Province Proposes to Rescue Huronia Through Greenbelt Expansion article by Dr. John Bacher and Sierra Club Ontario

January 4, 2018

Another in a series of interesting article written by Dr. John Bacher. Note the implications of a greenbelt for the Nottawasaga River.

Sierra Club Ontario
January 3, 2018

Province Proposes to Rescue Huronia Through Greenbelt Expansion
Yvonne Ho’s blog

20180103 map“Protecting Water for Future Generations” warns that increased storm water discharges created by urbanization “adds sediment to streams that can negatively impact fish and other aquatic species” and also “increase water temperature, affecting the survival of fish species such as brook trout that need cold water”. It stresses that Brook Trout will not survive in warmer water created through the ecological degradation associated with urbanization.

Fighting hard to protect local waters
The Mohawk elder of the Turtle Clan Danny Beaton has spent much of his recent life in defending what he terms the Peacemaker’s World. It is the sacred landscape which nurtured the founder of the League of Peace, the Peacemaker. Usually called Huronia, in memory of the people whose remarkable leader founded the League, it is dominated by the watershed of the Nottawasaga River.

The cold water Nottawasaga fed by the aquifers that provide the world’s cleanest waters, support a thriving population of Brook Trout. It is a key ecological indicator species for most of southern Ontario. This species vanishes when watersheds become subjected to urbanization. The Nottawasaga future as a healthy cold water fishery may be ensured by a proposed expansion to the Greenbelt now undergoing a 90 day public consultation.

Beaton went to prison for three days as a consequence of his leadership in a nonviolent blockade that stopped an an attempt to excavate a garbage dump known as Dump Site 41 (link is external)on top of a critical aquifer from which the world’s purest water flows. The proposed dump near Elmvale, was close to the largest Huron settlement recorded by archaeologists.

Beaton also played a significant role in a year long occupation of Springwater Provincial Park (link is external), a former tree nursery, which was a cradle for ecological restoration in Huronia. Its surging spring waters in the past provided an important staging area for the recovery of a once endangered species, the Trumpeter Swan.

20180103 swannPhoto of Trumpeter Swan

We were able to view some of the spectacular nature of the threatened landscape following the end of a five day march from Toronto to the site of the proposed Dufferin County mega quarry. (link is external) A leader called Smiling Yogi, took us to a White Cedar shaded Brook Trout stream through which was threatened with de-watering by the quarry. We were awed to see Brook Trout leap through the stream’s sparkling fast running cold waters, laced with riffles, runs and pools.

New Greenbelt policy proposal: “Protecting Water for Future Generations”
Protecting these waters is the key focus of a discussion document by the provincial government. It is termed “Protecting water for future generations (link is external).” As summarized by the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the Honourable Bill Mauro, the discussion paper provides “scientific, technical and land use planning analysis” of the “greatest concentration of water features associated with urban growth.”

“Protecting Water for Future Generations” has a good summary of how sprawl threatens southern Ontario waters. It notes that, “Urbanization threatens the longtime health of hydrological systems throughout the region. Urban development impacts water resources in several ways. Water cannot flow through hard and impermeable surfaces such as roads, buildings and other paved or concrete areas and often collections as surface runoff in drains and storm sewers. As a result, more water flows directly into streams and lakes, and less water seeps into the soil to recharge aquifers for drinking water and support ecological processes.”

One of the important ecological processes are to supply the groundwater that feeds cold water streams. They frequently at seepage points, are lined with watercress. Diverse insect populations, most notably Stone flies, Walter Penny’s, Mayfly and Caddisfly, also thrive in cold water stream environments.

“Protecting Water” warns that increased storm water discharges created by urbanization “adds sediment to streams that can negatively impact fish and other aquatic species” and also “increase water temperature, affecting the survival of fish species such as brook trout that need cold water.” It stresses that Brook Trout “Will not survive in warmer water” created through the ecological degradation associated with urbanization.

Five of the seven areas proposed for Greenbelt expansion are within Huronia, in the regional governments known as Dufferin and Simcoe Counties. Two are on the fringes of Huronia. One of these, the Escarpment Area Moraines, the discussion paper explains, “provide base flow to streams flowing from the Niagara Escarpment. They are critical for groundwater that supplies communities” such as Shelburne, Organgeville, Fergus and Guelph with drinking water. Another is the Oro Moraine, located west of Orillia and Lake Couchiching. “Protecting Water” notes that it is “composed primarily of highly permeable sand and gravel and is a significant groundwater recharge area.”

Three of the proposed Greenbelt expansion areas are in the heart of Huronia. One is called the Nottawasaga River Corridor. Among the critical goals of these expansions is to protect the Minesing Wetlands, an important wildlife refuge for herons, Trumpeter Swans, Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly and the endangered Sturgeon from polluted storm water from Midhurst.

Middle Reaches of the Nottawasaga River

Middle Reaches of the Nottawasaga River

Photo of Nottawasaga River obtained from NVCA website. (link is external)

What can you do:
It is remarkably easy to read the snappy to the point discussion paper and to make comments in time for the March 7, 2018 deadline. Both the discussion paper and a feedback form are on the website of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. Comments can also be made through the registry of the Environmental Bill of Rights (link is external). Comments can also be made through email to (link sends e-mail).

This article was written by Dr. John Bacher, Greenbelt Campaign leader at Sierra Club Ontario, and a member of the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society (PALS) (link is external).
Map showing geographic location of Huronia was obtained from Ontario Nature website (link is external).



Bacher knows his trees, says Elder Danny Beaton, Turtle Clan, Mohawk Nation

April 15, 2017

Dr. John Bacher is an award-winning environmental author, speaker and consultant.

Life long resident and environmentalist Dr. John Bacher investigates the deforestation devastation, which occurred in Centennial Park, St. Catherines, Ontario. Photo credit: Daniel Nardone

Elder Beaton says he should be listened to about unnecessary deforestation in parks.

St. Catharines Standard
April 12, 2017

Bacher knows his trees
Letters to the editor
Danny Beaton, Turtle Clan Mohawk Nation

I’ve been Dr John Bacher’s friend and co-worker for 30 years promoting environmental education and environmental protection.

We were honoured in June 2016 when Bacher was asked by Huron County to serve as an expert in a clear-cutting case and the county’s tree-protection bylaw. Bacher is also known throughout Simcoe and Dufferin counties by farmers and environmentalists for his knowledge. He is respected throughout Ontario by Maude Barlow and Elizabeth May, leaders of Council of Canadians and the Green Party of Canada for his wisdom and endless work for Mother Earth.

Bacher has been a leader for Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society for 30 years or longer. The list goes on and on for his love and energy in defending Niagara from misguided developers.

His book Two Billion Trees and Counting: The Legacy of Edmund Zavitz — Zavitz held the position of chief forester of Ontario, deputy minister of forests and director of reforestation — is a masterpiece.

Dr. John Bacher (r) received the Ontario Professional Foresters Association’s Edmund Zavitz Award “in recognition of significant contribution to forest conservation in Ontario”, from Executive Director, David Milton, May 2014.

When Standard reporter Karena Walter wrote her recent story regarding Centennial Park tree-cutting, quoting Bacher as saying the trees were native species, were not invasive and were a mix of ages including some very young trees, he should be listened to.

Some of the trees were providing shade for an intermittent stream. He said the trees in Centennial Park are in forested parkland which is large enough to provide habitat for wildlife like wild turkeys and the great blue heron.

The city should leave part of the park as a natural forest. The Manitoba maples, willows and poplars are being cut down as a preventive measure.

Who do you believe when Bacher says this is wrong as the animals, birds, insects and plants need this forest?

Please help Bacher protect the farmland and forests before all are killed.

Download a pdf here.


Save French’s Hill Forest article by Dr. John Bacher and Danny Beaton

October 1, 2015

Is a Waverley Mega Quarry in Tiny Township, Simcoe County worth this threat to the Alliston Aquifer…again?

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An original article from Dr. John Bacher:

Save French’s Hill Forest

Tiny Township is blessed to have some of the rarest and largest old growth forests in southern Ontario south of the Canadian Shield, an ecosystem known as the Mixed Woods Plains. It is tragic that one of the best examples of this precious and threatened relic of Turtle Island before the impact of Euro-Canadian colonization, is now threatened by a proposed zoning amendment. It would change the zoning of lands now protected as Rural and Agricultural and designated as Significant Forest by Tiny Township, to permit the expansion of the existing Beamish quarry.

In addition to devastating forests the Beamish quarry expansion proposal is an attack on the world’s purest water, the same important source for the Alliston Aquifer that was battled over in the long struggle against Dump Site 41. Elaine Stephenson a champion of the French’s Hill Forest, has explained how she appreciated from childhood how the purity of her well water from this unusual geological feature. On this basis the quarry scheme was denounced by a leading foe of Dump Site 41, Stephen Odgen, at a October 13, 2009 meeting of the Tiny Township Council.

Part of the opposition that the Beamish scheme encountered when it was put forward at two meeting of Tiny Township Council in the winter of 2015 was that the pit proposal should not go forward until the work of he Severn Sound Environmental Association on the natural heritage of Tiny Township is properly reflected in its land use planning and zoning documents. This is an excellent critique since current land use planning both in Tiny Township and throughout Simcoe County does not make the best use of scientific studies of wildlife habitat, forest cover and old growth.

The critique of residents who have mobilized themselves into a Save the Waverly Uplands alliance is bolstered by the background environmental research that has been done into the provincially significant woodlands that surround the existing Beamish quarry. The work of the Severn Sound group builds on an earlier study, which in a tragically slow way, is shaping environmental planning in Simcoe County. This is report on “The Development of a Natural Heritage System for Simcoe County.” It was prepared by the Gartner Lee engineering firm for the Simcoe County Council in 1996.

The Gartner Lee report, now almost two decades old, provides a reasonable way in which to protect Simcoe County’s forests. It called for the protection of large blocks of forests of around 40 hectares in size, which is responsible for the current mapping of French’s Hill as a provincially significant woodland. Such woodlands straddle both sides of the border between Tiny and Tay townships.

The slowness in the adaption of the Garner Lee report into the Simcoe County official plan is one of the reasons the municipality has been ridiculed by the respected Neptis Foundation as the “Wild West” of urban sprawl.

The Gartner Lee study recognizes that, “The extensive tracts of forests” that are found in Tiny Township “are important habitat for a number of forest interior species as well as for mammals such as Black Bear, Martin and Fisher which have large home ranges.”

The Gartner Lee report recognizes the value of the large tracts of forests that endure in Tiny Township that are old growth as surrounds the Beamish quarry. It expressed amazement that here there are still “vast tracts of forest” in predominately hardwood old growth conditions. They are it stressed, a vivid contrast to the coniferous plantations established in other parts of Simcoe County to rescue it from desertification.

The old growth forests of Tiny Township Garner Lee stressed “represent the last vestiges of what southern-Ontario looked like in pre-settlement times. Unlike much of southern Ontario, where the original woodlands have become highly fragmented” these forest remain in “unbroken forest blocks.” Such conditions it found are important for wildlife as “refuges from predation” for “foraging habitat” and to secure “diversity in the landscape.”

The insights of the Gartner Lee report in protecting the old growth forests of southern Ontario are reflected in the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) Natural Heritage Manual. They stress that old growth forests “are particularly valuable for several reasons, including their contributions of species genetics and ecosystem diversity.” One obvious example of this is that their survival allow winds and birds to transfer native hardwood species to managed plantation forests.

The MNR manual provides a careful definition of what constitutes an old growth forest. This is done through hitting any of three measures, age (around 100 years), basal area or diameter width. One basic approach is 10 or more trees at least 50 cm in diameter per hectare, or 8 trees of the same area of 40 cm.

When I saw tree cutting recently at French’s Hill I was horrified to see an old growth forest slashed for no apparent reason than to downgrade its rating in the MNR manual. The forest was of predominately giant sugar maples, regenerating in a healthy fashion with a blanket of seedlings. However, the quite recently stumps seemed to offer proofs that many giants had been cut with the deliberate purpose of reducing the density per hectare required to be considered an old growth forest.

Danny Beaton a Mohawk of the Turtle Clan has viewed the destruction of the French’s Hill Forest. On it he notes, that “The Nanfan Treaty states that the Iroquois Confederacy have a right to hunt and fish on our shared territories with the Ojibway, Huron and Wendat Nations in Georgian Bay. Why do corporations continuing to rape and pillage our forests, wetlands and water ways in Georgian Bay? Why do company’s continue to stake claim to the last endangered trees and forests with immunity from County of Simcoe Governance.? Why are citizens being ignored in county meetings that are set up for citizen participation and shared authority over land rights and development.? Are the lawyers, architects and engineers who support developers, the real threat to Mother Earth? Through unity and focus then can we organize our self for change and environmental protection through peaceful building and organizing our self. During Site 41 a unity of citizens, farmers and Torontonians emerged to defend and protect the Alliston Aquifer. Then the mega quarry was denounced by citizens, farmers, and native and good lawyers. We as citizens of Ontario must unite with the Conservation Authority, Environmental Organizations, Farmers, Native Nations and Good Minds with Good Hearted People before everything is cut down or polluted. Mother Earth is being raped on the French Hill in Waverly. The developer will say he bought the land which is old growth Sugar Maples and other hard wood trees so that all should be clear cut for a quarry As a Mohawk man with grade 6 education I can tell you from our Traditional Culture no one has the right to destroy this large unique incredibly beautiful healing place full of creation for our children’s children.”
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Posted on and

Previous posts on the Waverley Mega Quarry;

How much cash does a corporation get when they cut down old-growth maple trees in Simcoe County?

September 30, 2015

Immediately and in preparation for a clear-cut (gravel pit expansion)?

20150425 Bleeding tree ...

Surely the net proceeds are less if you cut them down in the middle of the night?

Waverley Clearcut 3

Maybe higher In the middle of the 2015 winter (April 2015: Photos by Les Stewart)?

20150926 450

I wonder if it was a licensed or non-licensed action against the old-growth maple canopy (September 2015, same)?


Or thinning to show the “watchdog” authorities that the forest was worth less (worthless or degraded) and, therefore, should get the go ahead to clear-cut for aggregate expansion on top of the Alliston aquifer.


See previous post on A 600 acre Waverley Mega Quarry in the making?

Waverley Mega-Quarry

Successful and seasoned environmentalists do the sensible thing: they take a Walk for Water

August 15, 2015

Want to know the secret to stop a massive limestone quarry and an industrial garbage complex atop the world’s purest water?

Just ask Danny Beaton and Dr. John Bacher:

  1. Take a stand, and
  2. do something sensible like, Walk for Water 2015.

Danny and John were key advisors to me for the remarkable rescue of Springwater Park by Beausoleil First Nation.

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

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

Saving Springwater Park is a provincially-significant, “remarkable environmental victory”.

July 29, 2015

A Dr. John Bacher article published on Sierra Club Ontario’s weblog.

John Bacher

Springwater Victory

Ontario’s environmental movement should be celebrating a remarkable victory won by a two year struggle for the re-opening of Springwater Provincial Park in Midhurst, 10 kilometres north of Barrie. Springwater is a 193 hectare forested park, with picnic grounds and 13 kilometres of hiking trails.

Springwater Park was created through afforestation in the 1920s as a demonstration project of conquering spreading desert sands by planting trees. These sand piles emerged through the burning off of woodlands for agricultural clearance.


Springwater Park is named after the gushing springs of pure water that made it an appropriate site for the launching of one of the province’s first reforestation stations. Its powerful pure waters nourish the adjacent Minesing Wetlands, themselves now threatened by urban sprawl. Spring fed ponds in the park helped create habitat used by the province in the past to restore populations of the once endangered Trumpeter Swan.

On July 3, 2015 the Chief of the Beausoleil First Nation Roland Monague, signed a five year agreement with representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests. The agreement is for a five year management of the park for day use by the Beausoleil First Nation. Under this the native community will assume responsibility for staffing, maintenance and operation. It will be assisted financially for three years by the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs through an economic development program.


The agreement was the happy conclusion of a long occupation by women of the Beausoleil First Nation, led by Beth Elson. It began on April 1, 2013 when the park was designated “non-operational.” The occupation was doggedly supported by Midhurst environmentalist, Les Stewart, a dedicated blogger.


Elson is a veteran of campaigns against both Dump Site 41, which protected the underground aquifer and the Dufferin mega-quarry. She named the occupation, Camp Nibi, which in Ojibway means “uncompromised water.”

The rescue of Springwater Park is an important battle in protecting the ecologically restored landscape of Midhurst from urban sprawl in defiance of the norms of Ontario’s Growth Plan. One of the most disturbing evidences of this was its approval just before the occupation of a development on privately afforested lands directly across from Springwater Park, the Black Creek Estates of Snow Valley. Until an official plan and zoning amendments approved after the passage of the Growth Plan, the land had been zoned as designated as Environmental Protection.

Photo Credits (All taken by Les Stewart)

  • Header Photo — Springwater Park across road from new development Black Creek Estates
  • Photo 1 — White Pine planted in 1924 sign
  • Photo 2 — Native Occupation
  • Photo 3 — Honour Treaties Park Occupation

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