June 23, 2005

Patrolling the mountain

What is the mountain ?

The mountain is also known as "Le parc du Mont-Royal". It is classified as a municipal park, but it is Montreal's largest parc, and though it is open to the public, it is somewhat of a natural sanctuary in my eyes, because much of the forest and of the fauna has been preserved.

At the same time, parts have been terraformed to welcome the public and encourage out-door activities such as hiking, biking, skying and skating.
The increased sollicitation of the park, however, is slowly impacting on the flora and fauna as some species are becoming rare and some groups (such as toads and frogs) have now completely disappeared.

What is patrolling ?

Because of the afore mentionned issues, 2 Organizations (The Centre de la Montagne and Les Amis de la Montagne) have decided to inform, educate and train the population on the behaviors that endanger the mountain. In reach this goal, they instituted a conservation patrol which involves a mix of enployees and volunteers.

It's great exercise, as I walked up-hill, down-hill and up-hill again for 5 hours, and it allows for a better understanding of the realities of the park.
Issues addressed are :

1. Feeding the animals : which impacts on the natural balance of the eco-system and creates overpopulations. Over the years, the squirrels have completely outnumbered the tamia and now monopolize the natural resources of the mountain. The bottom line is, THE GUMMY WORM BELONGS IN YOUR MOUTH, NOT IN HIS !

2. Moutain biking and walking out of set trails : these activities create ground compaction and eventually, render flora growth impossible. They also create a situation where tree roots are dug up, endangering the trees on the mountain. Because of the very extensive use of the park, the damage is more visible and tangible than in National Parks where biking is authorized.

3. Flower and plant picking, espescially that some people pick plants (considered to be medicinal) by the bag, without any consideration for the flora. Given that some plants and flowers on the mountain are turning rare, this is also an issue touching the preservation of biological diversity. So it's best to avoid picking plants, but otherwise, here are some nature friendly tips on plant picking :

  • Do not pick plants or plant parts if they belong to endangered or rare species.
  • Only uproot plants if you want to use their underground parts. And only if these plants are common, widespread and abundant.
  • When picking you should remember to leave enough foods - fruits, berries, nuts, flowers, etc. - for the wild animals, birds and bees.
  • Take only a few leaves from each plant according to its size. If you take all the leaves the plant will not survive.
  • Do not take all the flowers or seeds from annual plants. They are needed to produce a new generation. (from http://www.danish-schnapps-recipes.com/picking.html)

4. Dogs without a leash are not allowed anywhere in Montreal for obvious security reasons. We enforce this rule even more so in the park, because a wild happy dog can unwittingly disrupt the local inhabitants of the park, who are all small rodents and amphibians. As well, an infectious illness has been spreading from the racoons to the dogs and inversely, so we try to keep that in check.

All in all, the conservation patrol's mission is to promote responsible behaviour in the park. We also provide information and directions to anyone who needs it. And at the end of the day, we get the best reward of all, which is to see the sunset from the Belvedere on the summit of the mountain.


Salt Water said...

"Responsible behaviour" could the world as a whole use this or what? Thanks for your site. I found you because you commented on an African site that I found on the random new post list. I try myself to stimulate concern for our at-hand world. In my country and state, money. poisons, and ugliness rule. My wife and I live simply but suffer the pain of knowing we are part of the problem when we do not want to be. Have your travels given you hope about the future?

Beaver said...

Thanks for visiting, Salt water ! I think hope has never left me. If one by one we can at least influence awareness, then there is hope. However, when reminded of my travels, I can't help but think that the squirrels' problems on the mountain are only the tip of the iceberg. Think of political instability in RDC, hunger in Niger, rainforest destruction in Brazil... But all one can do is pursue and hope for the best ! so.. ON ON !