Dr. John Bacher issues a blunt warning to Simcoe County.
Dr. John Bacher
From late February to early May of 2015 bulldozers, chain saws and chipping machines waged a brutal war on the David Dunlap Forest, removing fifty acres from the heart of what had been a 125 acre forest tract in the heart of Richmond Hill. This Richmond Hill chain saw massacre was a vivid warning to Simcoe County, of the need to place of its its identified agriculturally zoned lands and significant forests within the protection of the Greenbelt. The blight of forest destruction without such protection may come to Simcoe County soon.
The David Dunlap Forest like those of Simcoe County was created by the reforestation movement sparked by Edmund Zavitz. It was planted from 1939 to 1980 to counter the threats posed by spreading sands of desertification and the threats of flooding to Toronto from deforestation. At the same time the forest provided light pollution protection for the David Dunlap Observatory. It until seven years it was operated by the University of Toronto and was the location for major scientific breakthroughs, notably the discovery of black holes in distant galaxies.
The University of Toronto sold the Observatory to the Metrus development company. Metrus then went through a long process of official plan and zoning changes, to allow it to construct expensive homes next to a shrunken forest. This process was completed on January 16th, 2015, whereupon a plague of giant machines smashed up the trees, turning them into sawdust.
A very dedicated 60 year old ecological group, the Richmond Hill Naturalists, attempted to defend the David Dunlap Forest. It is considered Provincially Significant, since it is the only large upland forest between the Oak Ridges Moraine and the City of Toronto. However, such protection means that officious experts can testify at the Ontario Municipal Board, (OMB), that the destruction of forest can be justified if it is shown not to impact any “ecological function.”
The naturalists spent $500,000 in three hearings and one court case in their efforts to defend the David Dunlap Forest. Despite numerous experts on their behalf who explained that the cutting of almost half of a 125 acre forest block reduces such ecological functions as bird nesting and deer habitat, they lost every time. Now the naturalists are subject of a motion at the OMB that they must pay $200,000 for the expenses of the experts who justified the destruction of the David Dunlap Forest. They efforts to protect a provincially significant forest were disparaged at the OMB as being the basis of a “banana” or “ideological” appeal.
The chewing up of the David Dunlap Forest shows the need for the inclusion of all of the Provincially Significant Forests in Ontario, especially those of Simcoe County under extreme development pressure to be protected by the Greenbelt. The key provision is Policy 3.2.4. This states that for lands “within a key natural heritage feature” (ie. significant forest)…”Development or site alteration is not permitted.” Only such strong language can protect forests from assault by the absurd studies of supposed experts.
Like the lands of the Oak Ridges Moraine near the David Dunlap Forest, those of Simcoe County were ecologically restored. Unless put into the Greenbelt, they await a fate similar to the devastation of the Richmond Hill chipping massacre.