Pope Francis’ environmental and human ecology encyclical speaks directly to Simcoe County, says Dr. John Bacher

August 13, 2015

It is our great pleasure to present an original article from John Bacher PhD, entitled Pope Francis’ “Laudato si’” Speaks to Simcoe County: pdf

In his Encyclical Letter, “Laudato si’”, (On Care for Our Common Home), the Holy Father Francis has made an urgent call for humanity to reverse the process where, “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” To realize Francis’ vision of a healed global ecosystem, it is important to look at what we can do in our own communities. Few places on the planet speak so immediately to his plea for action as Simcoe County.

Springwater Park 1922

What Springwater Park land looked after it was clear cut and before pine planting in 1922.

One of the most vivid but disagreeable aspects of the history of Simcoe County is how quickly a landscape dominated by lush forests of towering pines was transformed into a desert. This took place with as astonishing speed between 1830 and 1900 when native peoples lost control over this territory.

In Laudato si’, Francis stresses the role of indigenous people and their role in protecting the earth, so recently happily demonstrated in the Ojibway occupation that rescued Springwater Provincial Park. He notes that for these peoples, “land is not considered a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best.”

Springwater Park rescued by the Ojibway was itself created as a demonstration site of what could be done to reverse the brutal consequences of Euro-Canadian occupation of the land that created widespread deserts. Its creation was the work of the provincial Premier, E. C. Drury and Edmund Zavitz after they toured the region’s bleak deserts. They were amazed to see in the desert water surging forth from a spring and realized that this area, the headwaters of the Nottawasaga river was an excellent place for a tree nursery.

White Pines settler effect

Once the white pine were cut, the light soils of Ontario were eroded from underneath: a manmade wasteland by 1905.

In their horse and buggy tour of the wastelands created from massive forest fires that sought to clear land for farming and destructive logging, Drury and Zavitz might have felt the same agony as expressed in one of the most eloquent passages of Laudato si’. This is that, “God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of species as a painful disfigurement.”

The accomplishments of Drury and Zavitz are also well commended in Laudato si’. Francis in point 58 of the Encyclical Letter, notes that, “In some countries, there are positive examples of environmental improvement: rivers, polluted for decades, have been cleaned up; native woodlands have been restored; landscapes have been beautified thanks to environmental restoration projects”

Francis sees past restoration efforts such as the greening of the deserts of Simcoe County as proof that “men and women are still capable of intervening positively.” He sees that, ‘For all our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity and care cannot but well up within us, since we were made for love.”

It is the challenge of he current generation of residents of Simcoe County to show that they are still as Francis puts it “capable of intervening positively.” To do this we need to show the threats to this positively legacy-massive urban sprawl and clear cutting of forests through by-law suspensions, can be stopped.

John Bacher is author, lecturer and environmental expert witness. His latest book is Two Billion Trees and Counting: The Legacy of Edmund Zavitz, Dundurn Press, 2011. Bacher can be reached at JohnBacherPhD.ca.

John has been a valued member of our Advisory Council since Oct 2012.

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First Memorial Zavitz-Drury bike ride, this Sunday, October 5

October 3, 2014

A very good way to celebrate our magnificent county forestry heritage

drury-zavitz-a

What: First Memorial Zavitz-Drury bike ride

When: Sunday October 5 at 10:30 am (weather permitting)

Where: meet at Spence Ave and Hwy 27 (ball diamond parking lot, Midhurst) and ride to Finlay Mill Rd, across Wattie Rd, down St. Vincent, left onto Pooles Rd, right onto Old 2nd S, left onto Partridge Rd. then down Penetanguishene Road to the plaque that marks the original Drury farm in Crown Hill. More info 705-424-7589

Alliston Herald article

Alliston Herald
September 22, 2014

Perfect season to bike through Simcoe County forests
Letter to the Editor
Anne Learn Sharpe

LETTER – The season is turning, leaves are showing hints of brilliance against the backdrop of dark pines — and it’s the perfect time for a bike ride. The story of the pine forests of Simcoe County begins with a very long bike ride.

In October of 1905, Edmund Zavitz, who was teaching forestry at the agricultural college in Guelph, set out on his bicycle and rode to Crown Hill north of Barrie to meet E. C. Drury, farmer and fellow conservationist. Their collaboration over the following decades led to the reforestation of Ontario.

In his book Two Billion Trees and Counting, John Bacher describes what the cutting and burning of trees had done to Ontario in the early 20th century: farmland had turned to blowsand and was drifting away, water sources had dried up and serious floods were becoming more common. Edmund Zavitz started planting trees. During E. C. Drury’s term as premier, 1919 to 1923, along with a team of colleagues, the two men created policies and projects to involve farmers and land owners in planting hardy red and white pines as pioneer species. These trees gradually held the soil in place and stored water to nourish further growth and prevent floods.

This is history we don’t hear enough about. What better way to commemorate it than with a bike ride? This October before you put away your bike for the season, plan a ride to one of the many places in Simcoe County where Zavitz and Drury left their mark. Any of the county forests would be a fine destination. Springwater Park was once the Midhurst Reforestation Station. Here in Angus, we have the Ontario Tree Seed Plant, and across the road Angus Community Park, once a part of the plant. In Crown Hill on the Penetanguishene Road, a plaque marks the site of the original Drury farm.

Zavitz and Drury left us a legacy of natural spaces that sustain our lives in countless ways. And they left us a strategy: don’t cut too many trees and be sure to plant many more than you cut—in other words, conservation. Their gift was meant to be enjoyed and passed on to next generations—it’s up to us to see that it is. Like Edmund Zavitz, we could start with a bike ride.

Anne Learn Sharpe,
Angus

Posted on iLoveMidhurst.ca.


They’re coming for the Simcoe County and MNR forests…once again.

May 18, 2014

In the 1800s, the great hardwoods forests were clear cut. Starting in 1905, men like Hon. E.C. Drury and Dr. Edmund Zavitz worked to help Mother Earth heal us.

Jung1

Cancerous sprawl cannot stop itself by just destroying the land and water: the parasites are after the air.

The earthly manifestations of “God’s world” began with the realm of plants, as a kind of direct communication from it. It was as though one were peering over the shoulder of the Creator, who, thinking Himself unobserved, was making toys and decorations. Man and the proper animals, on the other hand, were bits of God that had become independent. That was why they could move about on their own and choose their abodes. Plants were bound for good or ill to their places. They expressed not only beauty but also the thoughts of God’s world, with an intent of their own and without deviation. Trees in particular were mysterious and seemed to me direst embodiments of the incomprehensible meaning of life. For that reason, the woods were the places where I felt closest to its deepest meaning and to its awe-inspiring workings. (MDR, PP. 67-8) PP. 28-9

The Lungs of the GTA

pdftree-lungs

 

Posted on iLoveMidhurst.ca.


Sprawl that threatens Springwater Park & Minesing Wetlands demands provincial Growth Plan enforcement.

September 12, 2013

Looking the other way will destroy south Simcoe County, the “jewel in the crown” of Ontario.

Black Creek Estates sign

A timely and extremely powerful article welds the Midhurst sprawl plan, the degradation of Willow Creek and Minesing Wetlands and the abandonment of Springwater Park issues together. Dr. John Bacher of the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society, PALS in St. Catharines writes: Provincial Action Puts Springwater Park at Risk: Occupiers Stand Up For the Land pdf newsletter

Excerpt:

The ongoing April 1st 2013 native occupation of the 193 hectare Springwater Provincial Park in Springwater Township, Simcoe County, was a dramatic response to a Provincial down grade of this wonderful park’s status from “operational” to “non-operational”. These First Nations leaders, led by Elizabeth Brass Elson of the Beausoleil First Nation, have taken a dramatic stand which illustrates how the conservationist achievements of the past are being put at risk today. Their action presents a beacon of hope to those who care for the predominately agricultural landscape of Southern Ontario, appropriately afforested to secure ecological balance by Edmund Zavitz, the “Father of Modern Forestry”.

What the change of status for this park means, is that the gate to the park is locked and vehicles cannot enter. The magnificent picnic pavilion, which in the past was used as a showcase for the wonders of a recreational forest in a former blow sand desert, would have become the parks equivalent of a ghost town if not for the occupation. There is no longer any maintenance of the 12 kilometres of wheelchair accessible trails, 11 of which are designed to facilitate cross country skiing; garbage collection in the park has ceased; and, all the comfort stations have been closed.

One of the basic motivational reasons for the occupation has been the fate of other down graded Provincial Parks, which are now effectively unregulated and empty Crown Land, in heavily populated southern Ontario, where intensive park patrols and maintenance have been removed. In such circumstances Crown Lands have been vandalized by criminal elements such as motorcycle gangs. This can be especially damaging in a forest planted on top of re-claimed desert sand and vulnerable to being ripped up by off road vehicles. It is quite reasonable to expect that in such circumstances, situations can arise to encourage the sale of degraded park land.

Most of the 200 “non-operational parks” in Ontario are in the north, where pressures for vandalism are less severe because of the much lower population density. In this regard, it is astonishing that of the 10 provincial parks originally proposed to be closed by the Provincial government in 2012, Springwater was the only southern park that was closed and while the Province backed down on its proposal to make four northern parks “non-operational”, it refused to alter its stance in this case.

Severe Development Pressures in the Springwater Park Area
There are also severe development pressures around Springwater Provincial Park. As I noted in the Spring newsletter I viewed these quite vividly a few weeks before the park closure. Immediately across a road from the park there was a sign on a piece of private land announcing the new development of Black Creek Estate [of Snow Valley], which had also been afforested into White and Red Pine by the Provincial Government. It is 261 acres in extent, more than half the size of the provincial park. The sign indicated that the zoning was to be changed from environmental protection to residential and it is designated for 101 units, all of which is in direct violation of the Provincial Growth Plan. Development on this scale would require sewers, where there currently are none, a problem resolved through a “pre-servicing agreement.” This illustrates the concern of Midhurst Ratepayers Association which is battling sprawl in the area, for fear that development here would pollute Willow Creek and the Minesing Wetlands.

The proposal for a subdivision in a forest next to a Provincial park is just one element in the massive urban sprawl proposed in the Midhurst Secondary Plan. This threatens both the park and other areas of land afforested by the provincial government’s conservationist actions over many years and now being poorly managed as Crown Lands. The Plan proposes urban development on 1,700 acres of agricultural land, which would boost the population of the village of Midhurst from 3,500 to nearly 28,000. The Provincial Government did appeal this document to the Ontario Municipal Board, (OMB), however, it did not show up at the hearing this summer, and the Midhurst Ratepayers Association was defeated by the Township of Springwater, Simcoe County and developers.

Bacher Springwater Wilson Drive Black Creek

Mess in Midhurst Reveals Non-Enforcement of Growth Plan.
The First Nations occupation of Springwater Park and the hammer blow of the OMB against the Midhurst Ratepayers Association this summer, reveal the biggest problem with land use planning in Ontario. This is the non-enforcement of the Growth Plan, which was brought in simultaneously in 2005, when the Greenbelt was proclaimed by the Province.

The basic reason behind the Growth Plan is to prevent leap frogging beyond the areas that are supposed to be protected from sprawl by the Greenbelt. It applies to southern Niagara Waterloo Region and Simcoe County. Last month the Provincial Government brought in a slightly amended version of the Growth Plan, which drew the ire of some environmentalists and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture who felt the Plan was being diluted. However, from the viewpoint of those such as PALS, who are engaged in the struggle to protect agriculturally and environmentally zoned land from sprawl, the towering barrier to these ends, has been the nonenforcement of existing growth plan policies.

For instance, a cornerstone of the Growth Plan was supposed to be confinement of any urban expansion to the urban centre of Barrie. There was an Amendment One to the Growth Plan introduced, but this was only to provide more room for the Town of Alliston. The Province, in violation of the Growth Plan’s provisions, through the blunt instrument of a Ministerial Zoning Order, then rammed through an urban expansion in Bradford to facilitate box stores along an expressway.

As mentioned before, the Province, to its credit, did launch an appeal of the Midhurst Secondary Plan. However, in a black day for land use planning it withdrew part of its appeal to permit the construction of 5,000 new homes. As a result some 300 hectares are now eligible for urban expansion. In response, the Midhurst Ratepayers Association made an appeal to the OMB, and hired the former director of planning for Simcoe County, Ian Bender, (a former St. Catharines City planner, who PALS had often worked with ), as their expert witness.

Bender’s testimony to the OMB vividly illustrates how Midhurst’s carefully restored landscape of farmland and forests are at risk from sprawl. He indicated that until now “development has generally expanded the settlement area to its limits as defined by the adjacent highway and surrounding agricultural and environmental lands.” He also testified how the proposed boundary expansion would far exceed the allocations that the Province has established for the area under the Growth Plan.

In making its decision dismissing the Midhurst Ratepayers Association appeal the OMB did not dispute any of Bender’s conclusions regarding the violation of the Growth Plan, but threw his strong evidence out on procedural grounds.

The Midhurst fiasco shows the inherit weakness of the assumptions behind the Growth Plan. This is the folly of relying on the OMB to regulate local municipal planning in the countryside . The only way that these landscapes can be protected is through provincially developed planning as shown by the Niagara Escarpment Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Protection Act, and now, the Greenbelt Act. The Growth Plan’s reliance on the OMB is simply a fog under which behind- the- scenes the machinations of developers are hidden.

Bacher Springwater Black Creek Estates

The basic reason why all of the currently agriculturally and environmentally zoned lands that are supposed to be protected by the Growth Plan should be incorporated into the much stronger Greenbelt, emerged unexpectedly in 2009 comments by Victor Doyle, a planner with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and what happened as a result. In his role commenting on proposed zoning and official plan changes under the Growth Plan, Doyle made the following comment: “South Simcoe County, long known as the ‘jewel in the crown’ is completely ill-suited for major urbanization on the Lake Simcoe and Nottawasaga Basins that are small and slow moving receiving bodies which simply cannot sustain the environmental impacts associated with what is a Greater Toronto Area scale of subdivision.” Shortly after these comments were penned Doyle was shuffled away from supervising land use planning in Simcoe County.

Dr. John Bacher is a member of the Advisory Council of the Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition.

Cross-posted from SpringwaterParkcc.org.

Cross-posted to iLoveMidhurst.ca.


NOW Magazine Toronto picks up the Springwater Park – Camp Nibi reckless development defense story.

September 5, 2013

Will the Ontario government continue to allow Springwater Provincial Park to unthinkingly slide into sprawl?

now Bacher

An article in NOW Magazine’s News Frontlines section called John Bacher on Wild West sprawl wrecking Ontario parks will be appearing on September 5, 2013.

Excerpt:

Those who love Georgian Bay and its tributaries are getting accustomed to bizarre schemes threatening its sanctity. First there was Dump Site 41 in Simcoe County, and then the Melancthon mega-quarry – both stopped in their tracks by massive protests, marches and cook-ins.

Now there’s the Ontario government’s plan to abandon Springwater Provincial Park, 10 kilometres north of Barrie. Since April 1, women from the Beausoleil First Nation near Midland have been occupying Springwater, protesting the park’s changed status from “operational” to “non-operational.” The closure is one of six.

It’s not a coincidence that the action’s spokesperson, Beth Elson, is a veteran of both the Dump 41 and the mega-quarry fights. She’s learned a thing or two about forming alliances with non-natives – and about winning.

The province points out that even though the gates are locked, visitors can still stroll the 193-hectare green space. But the reality is, the 12 kilometres of wheelchair-accessible trails, mostly used for cross-country skiing, will no longer be maintained; comfort stations are closed, as are the buildings; and the lovely stone water fountains and picnic pavilions will presumably be left to moulder.

The women have named their occupation camp Springwater Nibi, “nibi” being the Ojibway word for “uncompromised water,” a vivid reminder that the park’s beautiful ponds are fed by underground springs – it sits on the headwaters of the Minesing Wetlands. Those gushing waters allowed park officials to restore habitat for the elegant trumpeter swan, a species once wiped out in eastern North America.

Occupiers, who have set up a sweat lodge and given smudge blessings to the park’s zoo animals before their relocation to other sanctuaries, say the land traversed by old trading routes has deep roots in Ojibway history. They worry that the Ministry of Natural Resources’ withdrawal will leave the space vulnerable to trashing.

First Nation occupiers have strong relationships with the Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition. Native environmentalist Danny Beaton, an anti-Dump 41 mainstay, is an official SPCC adviser. The group is deeply troubled by the sprawl wreaking havoc in Simcoe County in defiance of the weak policy supposedly protecting land on the fringe of the Greenbelt.

Contrary to the Growth Management Plan, development is encircling Springwater. A few weeks before the closure, I noted a sign across a road from the park indicating proposed zoning changes from environmental protection to medium-density residential. The Coalition fears construction is poised to pollute the Wetlands.

The province says it has no intention of selling the land, but the SPCC is skeptical that the government can resist building pressures.

Parks Ontario’s Jolanta Kowalski tells me parks are being closed as a cost-saving measure, part of a “transformation plan to make the ministry more modern, efficient and sustainable.’’ Springwater, she says, “returns only 53 cents on the dollar” and gets half the visits it did a decade ago. Changing its status, she says, will provide savings of $70,000 and avoid a capital investment of $1 million.

It depends on what you value, of course. The Beausoleil women say they are taking over the space from a ministry that has left it to ruin, and they want an aboriginal healing and heritage centre established on site. Will the Liberals see the light?

John Bacher is the author of Two Billion Trees And Counting: The Legacy Of Edmund Zavitz.

news@nowtoronto.com

Dr. Bacher continues to serve on our SPCC Advisory Council.


Ontario deserves a stand-alone Forestry Museum in Midhurst.

August 9, 2013

And Springwater Park – Camp Nibi is the ideal spot to locate to commemorate two founding fathers of provincial environmentalism.

Drury zavitz a

Former Premier E.C. Drury (l., 1878-1968) and Dr. Edmund Zavitz (1875-1968) worked tirelessly over decade to create a process that resulted in 2 billion trees being planted in Ontario. Our province has an internationally-recognized natural and human resource of skilled foresters, country forests and tree “farmers”.

Mr. Gord Miller the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario says we need one more billion trees to get to the recommended 30 per cent tree coverage for southern Ontario.

Let’s recognize these early water protectors not just with two life-sized bronze statues but with a provincial Forestry Museum that will tell the story of material world redemption. British Columbia has one, btw.

At the same time, let’s also work re-establishing public assets such as the Midhurst Forest Station which produced 8 to 10 million seedlings annually. It’s never too late to correct a +20 year mistake when the tree nursery system was dismantled.

Image courtesy of Mr. Ed Borczon, RPF and Dr. Bacher, Two Billion Trees and Counting: The Legacy of Edmund Zavitz, 2011, p. 119.


Springwater Park – Camp Nibi started on the day the Ministry of Natural Resources abandoned Springwater Park after 90 years

May 2, 2013

The first night: April 1st, 2013

First night

Main pavilion.

First night 2

One of the cabins.

Nibi pavilion

Trying to explain through signs. That water flows into the Minesing Wetlands: an internationally important wetlands.

Nibi spring

nibi = “fresh water”.

Follow that spring uphill like Hon. E.C. Drury and Edmund Zavitz did in 1905 when they chose this site to found the Midhurst Tree Nursery. The MNR abandoned that land (the tree nursery) in 1993, after 71 years of service and millions of trees being grown. No more retirement parties (see my first post).

Signs taken down

The MNR really didn’t like this one. (Note the broken change machine, since removed.)

Flags gone

Non-operational. Abandoned.

The MNR lowered the Canadian and Ontario flags after 90 years.


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