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Open Letter to James Cameron: Please help save a little Pandora in Ottawa: the Beaver Pond Forest

This is a message we are trying to get to James Cameron. If you know how to reach him, please let me know!!!

Many Thanks,



2 Jan 2011

Dear Mr. Cameron,

Thank you for your film Avatar, and your subsequent work to support Indigenous people’s struggles to protect our Earth.   This is to ask if you would be willing to save a little Pandora right in Ottawa: the Beaver Pond Forest part of the South March Highlands.

The South March Highlands is home to 18 species at risk, 679 species total, and is designated as a Provincially Significant Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI).  10,000 years ago, the South March Highlands and Gatineau Park were the two high points, two islands, not submerged below the inland Champlain sea.  This is why it is the most likely place for archaeological finds and for sites sacred to First Nations peoples.

It now belongs to KNL, a partnership of Urbandale and Richcraft.  They are determined to clear cut and blow it up by the second week of January to build a subdivision.

Anishinabek (Algonquin) Elders have asked that a proper Archaeological assessment to be done in the Spring given the recent find of a possible stone medicine wheel.  The South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc has also identified many problems with inadequate Environmental Assessments and Storm Water Management Plans.

No one disputes the land is the most ecologically valuable near Ottawa.  But the City of Ottawa doesn’t want to pay for the mistakes over the years that have allowed this land to be zoned for development.  Nor does City Council appear to have the will be halt development by insisting that the Archaeological and Environmental Assessments be redone.  Our appeals to the National Capital Commission, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and Heritage Canada have so far fallen on deaf ears.

We have fought for years to save this land.  Some of us for 3 decades!  But we are running out of options.  The community does want to buy the Beaver Pond Forest, but we don’t have time to raise the funds.  KNL/Urbandale is not a willing seller, but they must have a price.  Would you be willing to purchase the land?  It would be a tiny percentage of Avatar’s profits, very well spent!  And we have a Stewardship Plan and Business Plan for the Forest, so the community could also arrange for this to be a loan that we repay to you.

For more information, my coordinates are below, as well as links to websites.

Thank you, and Happy UN Year of Forests.  Saving what should become Ottawa’s Great Forest would be a great way to start the year!

Kind Regards,


Julie Comber

PhD Candidate

University of Ottawa

More information

Stewardship Plan:

Need for a proper Archaeological Assessment:

Missing Environmental Assessments:

One community group:

Happy UN Year of Forests! So Why is Ottawa letting its Great Forest be Destroyed?

Rugged and beautiful, the Beaver Pond Forest is scheduled to be clear cut and blown up to build a subdivision in Kanata North. Just a 20 minute drive from Parliament Hill, this urban wilderness has 679 known species including over 160 bird species, and 18 species at risk. It is rated as a Provincially Significant Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI). It has archaeological and cultural significance that has not been adequately assessed.

And yet, the developers who own the land are poised to destroy it. And the City of Ottawa is standing idly by.

Through a series of short-sighted decisions over the years, the part of the South March Highlands now known as the Beaver Pond Forest was zoned for development, and eventually was bought by KNL, a partnership of Urbandale and Richcraft. They want to build houses as soon as possible.

In November 2010, the outgoing Ottawa City Council considered the grass-roots, community created Stewardship Plan – an alternative to KNL’s subdivision plan – as realistic, innovative, and inspirational.  The stewardship plan demonstrates excellent vision, such as establishing an Education, Research, Peace and Eco-tourism centre, attractive to scientists as well as schoolchildren and tourists.

The community has not been given the chance to make this plan a reality. Instead, on 15 December, the new City Council decided to “save” an ecologically meaningless corridor between the Beaver Pond itself and the protected Trillium Woods through a land swap. And let the rest of the 70 acres of irreplaceable Forest be destroyed. Urbandale plans to start cutting it in early January.

How can the City of Ottawa allow a forest with 18 species at risk to be cut down when missing storm water management and environmental issues remain?

How can the City of Ottawa allow this destruction when we are so close to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing on January 31st on this issue?

How can the City of Ottawa refuse to require a new Archaeological Assessment in the spring time – when this has been requested by leaders within the First Nations Anishnabe/Algonquin Community?

It is time for the City of Ottawa to take its role as the Steward of the development process seriously. The City must ensure the developers follow each of the conditions of the subdivision plan and the laws of Ontario. These laws can fully protect this land – if they are actually followed. However, City Council is being told by City Staff that these conditions have been met. They have not and our proof is being ignored.

What can you do?

First, go visit the forest. Then you will understand why it should be saved and cherished. You may be inspired with your own ideas on how to save it. But to get you started:

– Write to Mayor Jim Watson and your City Councillor. Ask them to ring in the International Year of Forests by saving what should become Ottawa’s Great Forest.

– Write to Urbandale. The company can be a Hero or Villain on this.

– Write to the media. Why hasn’t there been more coverage? The City’s own documents posted at show problems with how Ottawa makes decisions. We need the media to get the word out and follow-up.

– Write to the NCC and Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

– You can email me at if you are interested in volunteering. We also have a Facebook group: “I want to save the land North of Beaver Pond Park in Kanata Ontario”.

Thanks for reading this. It’s never too late to do the right thing!

Beautiful Destruction

my brother raps on the door:

“do you see what’s going on out there?!?”

we gaze at the inferno from the window

i throw on clothes, join them outside.

we can feel the heat,

night sky lit orange

the first building an unfinished wood skeleton

burns with ferocious intensity

small tornadoes whip up from the fire’s heart

blur the line between flame and smoke

embers shoot up into the sky,

blot out stars with their falling Milky Way

hail down on us, a fiery snowstorm

some wide as your fist

one lands in my wet hair

smolders til knocked away

scent of singed hair mixes with campfire

then the second building goes up

its almost finished

shingles, sidings, insulation

shifts the smoke from wholesome campfire scent to toxic plume

lucky the smoke is high.


no one lives in the unfinished buildings.

we enjoy shock & awe without guilt

the beauty is terrible and humbling

but we are safe

i think of the age old war tactic

of burning villages & cities

imagine this heat and ember hail and smoke

but  running terrified, choking, heart-hammering

from flaming home, soldiers ready to pounce


who did this?

i joke it was the deer

revenge for Urbandale destroying

their forest-home.


fire wizard (kanata 4 May 2010) Photo Credit: Curtis Chaffey

we are fascinated and terrified by fire

small & controlled, fire serves & comforts

can be a candle for kindness


fire is wild

fire is ready

fire is hungry for opportunity

in a heartbeat,

fire can blaze from servant

to angry god.


hailsorm of embers (kanata fire 4 May 2010). Photo Credit: Curits Chaffey



note: title inspired by Louis Helbig’s Beautiful Destruction photographs of the Alberta Tar Sands

inspiration candles

i told friends i was going with my dad to Jane Goodall’s talk at the Ottawa Writer’s Festival on 12 April to “recharge my inspiration batteries”.   but maybe to “add fuel to my inspiration-candle” would have been more apt.

i had the incredible privilege to meet jane at her Dar es Salaam home when i volunteered for Roots&Shoots (R&S) in 2007.  one of the perks of volunteering with R&S in Dar is you stay in jane’s home.  she’s only there a few days a year since she travels over 300 days of the year to share her message of hope, kindness, and the urgent need for environmental responsibility.

jane was warm and kind, but also razor-sharp, and ready to debate points.  i realized she had a warm heart linked to a sharp mind, and that this was a winning combination to achieve positive change in our world.   we need to care about others to motivate us to act, but we also need to be smart about how we do it, or else we won’t know the best way to help.

i came across this quote from the Buddha today:

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

and it struck me how the same goes for inspiration.  over the years, jane has met and influenced thousands of people, and lit thousands of inspiration-candles.

but while people like jane inspire us, they then go off to the next talk, the next event.  following them might help keep us inspired, as i feel when i go to jane’s talks.  but they are best at sparking the fire, while it is our friends and family who are best at helping to nurture and sustain our precious flame.

so let’s help keep each other’s candles burning bright!

back to Boa Vista

Brazil, por que?  why do you taunt me so?

5 days ago: no capoeira, no acai, only dark chocolate to show for

30 hour trip,

12 hrs of it hot dusty travel

passport issue not solved

lucky to not be charged

for accidentally leaving the country “illegally”

which is what everyone does if they pass the Guyana/Brazil border between 7pm & 7am

the “proper way”

may not be the best way

proven today

this time I get to stamp out of Guyana

but 4 Makushi delegates must turn back


so they didn’t know they needed a passport or letter of invitation


they could have been separated from those of us with passports

and driven through, no problem.

like my previous visit to Boa Vista

i get sick

can’t connect with capoeiristas

get lost

but get chocolate AND acai

so better than last time.

and will stamp back into Guyana

with stay extended to 7 April

staying longer in the Rupununi

avoiding  Georgetown red tape

makes this week of too much travel

worth it.

Love Always

my favourite picture with My Edna

realized last night

just before 11pm

it was 6 months since My Edna died.

                maybe helps explain lethargic day

                feeling unsettled

                that i should do something else

                mind wandering away from work

my matches won’t light

                too damp & old

i imagine warm candlelight

the healing image i use

                to honour & remember her love and the light that shone from her

and promise myself I will light a candle for her in the morning

so now the small candle burns

                despite the breezy rainy day

I talk about her & share pictures with friends here

                it helps

but i long for my loved ones in Ottawa & Georgetown & Washington

                no net

                can’t get through by the phone

                but love is boundless & borderless

i feel their love & her love with me always.

My Edna put it more eloquently in her sign off

                in every card to me:

Love Always,

spoiled in Georgetown

I’m so spoiled here in Georgetown. Things are slowly coming together for my plans to go into the field, everyone at the Iwokrama Office has been so helpful. There is now a capoeira group in Georgetown, so I got to train today at this lovely breezy spot and the guys have great axe (energy). Then I come home to a feast and a lecture on Guyanese lingo and mangoes!


welcome to my blog!  the goal is to share my thoughts on life,  animals, energy, art, capoeira, poetry, music… in short, how to increase the flourishing of all sentient beings.  yep, this is about increasing joy.

i’m now in guyana, and had a blog at travelblog but have decided to shift over to wordpress.