New ecological reserve in Shannon will protect endangered orchids and help filter municipal well water


Quebec Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks

A little known pristine bog in Shannon boasting endangered plant life is set to become a permanently protected ecological reserve.

"The area is unique because it lies undisturbed so close to the presence of man," said Patrick Beauchesne, the director of ecological heritage and parks at Quebec Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks.

The provincial ministry has already issued public notice of temporary protection status for 165.8 hectares of the 250-hectare bog located to the south of Wexford road and to the west of Gosford road.

The area, located in the Shannon municipality, is one of 16 ecologically sensitive territories the Quebec government is moving to protect this year.

The Shannon "bog is known to scientists as a very good example of a bog ecosystem within the Laurentians," said Beauchesne.

Once the ongoing public process of declaring the bog a protected area is complete, there will be severe restriction on human access to the ecologically fragile area, he said.

"We want to minimize human impact on the area as much as possible," said Beauchesne.
While Shannon's residents will have a difficult time accessing the new ecological reserve, Douglas Hincks, a local resident interested in the bog for nearly 30 years, said they will benefit directly from the bog's protection.

"The new municipal wells lie just west of this bog," said Hincks.
"The bog will filter all of the water for these wells."

The municipality received $13.3 million in funding from the federal government in February to connect the wells to an aqueduct system serving 75 per cent of the households in the municipality.

The ecosystem in the zone under government protection is home to a significant number of two kinds of endangered orchiids, the white-fringed orchid and the southern twayblade.

"Finding the listera australis (southern twayblade) this far north is very rare," Hincks said.
"It is at the northern limits of its range."

Hincks, who is also a grade six teacher at Dollard-des-Ormeaux School, became interested in the bog in 1980 when Serge Courville, a Université Laval geography professor and fellow member of the municipality's urbanism committee at the time, presented a report on the bog to the committee.

In 2005, Hincks and his wife, Diane, donated seven hectares of their own land near Wexford road to the provincial government in the hopes that the bog-land might one day become part of an ecological reserve.

"It's getting the protection it deserves," Hincks said.

"People thought that there were only mosquitoes in the bog," said Hincks.

"But there are two species of carnivorous plants, the sundew and the pitcher plant, wild cranberries, and all kinds of wildlife -- owls, marsh birds, beavers, porcupines, and moles among others."
Students at the school do have the right of access to 100 hectares of provincial government land located across from the proposed ecological reserve that house a partial extension of the bog.

The school teacher convinced the Central Quebec School Board in 1999 to seek a $1-million liability insurance policy requested by the government in order to allow students at Dollard-des-Ormeaux School to have access for discovery and learning of the wonders of nature.
That area has some bog but is mostly made up of woodlands, marshes and dunes, said Hincks.

"We've had our grade six students catalogue and give presentations to the younger students on the trees and the birds in the area," Hincks said.

"With every year, the younger students look more and more forward toward their turn to present."