazing power to inspire, rejuvenate, and provide you with solace. Trails are the bridges that connect our souls to the natural world. They also act as tangible pathways that grant us entry into the heart of the wilderness.
This connection to nature's soothing embrace brings to mind A2A’s Pilgrimage for Nature trail, which our partner Jamie Findlay is currently trekking through. This 640-km trail winds its way through different forest communities, from the northern hardwood forests in the Adirondacks to the southern deciduous forests in Algonquin Park.
The very essence of this trail encapsulates the transformative experience of being in nature. Just as the sound of water draws us into the moment, the Pilgrimage for Nature Trail beckons us to step away from our daily lives and immerse ourselves in the beauty of the outdoors.
But this trail represents more than just a physical journey. It is symbolic of something much bigger. It reminds us of the important role of connectivity in our environment and the role that humans play in providing it.
It is symbolic of the critical link that this unique ecological region provides for wildlife migration in the great Eastern Wildway, which extends from the wilderness of Ontario and Quebec, down to the Adirondacks, through the Appalachians and into the Everglades. It is one thing to have core protected areas, but how does that serve our wildlife in the grand scale of things? Wildlife needs to be able to migrate between these areas; without linkages, they are isolated, risking a decline in genetic diversity and ultimately, species extinction.
Ecological corridors, like the one represented by this trail, are essential for maintaining biodiversity and supporting the movement of wildlife. They allow animals to follow their natural migration patterns, forage for food, and find suitable habitats, all of which are crucial for their survival. These corridors serve as lifelines, enabling animals to navigate through fragmented landscapes and adapt to changing conditions brought about by climate change.
The Pilgrimage for Nature Trail serves as a living example of how human efforts to create connectivity can mirror the natural world's complex web of interactions. Just as we yearn for the solace and tranquillity that the trail provides, wildlife requires similar pathways to thrive. It becomes a microcosm of the broader conservation goals that we must prioritize for the health of our planet and its wild inhabitants.
So, as you venture along the Pilgrimage for Nature Trail or explore other trails that captivate your spirit, remember the greater message they convey. They are not just paths for us to tread; they are pathways to understanding, appreciating, and safeguarding the necessary connections that sustain life on our planet.
Creating connected landscapes not only sustains a wide variety of wildlife but also enhances the quality of life for wildlife and humans, too.
By: Erin Postma
Modern technology can be a wonderful thing. Last week, I flew from Toronto to Denver. The flight lasted just over 3 hours. If I had to walk from Toronto to Denver, it would have taken me over 500 hours or 22 days of continuous walking. I am so grateful for modern technologies such as planes and cars because they provide me with the opportunity for new experiences and to explore unique places around the world.
Unfortunately, with all of our modern technology and our new modern infrastructure, we are negatively impacting our planet. When looking out the airplane window, I could really see the imprint humans have left on the landscape. The landscape is made of both natural and humanized patches - but, over the years, the humanized patches seem to be winning. Humans are continually modifying and fragmenting the land through agriculture, urban development, climate change, deforestation and so much more.
Human activity is disrupting ecological connectivity. Ecological connectivity allows wildlife to roam freely between natural areas without barriers. Breaking up the land with roads, fences, and dams creates a harmful living environment for wildlife. A road can stop animals from reaching an important water source, expanding cities may take over land that served as important habitat, and fences may disrupt important migration pathways. We need to create and increase connectivity to address the challenges posed by the current climate crisis, which is causing an increase in severe weather events, changes in water flow, and disrupted food chains, further exacerbating the impact of human activity on ecological connectivity.
Ecological connectivity is so important for many reasons. Having connected landscapes allows for movement, which allows wildlife to find food, breed, and establish new home territories. Animals are not the only ones who benefit from connectivity; humans do as well. Humans rely on ecological connectivity— connected landscapes are needed for things like healthy soil, water flow, and pollination. Connectivity also decreases the amount of human and animal encounters, which helps decrease the number of preventable wildlife deaths. Fundamentally, the unimpeded movement of animals is important in maintaining the flow of natural processes that help sustain life on Earth. Due to the variety of problems humans are creating, connectivity will be crucial to the survival of many species.
Sometimes the environmental problems we face can seem daunting and overwhelming. Looking out of that airplane window and seeing how human activity has affected the environment, ecological connectivity seems impossible. But efforts are underway— many organizations are working towards maintaining and restoring ecological connectivity. We can combat habitat fragmentation by supporting proper agricultural management and land use management; we can be mindful of our consumption habits; we can encourage and support conservation and preservation efforts; we can plant gardens to improve urban connectivity; we can do our part in combating climate change. There are many ways for people to get involved in helping increase ecological connectivity.
Algonquin to Adirondacks Collaborative is a group doing work in creating and maintaining ecological connectivity. A2A is a diverse bioregion that connects Algonquin Park to Adirondack Park. It is one of the last large-scale, intact forest and wetland linkages in eastern North America. The vision of A2A is to create a connected landscape that not only sustains a wide variety of wildlife but also enhances the quality of life for wildlife and humans. A2A takes its inspiration from a moose named Alice, who travelled from her home in Adirondack Park to Algonquin Park, a trek of 570 km. Alice demonstrated the need for wildlife to roam, the importance of connected pathways, and their crucial role in migration. Alice's journey inspired us to take action, ensuring the corridors' protection for others to roam freely. Sometimes all it takes is tracking the migration pattern of a moose to realize the importance of ecological connectivity! The wilderness tells us what it needs— we just need to take some time to listen.
“Tsi nén:we wa’kwarihwaientáhkwen – Our Future – Our Responsibility”
By Aleisha Pannozzo
Nestled along the beautiful St. Lawrence River is Akwesasne, a Mohawk territory that straddles the borders of Ontario, Quebec and New York State. On the Canadian side, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) is the community-elected government that represents the three districts within Akwesasne: Kawehno:ke (Cornwall Island), Kana:takon (St. Regis), and Tsi Snaihne (Snye). With 12 district chiefs and 1 Grand Chief, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne stands as the unwavering voice of its community, advocating for their interests and preserving the rich integrity of their Mohawk heritage.
They have nine different departments that are responsible for overseeing community programs. The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne's Environment Program plays a crucial role in protecting and enhancing the natural environment within their territory. The program uses Ohen:ton Karihwateh:kwen (The Words That Come Before All Else) as their environmental framework and Sken:nen (Peace), Kasatstensera (Power) and Ka’nikonriio (Good Mind) as their guiding principles.
One of their current projects involves the Black Ash Stewardship Survey, which aims to assess the community's knowledge of the cultural uses and challenges facing the Black Ash species in the context of the present climate. This survey will aid the Black Ash Stewardship Plan, funded by the Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk. The significance of this effort is heightened by the fact that Black Ash was recently declared an endangered species in Ontario due to the destructive Emerald Ash Borer infestation in the eastern and southern parts of the province.
Furthermore, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne is actively engaged in the Great River Rapport initiative, a collaborative project focused on monitoring and reporting on the health of the St. Lawrence River. By contributing their local knowledge and insights about the river's well-being, they play a vital role in the broader efforts to protect and preserve this important waterway.
By being proactive in their environmental stewardship efforts and actively collaborating with other organizations, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne demonstrates their commitment to safeguarding their natural resources and maintaining the ecological integrity of their ancestral lands. Their holistic approach, rooted in their cultural values and traditions, sets an example for responsible environmental management and conservation efforts for their community and beyond.
Please stay tuned for Part 2 of our blog were we will delve deeper into the MCA's inspiring work and dedication to preserving their heritage and environment.