Preserve. Connect. Enjoy. These are the goals of the Friends of Huntley Highlands (FHH) for preserving the Carp Hills for the benefit of its natural history and those who love it.
The Carp Hills comprise nearly 4,000 hectares of environmentally significant forests, wetlands, and rock barren uplands in the rural northwest of the City of Ottawa. This largely undeveloped area supports a similar Canadian Shield ecosystem as those of Algonquin Park and Gatineau Park.
It is a candidate Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI), sustains hundreds of hectares of Provincially Significant Wetlands, and provides habitat for several species at risk, including the Blanding’s Turtle, Eastern Whip-poor-will, and Common Nighthawk. The City of Ottawa’s Official Plan designates the Carp Hills as a Natural Environment Area in its Natural Heritage System.
Formed in 2013, the FHH comprises volunteers who want to ensure that the natural history and beauty of the Carp Hills are preserved for future generations to enjoy. As the urban boundary moves west and north, the FHH wants to ensure that the habitat loss and fragmentation that have occurred in the adjacent South March Highlands do not occur in the Carp Hills. The FHH is working with Councillor El-Chantiry and City of Ottawa planners, and have engaged the community through public meetings, events, and social media.
Preserve: The Carp Hills area is divided into many large undeveloped lots, some owned by the City, but most are the property of private landowners. The goal of the FHH is to connect the patchwork of City-owned land parcels into a contiguous area that is protected using a combination of land-acquisition approaches: donations of land, creation of voluntary conservation easements with private landowners, and possibly, land purchases.
To help achieve this goal, the FHH has partnered with Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust (MMLT), a charitable organization that administers nearly 1,000 hectares of conservation land in eastern Ontario, to establish the Carp Hills Opportunity Fund. MMLT has the experience to assist landowners with land donations and conservation easements, both of which have tax advantages under the federal government’s Eco-Gift program. The FHH is also working on a larger campaign with Ducks Unlimited Canada and the MMLT that is to be launched in the new year.
Connect: The FHH is working with the Friends of the Carp River to connect the river corridor with the Carp Hills through public trails near Carp. The Carp River corridor provides a natural passage for wildlife by connecting the Carp Hills to the South March Highlands, allowing for the healthy exchange of plants and animals, including Blanding’s Turtle. Eco-connectivity is essential in maintaining the native biodiversity and ecological health of a given area.
Enjoy: There are many recent studies that show how contact with nature positively affects the physical and mental well-being of people. With this in mind, the FHH is developing a low-impact trail on city-owned land near Carp to provide public access to the hills.
People care about what they experience in the Carp Hills: the local community wants to continue to engage in the recreational activities they have historically enjoyed there such as skiing, snowmobiling, hunting, and hiking. Preserving the Carp Hills also keeps these traditional benefits for future citizens to enjoy.
The Carp Hills is the only place in Ottawa where you will find the iconic Canadian Shield with its myriad ponds and lakes and rocky uplands. Help to keep it wild and wonderful forever.
For further information, see www.huntleyhighlands.com.
(All photos by Janet Mason.)