Endangered Species Act Review Threatens Two Great Wetlands, Dr. John Bacher

February 16, 2019

Another original article by Dr. John Bacher, SPCC Advisory Council:

JohnBacherPhD.ca
February 14, 2019

Endangered Species Act Review Threatens Two Great Wetlands
Dr. John Bacher

(l) Dr. John Bacher and Mohawk Elder Danny Beaton, Turtle Clan.

After becoming leader of the Conservative Party of Ontario, Ontario Premier Douglas Ford announced his election campaign with an ominous promise. This was that “If I have to hop on that bulldozer myself…we’re going to start building roads in the Ring of Fire.” Ford promised to make 5,000 square kilometer stretch of James Bay Lowlands-now a vast water strong and carbon sequestering wetland: a source of riches “comparable to the oil sands of Alberta.

Ford is not climbing on the bulldozer in a literal sense. What he is doing however, is igniting a review of Ontario’s Endangered Species Act which will end on March 4th. To influence what is happening go the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, website and comment through the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) Registry.

One of Ford’s revealing initiatives is to remove “Climate Change” from this Ministry’s name. One of the areas threatened by his review of the Endangered Species Act, the James Bay Lowlands, sequester 12 megaton’s of carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas contributing to human induced climate change, every year.

The review consultation document now available through the EBR is full of negative comments about the Endangered Species Act imposing onerous restrictions on business. There is little to say about the value of saving species from extinction and regional extirpation.

The most disturbing specific proposal is would increase the harm caused by the creation of exemptions for hydro, forestry and commercial development carried out in 2013. The consultation paper has a suggestion to adding changes that would politicize this process through exemptions based on ministerial discretion. In terms of a practical achievement that could be won through a campaign abolishing this loophole, inserted several years after the act had been passed through onerous public consultations is the best that can now be achieved.

Ford’s review threatens two great wetlands of fundamental regional significance to Ontario. One is the best example of the still relative intact ecology of vast Hudson Bay Lowlands, still beyond the limits of commercial logging and roads. Another is the biggest wildlife refuge for the landscape of southern Ontario, dominated by agriculture.

In northern Ontario, the review threatens the Hudson Bay wetlands. It is the third largest such complex remaining in the world, and a colossal carbon sink. It is the largest contiguous temperate wetland complex in the world.

The other great vulnerable reservoir is the Minesing Wetlands. It is the biggest remaining wetland complex in southern Ontario’s landscape dominated by agriculture. The Minesing wetlands have become a refuge for species in the landscape being wiped out here such as the American Bittern, Least Bittern and the Lake Sturgeon. It is a place big enough for previously extirpated species such as the Bald Eagle, and the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly to return.

The Endangered Species Act current protects Ontario’s greatest threatened wetlands, by safeguarding their highly visible and spectacular indicator species. The forested peat wetlands of the James Bay Lowlands are the only success story for the Threatened Woodland Caribou. It is an iconic species on the Canadian Quarter. The James Bay Lowlands where Ford longs to drive the bulldozer is the only part of Ontario that has seen populations of Woodland Caribou actually increase in the ten years the Act has been in operation.

The Endangered Species Act has helped to hold back the very roads that Premier Ford is so keen to take a ceremonial opening ride upon. Despite considerable protests from sports fishermen and recreational hunters it has served to close roads which threaten the caribou’s habitat.

The Minesing Wetlands is guarded by another charismatic species. It is the Endangered Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly.

Minesing’ vernal pool wetlands are the only place in Canada where the Endangered Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly survives. The nearest American population is located in across the waters of Lake Huron in Michigan. Its presence is helping to slow down sprawl in Midhurst by being a concern in the reviews being undertaken through an environmental assessment.

The Minesing Wetlands is already being damaged from pollution laden sediment from adjacent agricultural operations. This causes parts of the wetland to be marred by a growing ring of ominous dead trees. While the presence of dead trees, long associated with two great heronies is normal, what is happening is a warning signal. The expansion of zones of snags and the failure of living trees to succeed them is a sign of ecological degradation. Over time the snags themselves disintegrate and an artificial lake full of exotic invasive species replaces the former wetlands.

A new wave of tree killing pollution may be unleashed by the planned explosive growth of Midhurst. An increase in population for this community from new development for over 12,000 people would unleash a flood of storm water into Willow Creek, which drains into the Minesing Wetlands. Such pollution would threaten an important indicator Species At Risk, the Lake Sturgeon. Minesing has became the last healthy population of this species, which once gave Ontario caviar, in the entire Lake Huron/Georgian Bay Basin. It is also a refuge for the Wood Duck, Trumpeter Swan and Sandhill Crane.

It is appropriate that one of the leading defenders of the Minesing Wetlands has become Danny Beaton, a Mohawk of the Turtle Clan. Beaton reveres this region as the “Peacemaker’s World”, the birthplace of the founder of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. That a member of the Turtle Clan has become such a towering figure in the battle to save Minesing from a deluge from sprawl is appropriate. Turtles have now become one of the alarm bells that have been triggered by declines monitored by the Endangered Species Act.

Recently the Midland Painted Turtle has was designated as a Species At Risk under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. While vanishing throughout most of Ontario, including another threatened wetland, the Thundering Waters Forest of Niagara Falls, painted turtles are still commonly seen in Minesing. Long before this species was designated in 2018, Minesing was greatly appreciated by Beaton as a refuge for other turtle species. These include the Snapping Turtle, Wood Turtle, Blanding’s Turtle and Musk Turtle. All these turtle species would be threatened by residential development near Minesing since they are vulnerable to pet predation.

Beaton has travelled the world, including the Amazon, to alert attention to environmental dangers. He recently, helped by Mohawks teachers in the region, went to the Hudson Bay Lowlands to study environmental threats. This journey was appropriate since the water contained in these wetlands, ecologist John Riley has found, approximates that of the entire Great Lakes. Beaton in his journey to the Amazon warned native communities not to have their traditional territories despoiled for corporate resource extraction.

Ford in his lust to build roads in the pristine James Bay wetlands is following the call of not only mining companies but an influential lobbying organization the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. (OFAH) While it has sometimes championed legitimate environmental causes, notably protecting the Great Lakes from invasive Asian carp, the OFAH has advocated roads in the James Bay wetlands, and denounced the Endangered Species Act’s regulations to protect Woodland Caribou habitat for blocking them.

According to the junk science put forward by the OFAH, to quote from their website, “Restrictions on development in Crown Forests are limiting the productivity of industries that sustain Northern Ontario communities..” It takes the view that, “Many opportunities will be lost due to a reduction in public access in public accountability to crown land that occurs only” through “forest access roads.”

As opposed to the junk science view of the OFAH that favours roads through caribou habitat, the Recovery Plan for Woodland Caribou of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, (MNRF) takes a very different view. This accurately reflects the history of Woodland Caribou’s decline throughout our continent. It notes that, “Generally woodland caribou require seasonal ranges in order of tens, hundred, or thousands of square kilometres of undisturbed or little disturbed boreal forest.” The plan notes that Ontario’ has lost fifty percent of Woodland Caribou habitat since 1880, and that it is advancing at a rate which threatens to wipe the species out by the end of this century.

The Recovery Plan for the Woodland Caribou clashes directly with the junk science positions based on Northern Ontario boosterism of the OFAH. It notes that roads within Woodland Caribou habitat are “linear corridors” which serve to “fragment existing habitat tract and impede Woodland Caribou movements, distribution and survival.” The Recovery Plan notes that the presence of Woodland Caribou is a “good ecological indicator of a healthy boreal forest.”

The James Bay Lowlands where Woodland Caribou populations area expanding is also one of the few areas in the province, where the species survives in sufficient numbers to assist in the subsistence economy of the native Creek and Ojibway communities of Northern Ontario. He found no need to spread such warnings in the Ring of Fire region. One of the reason that for the past decade the Ojibway and Cree have not been enticed to endorse road to mines schemes our collective memories of the consequence of past industrial assaults on their lands. Their communities listen to their elders who recall how hydro dams built in the 1930s caused rivers to dry up. Now these waters are threatened by toxic leakages from chromite and nickel mines.

Beaton’s warnings make him akin to prophetic figures like Sitting Bull who sought to protect the Great Plains from the ravages of European agriculture in the 19th century. This reality is shown by the Hudson Bay Lowlands now becoming a bastion of habitat for the Snow Goose, as the birds have retreated from former nesting areas on the Great Plains. Now more than five million Snow Geese live in the Hudson Bay lowlands, in such abundance that hunting restrictions have been abolished.

It is to be hoped that Ford’s planned bulldoze drive into the Ring of Fire will end up as modern day version of Custer’s Last Stand. Hopefully, an awakened public will force a retreat comparable to the one experienced regarding clean water legislation and the Green Belt.

Advertisements

Are Bill 66 and Springwater Township a “marriage made in heaven?”

January 19, 2019

Mayor Don Allen: “But we’re also not going to handcuff ourselves, we’re very keen on economic development.”

AWARE News Network
January 10, 2019

Springwater’s Allen on Bill 66: projects in works
‘Not going to do anything untoward, but not going to handcuff ourselves’
Kate Harries

Mayor Don Allen

Springwater Council voted last night to take a wait-and-see approach on Bill 66, after being told by Planning Director Brent Spagnol that he was not in a position to provide meaningful comment.

However, Mayor Don Allen made clear that the proposed legislation – decried in some quarters for allowing municipalities to set aside environmental protection and government transparency – may be useful.

“There are things in play as we speak that potentially we could use Bill 66 – as best we know it and as we continue to find out about it – to help with respect to that economic development,” Allen stated.

“I can’t say any more right now, it’s early stages,” he added, indicating that there is more than one project that is in the works that could benefit from the provisions in Bill 66.

The matter was on the agenda because of a letter from the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition urging council to commit not to use Bill 66. Such resolutions have been passed by numerous councils across the province, including Bradford-West Gwillimbury.

Text of SCGBC RLSC open letter re Bill 66

Spagnol said the comment deadline set by the province (to January 20) is too short, and the province has provided insufficient information. In particular, he would want to review the regulations related to the “open for business” bylaw before advising council.

Springwater CAO Robert Brindley said council rightly has concerns about the environment and potential abuse of power.

“At the same time there may be instances within Springwater where such a bylaw might be advantageous, where it doesn’t affect those things. We don’t have the details yet to make those decisions. At the same time, the motion proposed in this correspondence I feel is premature until we know those rules.”

Brindley suggested that council may decide to put what he called “more belt and suspenders” in terms of keeping some environmental protection in any “open for business” bylaw process.

Allen described Bill 66 as “a very surprising bill in different ways because of the number of acts that it catches,” but he said it’s hard to interpret at this stage because of the lack of regulations.

However, “the majority of people in the township elected us because they felt we could do the best job. So you put your faith in us as a council,” he told those attending and watching the council meeting. “We’re not about to squander that.”

He added: “This is a municipal council-generated initiative, it’s not a developer-generated initiative, it’s with respect to employment lands, not residential, so it certainly won’t happen with this council that this is abused in any way to the detriment of the environment.”

He promised: “And as has been the case with the previous council, and will be the case with this council, there will be full and open disclosure and communication of public meetings where that’s appropriate so have faith, we’re not going to do anything untoward with respect to this.

“But we’re also not going to handcuff ourselves, we’re very keen on economic development.”

Councillor George Cabral echoed Allen’s call for the electorate’s trust. “I certainly see the concern, I would like to think that everyone would have some faith in us.”

Councillor Jack Hanna asked that staff respond to the province to the effect that the township does not have enough information, but will determine its course of action in the future once the regulations are received.

http://aware-simcoe.ca/2019/01/springwaters-allen-on-bill-66-projects-in-works/


Danny Beaton is now focused on protecting the Nottawasaga River and the Minesing Wetlands from the polluted storm water that is set to flow from the Midhurst Secondary Plan.

February 5, 2018

Danny Beaton, Dr. John Bacher on Simcoe County’s inevitable Greenbelt.

***

First Nations Drum
January 2018

For Danny Beaton, Greenbelt celebrates Mother Earth
Dr. John Bacher (PhD)

Harold and Ann Boker and Danny in Art Parnel’s clover field, Simcoe County
Photo Courtesy of J.E. Simpson, 2009

In Memory of Alicja Rozanska

Now in a ponderous and tentative way the Ontario government is engaged in a consultation to expand the Greenbelt into the sacred heartland of Huronia. It is the core of the civilization that produced the prophetic figure, the Peacemaker.

Technocratic words about wetlands, cold temperature water, moraines, aquifers, base flow and the key indicator species, the Brook Trout are the language of the long overdue exercise to expand the Greenbelt. They have little resonance however, compared to those expressed by Danny Beaton’s, passion for Mother Earth.

In contrast to official jargon, Beaton explains that, “under the Nanfan Treaty the Mohawk nation has the Right to water and wood from Six Nations to Georgian Bay as long as the grass grows and the sun shines…therefore as a Mohawk man I have a right to protect our sacred waters, sacred farm land and our spiritual animals.”

Beaton, a Mohawk of the Turtle Clan, took his great stand in the defense of Mother Earth in the campaign to defend the world’s purest source of drinking water. It was located near Elmvale, where the greatest settlement of the people of the Peacemaker was located.

Beaton has termed The Peacemaker’s World, “The Healing Place.” He finds its “probably one of the most beautiful places that I have been to in my entire life. The waters are everywhere. The forests are everywhere. We pick the berries.” Here he eats the fish and gathers cedar on a regular basis.

There was a 22 year struggle that sought to protect the world’s cleanest water from becoming a garbage Dump. It was called based on an engineering report, Dump Site 41. Beaton played a major role in stopping the dump from receiving garbage.

Beaton first organized an eight day walk from where Dump Site 41 would be built to Queen’s Park. It was called The Walk for Water. He saw the trek as bringing “attention to the Sacred Waters of the Alliston Aquifer and the tributaries that run into Georgian Bay.”

Following the Walk Water Beaton organized an occupation of the site. It blockaded excavation machines from digging up the Sacred Mother Earth of the Peacemaker’s World.

What made Beaton’s passion so powerful is that he knew how to be arrested with dignity and power. It was a majestic dignity that the Peacemaker’s words of “Peace, Power and Righteousness” resounded from the ancient times from of his ancestors.

Beaton was arrested on the blockade line by Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers. At the time of his arrest he was submitting his photographs of the struggle to First Nations Drum and News From Indian Country. At the time he was using an upright log for his desk and sitting on a lawn chair. After being put into handcuffs he was taken to the OPP Midland Detachment Center.

Beaton distinguished himself by refusing to sign a release form. By doing so he would have pledged never to enter the dump site again. He later explained how, “I felt someone had to show the world that
this was all crazy”.

Beaton told the Justice of the Peace at his trial that “somebody had to stop the rape of Mother Earth.” At this point, he later recalled, “I felt like crying because of all the chaos that was happening but no justice for Mother Earth.”

In refusing to sign the form Beaton’s words were simple but eloquent. He told reporters, “Who Will Speak to the Water?” These were his last words to the press before spending three days in prison, before his bail hearing.

Beaton’s words of the need to speak for the water came at the right time to stop Dump Site 41. This is because when he went to prison the nonviolent struggle of peaceful resistance to save the world’s purest water had taken on the form of a great scientific experiment. It exposed the lies of the engineering professionals that had been used to deceive the voting public of Simcoe County.

When the resisters held the line against the bulldozers the water that flowed out of the Dump Site 41 site remained pure. As soon as the blockade was breached by the force of the OPP the water that flowed out became dirty.

The stain on the water became a dirty mark upon the politicians who backed Dump Site 41. If so much damage could be caused by simply digging a pit, what people reasoned, would be caused by dumping garbage into it?

During Beaton’s three days in prison where his biggest complaint was the impurity of the water, an outraged public opinion caused everything to change. Incensed citizens mobilized and phoned their councilors, denouncing them for believing the lies of the engineers.

When Beaton arrived in the Barrie Simcoe County court house, everything had changed. He was released in the knowledge that work on Dump Site 41 had been halted.

The excavations were healed by restorative work. Eventually easements were put on the land by the Ontario Farmland Trust, to ensure that this prime Class One soil would remain in agricultural use forever.

Beaton a few years later came to the rescue to another threat to the cold pure waters that feed the cold water trout streams that flow into lower Georgian Bay. This new threat was termed the Dufferin County mega quarry.

Much like Dump Site 41 before Beaton’s involvement, opponents of a mega mile quarry on Canada’s best potato growing land had been getting nowhere. Farm houses and buildings were burned down. Their debris clogged local dumps. Forests were clear cut in violation of tree protection by laws. Fence rows were ripped up.

Beaton met with the organizers of opposition in a corporate law office on Bay Street. He told them, literally, to “Take a Hike.”

By suggesting they take a hike Beaton meant they should follow the example the stopped Dump Site 41. He called for a procession from Queen’s Park, the seat of political power which could kill the Mega Quarry, to the site of the proposed giant pit. The march was held and captured the public’s imagination. This sparked by death of the scheme through the unusual imposition of an Environmental Assessment.

After the end of the five day trek Beaton and I were led by one of the organizers Smiling Yogi to a place where he promised we would appreciated what the hike was all about. He took us to one of the magnificent cold water streams of Huronia.

Yogi took us to a White Cedar Brook Trout stream which is an important tributary for the cold water Nottawasaga River flowing into Georgian Bay. Here Brook Trout leaped through its sparkling fast running waters, laced with riffles, runs and pools. It was lined with verdant green watercress.

Beaton is now focused on protecting the Nottawasaga River and the Minesing Wetlands from the polluted storm water that is set to flow from urban expansion in Midhurst. His passion for Mother Earth gives substance to the call of the public consultation document for the expansion of the Greenbelt in Huronia called appropriately, “Protecting Water.” The document exposes how urban sprawl is a threat to the wetlands and trout streams that nourish Georgian Bay. But he expresses it was through the wisdom of native people who see sacred waters as Mother Earth’s blood.

Click here for a pdf copy of the article.


Growing the Greenbelt into Simcoe County — Barrie consultation meeting, Jan 31st

January 10, 2018

You might consider showing up.

Becky Big Canoe of Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation

Here is list of dates, locations and venues for the consultation meetings. Please pass it along.

January 25 – Stakeholder Meeting
Toronto
MORN (9:30 -11:30 am)
Ramada Plaza

January 31- Open House
Barrie
5:30-8:00pm
Southshore Community Centre

February 6 – Open House
Guelph
5:30-8:00pm
Italian Canadian Club

February 8 – Open House
Orangeville
5:30-8:00pm
Tony Rose Memorial Sports Centre

February 15 – Open House
Alliston
5:30-8:00pm
Alliston Memorial Arena
February 20 – Open House

Brantford
6:00-8:30pm
Branlyn Community Centre

February 22 – Open House
Kitchener
5:30-8:00pm
Tannery Event Centre


Canada’s Largest First Nations newspaper and the Midhurst sprawl plan’s “junk science”.

June 20, 2017

Ontario continues to encourage Simcoe County as the “wild west of development/sprawl”.

Free download here.

First Nations Drum
April 1, 2017

 

Ontario Planner Struggles to Save Huron-Wyandot Homeland

By Dr. John Bacher (PhD) & Danny Beaton (Mohawk, Turtle Clan)

Opinion

The Turtle Island region of Huronia – otherwise known by its archaic colonial name of Simcoe County – is under environmental assault by urban sprawl. A blockade to stop Dump Site 41, the occupation of Springwater Provincial Park, and sacred water walks along the shores of Lake Simcoe are tactics being used to rescue the traditional territories of the Huron-Wyandot.

Victor Doyle is a senior planner with the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, (OMMAH) and is inspired by the earth-respecting spiritual actions of various Ojibway communities and their many Mohawks allies. Doyle has been with OMMAH for three decades and is at the epicenter of ongoing battles to protect this sacred land with his fighting for provincially-directed land use planning to rescue wildlife, farms, forests and water from human greed.

Doyle’s most avid opponents are twofold – corporations, and the powerful minions of developers who run Simcoe County (politicians). Doyle’s determination to stand up against their pressure has earned him their enmity. One such politician is former Mayor Doug White of West Gwillimbury, who as far back as 2010 dismissed Doyle’s defense of Ontario’s land use policies as the mere rantings of “one unelected provincial bureaucrat.”

Waawaasaegaaming (Lake Simcoe) Water Walk 2015, The Narrows, Orillia, ON. Photo by Les Stewart

Chief Planner of Toronto, Jennifer Keesmaat, has made Doyle the public voice on the issue, commanding media attention on the research of agronomists, foresters, conservation biologists, land use planners, hydrologists and municipally-controlled conservation authorities. Though no official title accompanies Doyle’s point-man position, his stature and prominence should be effective in forestalling or preventing further encroachment.

Two brave conservationists, Wayne Wilson and Patti Young, are no longer with the Nottawasaga Conservation Authority due to their opposition to urban sprawl from the booming City of Barrie spilling over into its watershed and into the community of Midhurst in Springwater Township. In 2014, both Wilson and Young departed under the guise of an NVCA “efficiency audit.” Young vacated her position first with Wilson following suit.

While such relatively obscure figures cannot get the media’s attention, Doyle’s warnings about violations of provincial land use policy ravaging Huronia have been published in two of Canada’s leading newspapers, the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail. Doyle’s first warnings about Huronia appeared in the December 12, 2009 edition of the Toronto Star. The newspaper characterized his warnings as “a damming memo from Ontario’s senior planner” that paints “a stark picture of unsustainable sprawl, congestion and skyrocketing infrastructure costs if the province proceeds with a controversial strategy to urbanize large swaths of Simcoe County north of the Greenbelt.”

Waawaasaegaaming (Lake Simcoe) Water Walk 2015, Tudhope Park, Orillia, ON. Photo by Les Stewart

When penning his 2009 warnings, Doyle worried about schemes promoted by corporations to turn the small hamlet of Bond Head, a village of 500 people served by septic tanks, into a city of 114,000 persons. This threat still endures, although now in a more modest scale of a 30,000 hectare proposal. A new danger emerging is the construction of 10,000 housing units in Midhurst. The biggest problem posed by this development is the polluted runoff spilling into Willow Creek, which is a major source of water flowing into the Minesing Wetlands. The wetlands are an important refuge for rare, endangered and ecologically significant wildlife including the endangered Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly, Sturgeon, Bald Eagle, Trumpeter Swan, Sandhill Crane, Blue Winged Warbler, and various turtles.

As Doyle took to writing his second citizen report this spring, Ontario’s land use planning system’s “Co-ordinated Review” appeared to be on the brink of collapse. A freeze on urban boundary expansions – a key principle of both the Greenbelt and the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan – was under attack by media, developers and municipalities.

The Toronto Globe and Mail provided a link to Doyle’s full 27 page report titled “The Growth Plan and the Greenbelt Plan: Settling the Record Straight” where he vigorously defends urban boundaries. This led to a modest expansion of the Greenbelt on urban river valleys and on grape and fruit tree growing lands in Grimsby. While “Setting the Record Straight” saved the Greenbelt, it has not yet rescued Huronia. The warnings in the report do show why Midhurst, Bond Head and all of its remaining rural land need the protection of the Greenbelt.

Nonsense used to justify the urbanization of Willow Creek, such as the claim urbanization does not harm streams, is junk science, and has been refuted by Doyle using data from the watershed report cards assembled by conservation authorities. Using a study by the Credit River Conservation Authority, Doyle demonstrates how surface water in urbanized areas is always rated, “Very Poor” or “Poor” and explains that damaged watersheds are without any native fish, turtles or frogs.

Doyle said the main threat posed to Minesing Wetlands wildlife refuge from urban sprawl is “the major issue of habitat loss, which, in turn, is the key loss of bio-diversity.” Doyle warns refusal to extend the Greenbelt into Simcoe County is causing a mass sale of farms purchased by land speculators. His report states, “development interests continue to be speculatively buying or securing huge land assemblies tens of thousands of acres beyond the green belt.” The speculation in Simcoe County has led to farmland to commonly sell for $54,000 dollars an acre. In contrast, in the better regulated Waterloo region, farmland cost $14,000 an acre.

Doyle’s report illustrates the necessity of the struggle to protect Huronia inside the Greenbelt – a struggle made more difficult by the hostility we received while walking around Lake Simcoe with Ojibway environmental leaders in the “Walk for the Water.” My experience includes a driver of an animal control vehicle angrily scowling at us for taking a rest near a bicycle trail.

Those in Huronia that care for the earth should not be treated with contempt, but with the honor given to one standing-up for the sake of the entire community and the life web supporting it. The province must rescue Huronia by extending the Greenbelt.

The province must rescue Huronia by extending the Greenbelt.

Dr. Bacher and Elder Beaton continue on our Advisory Council.

Originally re-posted on iLoveMidhurst.ca.


Natives Are Defending Ontario Forests, John Bacher PhD and Danny Beaton

March 21, 2017

Another original article by Dr. John Bacher:

JohnBacherPhD.ca

March 21, 2017

 

Natives Are Defending Ontario Forests

Dr. John Bacher (PhD) and Danny Beaton

 

(l) Dr. John Bacher and Danny Beaton, Niagara Council 2016, Photo: Carla Carlson

Our Mother Earth is protectively robed in a cloak of beautiful forests, but in southern Ontario they are threatened by urban sprawl. Most of the remaining forests away from the northern taiga bogs and the rocky Canadian Shield are wetlands that farmers have gained the wisdom to understand are unsuitable for agriculture. These vital wildlife refuges are now threatened by a policy review that has escaped coverage in the mainstream media, outside of the Niagara Region.

The cornerstone of public policy in Ontario, whose concepts have emerged from the United States’ Clean Water Act and subsequent battles by environmentalists in the courts, is protected achieved from the wetland policy mandated in 1992. It was achieved following a process triggered by the New Democratic Party, (NDP) government of Ontario, initiated by the previous Liberal government.

The core of the wetland policy is that once it achieved a scoring of 600 points, a wetland is considered “provincially significant”, and therefore legally prohibited from development and what is technically termed, “site alteration.” Apart from having plant species that thrive in wet environments, what pushes generally the point score to the needed threshold is the presence of species at risk.

The wetland policy was one of the achievements by the NDP government when it was intensively consulting with native peoples on needed environmental reforms. During this time the respected Iroquois Confederacy Chief, Arnie General, would complain about the need for better mileage allowances, although he tried to economize through getting around in a mini two seat car.

During the early 1990s when the wetland policy was being developed Danny Beaton a Mohawk of the Turtle Clan, worked closely with General and other environmentally concerned native leaders such as Norm Jacobs. This experience stood put him in a good position, when in 2015 brave public servants sent alarm signals privately to environmentalists that two disturbing changes in public policy were being made to open up southern Ontario’s wetland forests to developers.

The two changes that were being proposed to open the gates to developers were to the Conservation Authorities Act and the Provincial Wetland policy. Currently wetlands are evaluated by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. (MNRF). The policy change was to change the Conservation Authorities Act to permit the staff of municipally appointed Conservation Authorities, subject to influence from developers, to evaluate wetlands. The other change was to allow currently protected provincially significant wetlands through having them destroyed by developers if compensation in the form of what was called in a provincial consultation paper, “bio-diversity offsetting”, was made.

In September 2015 Beaton journeyed to Newmarket, where the consultation on the Conservation Authorities Act was taking place with environmental groups. Beaton’s inspiring words denouncing the firing of conservation authority staff who had worked to protect wetlands woke up the environmentalists present. This discrediting of proposed alterations to the conservation legislation had the impact of developers putting even more pressure on the province to implement bi-diversity offsetting.

Developers targeted the 500 acre Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Falls for what they termed a “pilot project” in bio-diversity offsetting. The old growth predominately oak forest is a refuge for a number of endangered species. These include three species of bats, the rare Black Gum, the Wood Thrush, Acadian Flycatcher, Chimney Swift, Monarch Butterfly, the Nine Spotted Lady Beetle and the Snapping Turtle. The forest is rich in vernal pools that provide critical habitat for obligate species, such as the Blue Spotted Salamander, and the Wood, Chorus and Grey Tree Frogs. It also contains rare Buttonbush and Rufous Bullrush communities.

On April 12 Beaton went to the Niagara Falls City Council to rescue the threatened Thundering Waters Forest. He spoke about the dangerous precedent that was attempted to be set at Thundering Waters, which could spread destruction to forests throughout Ontario.

Danny speaks about the sacredness of Creation and Mother Earth at Niagara Falls City Hall Council, 2016, Photo: Sandy Devih Heeralal

Beaton’s words helped to inspire an Oneida resident of Niagara Falls, Karl Dockstader. He mobilized his extended family in Niagara Falls to take part in the struggle to save the Thundering Waters Forest. Dockstader also subsequently played a major role in mobilizing native leaders in the struggle on both sides of the Niagara River.

Dockstader played a key role in organizing on July 7, 2016 in front of the City Hall of Niagara Falls a rally by the Indigenous Solidarity Coalition of Niagara. Here native leaders who took part included Celeste Smith, Allan Jamieson, Lester Green and Kelly Frantastic Davis.  Smith, who is of the Wolf Clan of the Oneida of Grand River, called for a “moratorium on the development of the Thundering Waters Forest until a clear, transparent, public process can decisively establish a full social, environmental and economic benefit of this forest remaining completely intact.”

In his many writings in defense of the Thundering Waters Forest Dockstader penned the moving essay, the “Life Cycle of a Niagara White Oak Tree.” The essay is a tribute to the tallest and oldest tree discovered in the threatened forest. It is estimated by an expert, a Mohawk ecologist of the Turtle Clan, Dr. Barry Warner, to be 250 years old.

Dockstader wrote how, “Almost 250 years ago then Superintendent of Indian Affairs William Johnson stood only a few miles” from the now great oak, when it was just a seedling. Then in the Treaty of Niagara of 1763 Dockstader explains, Johnson “planted the seeds for a covenant of peace that became formative in the country now called Canada. This agreement, the Treaty of Niagara, which came on the heels of the Royal Proclamation, laid the foundation to formalize the importance of Niagara as a traditional land of peace, strength and integrity. Johnson understood better than any of his contemporaries that the only path to peace was by including the principles of people original to the land. Those legally affirmed principles of land stewardship-such as equal access to resources like water and air for all living things-now tower over the Western cultural appetite for endless exponential growth.”

Beaton and Dockstader woke up the residents of Niagara and a few leaders of environmental group. It is to be hoped that their message of the urgency to protect threatened forested wetlands and the wildlife that they depend on is heard more widely.


Did the Midhurst Secondary Plan sprawl development overrule Ontario’s own endangered species law?

November 27, 2015

Why didn’t the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry apply its own laws and protect the Minesing wetlands habitat for this at-risk species?

eco small

Will Ontario continue to only listen to mega-sprawl developers?

An important article by Sara Carson at the Barrie Advance (not online), Rare dragonfly in Minesing wetlands declared at-risk speciespdf

An endangered dragonfly could lose its only known Canadian habitat if development takes place atop the Snow Valley ski hill, says Ellen Schwartzel, acting Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO).

And she blames the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for not doing enough to protect the Hine’s emerald dragonfly and its habitat in the Minesing wetlands.

“That was a very good example of where the science says this is what’s needed and where the ministry stopped short of protecting that habitat,” Schwartzel said.

20151127 Hines

This Hine’s emerald dragonfly was spotted close to the Minesing Wetlands at North Simcoe Railtrail near Sunnidale Road. CHRIS EVANS

The ECO’s annual report released Nov. 3 and titled Small Things Matter, used the Hine’s emerald as one example of the province not following a species’ recovery strategy, prepared under the Endangered Species Act.

“The province has had the opportunity to show some on the ground successes for the Endangered Species Act, they haven’t yet done that. And that’s disappointing,” Schwartzel said.

The Hine’s emerald recovery strategy, created in 2013, recommends its protected habitat include the Snow Valley Uplands because its groundwater feeds the entire wetland. Schwartzel is calling on the ministry to take recommendations in the recovery strategy seriously because the area is under development pressure.

“Given the specificity of this recommendation in the recovery strategy, and with no explanation of the ministry’s decisions provided, the ECO concludes that the MNRF opted to favour development, rather than to prioritize the protection of this species at risk habitat,” the ECO’s annual report states.

The habitat regulation for Hine’s emerald includes a 500-metre area around the habitat used by the species. Ministry spokesperson Jolanta Kowalski said this area protects the flow of groundwater into the wetlands, and aquatic areas used by the species. But, she added, this does not mean development outside the habitat won’t require provincial approval.

“If activities outside this area are likely to have an adverse effect on the habitat, they may still require authorization under the Endangered Species Act to consider the needs of the species,” she said.

Kowalski added the recovery strategy is one source of information used to develop habitat regulations.

“Biological consideration of the species, community knowledge, socio-economics, and public input contribute to best available information by which habitat regulations are ultimately determined,” she said.

Chris Evans said it’s unknown what level of human disturbance this dragonfly can tolerate. BRERETON FIELD NATURALISTS’ CLUB PHOTO

Chris Evans, president of the Brereton Field Naturalists’ Club, discovered the Hine’s emerald here in 20074. It is also found in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and Missouri. He said it’s unknown what level of human disturbance this dragonfly can tolerate.

“Perhaps its extirpation from other areas of Ontario indicates that we are damaging our aquifers and water supplies in ways we do not yet understand. Why not identify and protect all known and potential Hine’s emerald habitats from human development until we know the safe limits of our impacts?” he said.

Water levels are very important to the Hine’s emerald because these dragonflies reproduce and live as larvae in crayfish burrows that are very sensitive to disturbance, said local naturalist Bob Bowles. He takes part in the annual dragonfly count in the Minesing wetlands.

“Any development of the area would impact greatly on the Hine’s emerald,” Bowles said.

To read the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s report visit: http://eco.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/2014_2015-AR.pdf

To learn more about the Hine’s Emerald and to see its recovery strategy, visit ontario.ca/page/hines-emerald.


%d bloggers like this: