Endangered Species Act Review- New Assault on Thin Green Line of Environmental Protections In Ontario, Dr. John Bacher

 

A new article by Dr. Bacher:

JohnBacherPhD.ca
February 16, 2019

Endangered Species Act Review- New Assault on Thin Green Line of Environmental Protections In Ontario.
Dr. John Bacher

A close look at the language of the Ontario government’s consultation paper on the Endangered Species Act clearly shows that there is no sense of the urgent need to protect bio-diversity from the extinction crisis that is enveloping the world. Rather than any lamentation over the loss of species, there are phrases that ominously treat the current minimalist legislation to protect their habitats as a bothersome expense for business.

For example, the consultation paper groans over how the Ontario Endangered Species Act is “time consuming and costly to applicants.” It also disturbingly asks, “In what circumstances is the development of habitat regulation warranted, or not warranted? (eg. To impose for business and others about the scope of habitat that is protected.”

Round-leaved Greenbrier, Photo by Joyce Sankey.

In contrast, a 1970 Philips Study ‘Potential Recreational Areas and Fragile Biodiversity Inventory and recommendations’, prepared in the lead up to the formation of the Regional Municipality of Niagara in 1972, alerted me, even as a teen, to the threats to rare species in Niagara, and although there was no legislation to protect endangered species at that time, they were recognized in practice by botanists in the then- Department of Lands and Forests. And upon reading the Department’s natural area studies I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the account of a rare species of our region, the Round-leaved Greenbrier, to me, a mysterious vine from the American deep south which survived in forests in Niagara Falls. These were once common in the Carolinian life zone, but vanished to the swamp forests of the City of thundering waters after the woodlands of this region were rapidly burnt up by “settlers.”

These Greenbrier woodlands have been defended over many years by a remarkable brother and sister team of Peter and Jean Grandoni, dairy farmers with a deep connection to the earth, whom I met in the mid- 1970s. As the late Peter Grandoni explained to me, the need to protect Greenbrier habitats had been recognized by the provincial government as far back as 1960 in the Lake Erie Transportation study which pointed to the significance of three Niagara Falls forests to the survival of the Round-leaved greenbrier in Ontario.

The situation regarding the Greenbrier is similar to that of many of Ontario’s 243 Species at Risk today, and what needs to be known to protect its habitat was understood by dedicated public servants sixty years ago. For their part, the Grandonis, whom I worked closely with starting in about 1976, had a profound understanding of the importance of the swamps that provide the habitat to the Round-leaf Greenbrier.

What was so tragic to witness over the years, was how our opportunities to save the Greenbrier were wasted over the years we worked together. For instance, we failed to remove a large farmland parcel in which the rare vine hung on in a woodlot, from the urban boundary at a 1978 Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing .

However, later the parcel was brought by a responsible developer, and the woodlot was saved in its entirety. Without any controversy the East Wood development protected the Threatened Greenbrier. The homes were also arranged carefully away from the swamp wetland forest which contains vernal pools for breeding amphibians.

While this developer protected the habitat of the Threatened Greenbrier voluntarily, two others forced me to take part in epic struggles at the OMB, with PALS and Jean Grandoni, to protect such habitat. One stronghold of the Threatened Greenbrier was in a twenty five acre forest in Niagara Falls, along Garner Road. It was part of a larger 125 acre parcel, largely farmland. The entire parcel was at one time owned by the City of Niagara Falls and could at that time have been properly turned into a protected municipal forested park.

When the Garner Road Forest was sold to a developer by the City, Jean Grandoni asked the Niagara Falls City Council to sever the forest from the largely agricultural property and retain it. The developer responded with a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). Jean Grandoni was forced to seek the assistance of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, who achieved a negotiated settlement and later was forced to apologize at a Niagara Falls council meeting.

After ecologist Albert Garafalo prepared a presentation to the Niagara Falls City Council on the Garner Road Forest, the developer retaliated by clear cutting half of it. The forest and the Greenbrier was rescued from complete destruction only after a veteran ecological activist John Lynn, contacted the Hamilton CHCH television station.

The remaining 12 acre forest of the Fernwood subdivision was protected by an OMB appeal made by PALS and Jean Grandoni (following the death of her brother, Peter). OMB Witness Statements were filed by two experts on their behalf, Bruce Kershner, and Hugh Gayler, and during an OMB field visit Kershner, discovered a previously unidentified Species at Risk, the White Wood Aster.

Having two Species at Risk in a dozen acre forest, which also has a rare Buttonbush ecological community, had a major impact, as the developer gave in prior to the hearing after an exchange of expert witness statements. Before the full hearing was scheduled the developer agreed to transfer title to the forest to the City of Niagara Falls for a nature park.

Later the developer admitted the higher price he was able to make for his lots by having a forested amenity near their homes, more than compensated for what he lost in terms of developable acreage. He later called Jean Grandoni, whom he had earlier issued a SLAPP suit against, a voice of conscience for good development in Niagara Falls.

It is unfortunate, that had the Preliminary Proposals of 1977 to the Niagara Escarpment Plan been adopted, the Round Leaved Greenbrier, part of what is now understood as the Thundering Waters Forest, would have been protected without OMB drama. And, tragically in 1992 a thirty five acre old growth forest north of Oldfield Road was clear cut on lands which were then proposed to be protected as an Escarpment Natural Area.

However, likely through informal pressure from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR, successor to Lands and Forests), 10 acres of its habitat was protected as a linear forest, adjacent to a power transmission line. This was set aside informally, to in effect protect the habitat of the Round-Leaved Greenbrier, which when the Ontario Endangered Species Act was proclaimed, was recognized as a Threatened Species.

Development conflict with endangered species and the natural habitat they live in has actually been quite rare, perhaps because of two important studies- the previously mentioned 1970 Phillips study and the 1980 joint Niagara Region and Brock University Environmental Sensitive Areas study, popularly known as the Brady report.

The negative comments about the current Endangered Species Act cited in the consultation paper ignore the reality of what I have experienced in Niagara. Saving the habitat of endangered species has been an economic benefit not a detraction. The norm in Niagara of hundred acre 19th century farm lots is similar to those in the Carolinian zone, the most important area of threatened bio-diversity in Canada. If the wooded areas of this landscape, which are often back- woodlots away from road access, are protected, the remaining real estate parcel, as Jean Grandoni was told by a developer is worth more.

The Endangered Species Act in its current form has been a valuable supplement to good land use planning in Niagara. The attacks on it in the discussion document about being anti-business are inaccurate. By saving natural areas near urban spaces it has increased the quality of urban development. If one goes to see the lands identified by both the 1970 Phillips Report, and the 1980 Brady report, all these areas are larger, and likely if inventoried, more biologically diverse, than they were when these studies were written. The exception, which proves the rule as to the importance of the Endangered Species Act, is an area identified in the Brady Report as the Ramsey Road Woodlot. It has become popularly known as the Thundering Waters Forest.

Between 1993 and 2014 the Greenbrier’s habitat was part of a 12 acre linear forest north of Oldfield Road, and adjacent to vacant land that was clear cut out of a larger 35 acre old growth forest. Although this area was allegedly clear cut for an industrial development, it remained vacant since there was no demand for more industrial land. This situation changed in 2008 when the area went through a process known as the Thundering Waters Secondary Plan, which eventually brought residential zoning to the property.

During the Thundering Waters Secondary Plan process, the developer initially denied that the Round Leave Greenbriar was present in the twelve acre linear forest. However, naturalist Albert Garafalo consulted with MNR and obtained an approximate location. Then he, myself and Joyce Sankey of the Niagara Falls Nature Club went into the forest and took photos of the Greenbrier and obtained GPS locations.

After the developer admitted that the Threatened Greenbrier was present the draft plan of subdivision set aside one acre of the ten acre linear forest to protect its habitat. The Niagara Falls Planning Department attempted to protect the entire area. However, at the Public Meeting under the Planning Act where their recommendation was discussed, the developer’s ecological consultant made a presentation to the Niagara Falls City Council. She stated that irrespective of its abundance in Canada, in the southern US, the “cat brier”, as she dismissed it, was seen as a common and troublesome weed.

In response to the developer’s ecological consultant, the Niagara Falls Planning Director, Alex Herlovitch indicated that he wished simply for MNRF to have the usual discretion to protect the habitat of the Threatened Species through the subdivision registration process. The council then voted to reject his recommendation. As a result, appeals were made of the subdivision by PALS, Jean Grandoni and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) to the OMB. There was what was supposed to be a Pre-Hearing Conference for the OMB on the issue of the linear forest. This turned into an OMB mediation between MMAH and the developer. The outcome was that the linear forest was shrunken from 10 to 3 acres.

Dense blazing star. Photo by Daniel Nardone.

While the exact area of the habitat of the Greenbrier was protected, the loss of seven acres of the linear forest eliminated seven acres in which the Threatened species could expand into. The lost potential habitat also eliminated vernal pools which provided habitat for breeding amphibians.

My long experience attempting to protect the habitat of the Round-leaved Greenbrier in Niagara Falls shows that when populations of Threatened species are well documented for decades, they are still vulnerable to site alteration which can destroy them or prevent the ability to increase their range. Language about current restrictions being “time consuming” and questioning if regulation is desirable, is not the way to go. Regulations need to be more prescriptive and have more of an explicit mandate to encourage the spread of the species range on adjacent lands which provide appropriate habitat.

In the case at hand, all of this is urgently needed to protect the area south of Oldfield Road that remains in natural habitat. This five hundred acre area is what is left from the larger natural habitat identified in the 1980 Brady Report as the Ramsey Road Forest, now the site of the Thundering Waters development. Such large blocks of natural habitat in the Carolinian life zone are inevitably the most biodiverse in Canada, and the 1977 Niagara Escarpment Preliminary Proposals and the 1980 Brady Report point to how the Ramsey Road Woodlot (now Thundering Waters) is a significant natural habitat that should be protected from development and site alteration. Additionally, most of this area has been this way , as a Provincially Significant wetland since 2010. Some however, is threatened by proposals to build roads through the wetlands to urban development within the area that had been identified in 1980 as the Ramsey Road Forest.

The Thundering Waters Forest is a sanctuary for Species At Risk. This situation has been understood since 1977 before there were any proposals for development here. This should have been a warning signal to developers to stay away from here. In addition to the Green Briar, the following species have been recognized as being here. These include
1. Dense Blazing Star (Threatened)
2. Kentucky Coffee Tree (Threatened)
3. Midland Painted Turtle (Species At Risk)
4. Snapping Turtle (Species At Risk)
5. Barn Swallow (Threatened)
6. Chimney Swift (Threatened)
7. Wood Thrush (Species at Risk)
8. Eastern Wood Pewee (Species at Risk)

Three Possible Species of Endangered Bats (following analysis of acoustic studies)

Little Brown Bat, Northern Mytosis, Tri-Coloured Bat

Acoustic studies have been done on three species of Endangered Bats. These benefit from the old growth forest habitat, in a similar fashion to the Chimney Swift. (benefit from grooved bark and tree cavities) Non-migrating bats in Ontario have all been considered as Endangered for the past three years. Protecting their habitats now is quite important since their numbers are slowly recovering from a disastrous plunge precipitated by the White Nose Fungus.

From careful study of the studies of species at risk at Thundering Waters it has been the developer that has been responsible for delays. There have been serious delays in submitting Information Gathering Forms (IGF) documents, which are preliminary to the basic research needed to protect the habitats of species at risk.

Red headed woodpecker, Wikipedia.

There is one other controversy in Niagara that I have witnessed involving a Species at Risk. This concerns the Waverly Beach Forest in Fort Erie. It provides habitat for the Threatened Red Headed Woodpecker. Its habitat was old growth forest habitat, also identified in the 1980 Brady report as an Environmentally Sensitive Area. It is jeopardized now by a proposed extension of a road for a coffee shop. Red Headed Woodpeckers require old growth forests and as a result are vanishing across Eastern North America.

Every proposed development in Niagara where I have seen a controversy over a Species of Risk, has been on lands which have been long identified in the 1980 Brady report as an Environmentally Sensitive Area, and identified in municipal official Plans as Environmental Conservation Areas. These correspond to what provincial policy has defined as Provincially Significant Woodlands.

The signs have been posted in Niagara for decades where the habitat of species at risk are located. If developers face onerous delays this is because protective policies have been put in place to safeguard these lands for good reasons. Lands where the Species At Risk are found should be avoided for development, rather than be the scene of battles which should have never taken place. To live in good terms with our fellow species should be a key goal of land use planning. In Niagara this can be done by simply respecting the framework of a now fifty year report. It is not served by the basic premises behind the government’s discussion paper on the Endangered Species Act.

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

Another original article:

JohnBacherPhD.ca
February 14, 2019

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

(l) Dr. John Bacher and Elder Danny Beaton.

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.

Strange Monster Set to Attack Water Protections of Provincial Land Use Planning, Dr. John Bacher

Another important original article:

http://www.SierraClub.ca
January 6, 2019

Strange Monster Set to Attack Water Protections of Provincial Land Use Planning
Dr. John Bacher

The name Bill 66 seems like a science fiction monster akin to Godzilla, which emerged out of the debris of nuclear contaminated post-war Japan. A similar scary beast has come forth today out of the fiendish populism of Ontario Premier, Doug Ford.

Image by Danny Molneck

While Godzilla picked people off the streets and hurled them around, the scary Bill 66 is being prepared to throw its might against the landscapes protected by a variety of provincial planning measures and laws. These include the Greenbelt, the Lake Simcoe Protection Act and the Source Water Protection Act.

From the dirty muck of a Populist brew like cheap beer, OFB-ZBL has emerged out of Bill 66 to despoil Ontario’s countryside. The term is an acronym for Open For Business Planning By-law, which through a combination of municipal approval and ministerial consent, repeal zoning provisions designed to protect water.

Godizlla was a black and slimy beast, akin to the dangerous development that threatens to foul water sources protected by current provincial legislation. Bill 66 threatens to likewise put grease and slime over previously protected watersheds, possibly creating havoc from Georgian Bay to Niagara Falls.

When walking around Lake Ontario on a sacred Water Walk with an Ojibway community and Mohawk elder of the Turtle Clan, Danny Beaton, I saw an example of what Bill 66 threatens to unleash. We were stunned to see near the sacred shores of Lake Simcoe, the type of development that was the norm before it was curbed by the water protecting legislation Bill 66 threatens to crush.

We Water Walkers were stunned to encounter a black stream, without the usual life forms of insects such as water gliders. Then we walked a bit ahead and discovered why the stream was black. Its blackness came because it was downstream from a sewage release meadow built to accommodate a development built in the 1960s before provincial land use planning. In the middle of the meadow were steel spray pipes, of the sort usually used to spray water. Instead here it sprayed raw sewage from a development on the shores of Lake Simcoe.

Photo by Les Stewart

The sewage release sprays are a good indication of what the monster, the Bill 66, may soon unleash if it is actually approved by the Ontario legislature. Let us hope that reason prevails and this devouring monster being developed in the strange laboratories of Premier Doug Ford will not be set loose.

Retired Provincial Planner Victor Doyle Wins Victory at Crucial Time by Dr. John Bacher

Another important original article:

JohnBacherPhD.ca
November 12, 2019

Retired Provincial Planner Victor Doyle Wins Victory at Crucial Time
Dr. John Bacher

At a crucial time when the land use planning policies he forged under three different parties over 25 years are under attack by the newly elected government of Premier Doug Ford, veteran land use planner Victor Doyle won a major victory. It is of great significance which may help in reversing a planned assault on Sothern fragile ecosystems. They are imperilled from a proposed loosening of land use planning regulations. This threat was announced with great fanfare at a November 8, 2018 meeting at Toronto’s MacDonald block, which was supposedly on the Ontario Growth Plan.

On October 27th, 2018, the Public Service Grievance Board of Ontario, ruled in Doyle’s favour in response to a grievance he had filed with it in response to his dramatic demotion. Doyle went from effectively directing land use planning in Ontario to studying the cars of the distant future. The Grievance Board ruled that that this action by the provincial government was a breach of “duty of procedural fairness.”

Doyle spoke out to the Globe and Mail in May 2017, when the Cabinet, responding to what Doyle found were inaccurate claims by developers, was debating land use policy changes. Developers’ apologists claimed that the province’s policies were creating a residential land shortage and driving up housing prices. Such rhetoric, although at odds with reality, was building up pressure to gut land use planning controls. Doyle responded using a barrage of well documented facts to show there was a massive oversupply of such lands. He warned the province to appease developers was risking “unsustainable sprawl, congestion and skyrocketing infrastructure costs.”

Although in the end the Cabinet did not back down, Doyle was punished for speaking out. He was sealed away in a manner to reduce his influence on the public service. Doyle was put alone on a floor in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) Bay Street building. He was denied access to normal digital information sources available to public servants. No other Ministry employees were given offices on his floor. Several months before his scheduled retirement he was told to confine his duties to research driverless cars.

Part of Doyle’s effectiveness is that he would work closely with respected native elders, notably the Mohawk of the Turtle Clan, Danny Beaton, with whom he met in a Toronto gym. Beaton gave him sacred teachings on natural law, such as the need to respect water from the abuses of the earth. One such meeting followed Beaton’s shocking encounter with a cruel slashing of an old growth forest at French’s Hill.

(l) Author Dr. John Bacher and Mohawk Elder Danny Beaton at Waverley Uplands clear-cut. Photo by Les Stewart, Sept 2015

The French’s Hill Forest of great Sugar Maples is on top of an aquifer which contains the world’s purest water. Following Beaton’s traumatic encounter with destruction, Doyle lectured Simcoe County officials over their dangerous contempt for the sacredness of the natural world.

Working with Beaton, Doyle emerged as the guardian of what the Mohawk elder called the Peacemaker’s World. Doyle stood up to powerful corporations such as the Geranium, with its plans to dangerously ring the Minesing Wetlands with 10,000 new homes in Midhurst. This threatens to unleash a flood of polluted storm water onto a wetland which is a refuge for rare wild species. These include Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly, the Sturgeon, the Trumpeter Swan, Sandhill Crane, Bald Eagle, and several turtle species, now all designated as species at risk.

Doyle’s warnings of an assault on threatened wildlife from sprawl are especially relevant in the context of the supposed consultation now underway on the Growth Plan. At the MacDonald Block Forum a disturbing proposal was made by developers’ agents. This was that a large area of Class One and Two farmland between the Green Belt and the urban zoning boundary of Greater Toronto have a change in designation. All references to agricultural value would be swept away and the area designated under the Growth Plan as an “Urban Reserve.”

Doyle’s warnings to the press sounded an alarm against the proposed rapid urbanization of what planners call the White Belt. Doyle warned that water quality in streams in this area was at risk of contamination which would kill wildlife such as fish, turtles and frogs.

What makes Doyle’s courage in standing up so heartening today is the way the October 8th Macdonald Block Forum was packaged. The facilitator appeared to be the auctioneer at a fire sale of land use planning policies, rather than part of the public service. She indicated that all of the facilitators were members of the Ontario Public Service, OPS. There were at least 23 such OPS facilitators in the Room, since my own designated Table was Number 23.

Mohawk Elder Danny Beaton: the scale of the original maples at Waverley Uplands, Photo by Les Stewart, Apr 2015.

Considering the ecocidal reputation of Sir John A. MacDonald it was appropriate that the Growth Plan consultation should be held in government building named for him. The worst of the formal government proposals actually had nothing to do with the Growth Plan. They have to do with the proposed abolition of the requirement in the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) under the Planning Act that urban boundary expansions only be permitted every five years under a comprehensive municipal review.

The whole premise of the MacDonald Block circus was residential land shortages which Doyle’s writings carefully denied. The ten- second pleas to the Minister of MMAH had little to do with the Growth Plan. One plea was to abolish the Niagara Escarpment Commission, a backbone of the Greenbelt. Another was to abolish the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal. Thrown into the toxic mess was a call to have wetland offsetting, opening up for destruction some of the most important habitats for vanishing wildlife species in southern Ontario.

The backward thinking of the MacDonald Block Growth Plan Forum coming from a building named after a Prime Minister who arrested and hanged Cree chiefs and elders should be a warning signal to those in the OPS who care about ecosystems and wildlife threatened by sprawl. Let us hope that more follow’s Doyle path and work with native spiritual leaders and speak out in defense of Mother Earth.

Re-dedication Ceremony of Coronation Park, Toronto, Canada

See: https://www.cp24.com/video?clipId=1536830

Coronation Park was the work of the Canadian Chapter of Men of the Trees, created as part of a successful effort to restore vanished forest cover to southern Ontario.

Ominous Meeting Begins Growth Plan Consultations, Dr. John Bacher

Another original article:

JohnBacherPhd.ca
November 9, 2018

Ominous Meeting Begins Growth Plan Consultations
Dr. John Bacher

On November 8, 2108 the newly elected Ontario government began a rather ominous process to revise land use planning process in Ontario. The setting was the “Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Stakeholders Forum” which was held at the Ontario Room of the MacDonald Block at 900 Bay Street in Toronto on November 8, 2018.

Photo shows Thundering Waters wetlands where offsetting scheme was tried in past. Development advocates at recent Growth Plan consultation by province urged wetland offsetting be permitted by change to provincial regulation.

The forum which had around two hundred participants, had been previously discussed with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, (AMO). It was far more noisy than most government consultations on land use planning with buzzers frequently telling table panels when their time was up. The celebratory tone used by the facilitator resembled that of an auctioneer.

Planners from Waterloo Region appeared to attempt to push discussions in a more environmentally sensitive manner, as they alone stressed issues such as climate change and facilitating conservationist land securement.

Most of those in attendance in the forum were municipal planners and planners who work with the land development industry. I appeared to be the only “stakeholder”, to represent an environmental protection group. While a researcher for the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society, (PALS), I seemed to have received the invitation as Chair of the Ontario Chapter of the Sierra Club of Canada.

The forum was the basis for launching a new consultation paper on the Growth Plan. While the Growth Plan according to statute must be reviewed every ten years, from the tenor of the discussions at the Forum, it is clear that the time involved in making changes will be less than that. It may take place after two additional consultation meetings in less than a year.

The disturbing aspects of the proposals in the documents are found in the area termed “Settlement Area Boundary Expansions.” These are not explicitly termed government proposals, but more ambiguously called “What we Heard From You” and “What Some of You Proposed.”

Under “What we Heard From You”, the paper wrote the following. “The new criteria and process for justifying a settlement boundary expansion are seen as overly focused on process rather than outcome (e.g. Specifying the number of studies required) and that there are concerns about how long it could take to make new land available for development.”

Under “What Some of You Proposed”, two quite specific proposals are put forward. The first is that, “The process for settlement boundary expansions should be streamlined.” The second is that, “There e the opportunity for some settlement area boundary expansions to occur in between municipal comprehensive review cycles (subject to criteria).”

The proposal that settlement boundary expansions take place sooner than the five year comprehensive review cycle is the most troublesome of those unveiled at the Forum. A major reform in land use planning initiated 15 years ago through changes to the Planning Act and the Provincial Policy Statement n (PPS), was that urban boundary expansions can only be made through a five year comprehensive review. Before this long overdue reform, there was land use planning chaos on the urban fringe. After quite detailed scrutiny through expert testimony and hearings by the Ontario Municipal Board, (OMB), urban boundary expansions that had been debated for decades could suddenly be reversed through a new application. Then the process would start all over again the hope of being heard by a favourable OMB hearing officer.

Ominous darkness in forest reflects gloomy prospect of Municipal Bar (lawyers) demanding repeal of Bill 137 so they can revive bad song and dance of cross examination of experts in hearings. Photo by Martin Munoz, Thundering Water Forest.

A basic principle of the Growth Plan is that is intended to have a land use planning system for the high growth pressure area of the Greater Golden Horseshoe which is more restrictive than the minimal standards of the Planning Act and its PPS. To change this reality would be to dissolve the Growth Plan.

There would be no sense in having a Growth Plan that is more permissive in terms of urban boundary expansions than the Planning Act and the PPS. It would also be a signal for a corrosive change to the Planning Act and the PPS. Sprawl would spread like cancer across Ontario.

Compounding the proposed Provincial government changes at the Forum, were comments from developers and municipal planners .These were made both from the various tables and at the end in ten -second clips which were termed quick comments for the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

A frightening array of suggestions were made by Forum participants. One was to abolish the Niagara Escarpment Commission. (NEC). Such “sun-setting” was suggested as well as a ten second Ministerial plea that the Escarpment Plan be administered by municipalities.

There was no opportunity in the Forum to illustrate the problems of municipal administration of Greenbelt rules in the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Protected Countryside of the Greenbelt, such as illegal dumping, which on the Escarpment Plan area is corrected through NEC clean up orders. Also the much greater success in extending forest cover in the Escarpment Plan area through the NEC plan administration than the rest of the Greenbelt was ignored.

Another call by developers’ agents was the repeal of Bill 137, which created the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal. (LPAT) There was a lament for the supposed good old days of the OMB, claiming the new system gave less weight to expert witnesses. Such claims ignored how the major reform in the LPAT process is the abolition of cross examination of experts. This will reduce the role of lawyers, not experts. The Forum strongly reflected the views powerful special interest group known as the Municipal Bar.

Another cry was raised that the “White Belt” lands adjacent to the Greenbelt be given a new status in a revised Growth Plan. It was urged that these lands be formally designated as an “Urban Reserve”. This would have quite negative impacts of encouraging severe storm water pollution from rapid urbanization of these lands, which are primarily, Class One and Two agricultural lands. Development here could seriously degrade the Don, Humber, Rouge, the Credit, and Carruthers Creek.

The most worrisome Forum calls, were the advocacy of wetland offsetting and a greater role for Conservation Authorities in land use planning. Efforts by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority to do this have been recently condemned by the Ontario Auditor General. Her report noted that their studies to justify offsetting at Thundering Waters in Niagara Falls (now under appeal by the author of this article) lacked any field research.

What makes the call for considering wetland offsetting so outrageous is that it was made after the disastrous impact of the Houston USA Flood, where its death toll was intensified by the paving over of previously protected wetlands through offsets. Most of these offsets were outright fraud. Monies for offsets were largely paid to firms to design recreated wetlands, which were never actually constructed.

Buzz bells do not generate good policy. If there is are to be any revisions to the Growth Plan, it should be done only after studies are published which do not currently exist. These should look at matters such as the existing capacity of urban boundaries, and the potential harm that could be triggered by the actual urbanization of the White Belt lands.

Falls development appealed by Allan Benner, The St. Catharines Standard

An important statement of John Bacher’s standing as a preeminent environmentalist:

 

The St. Catharines Standard
August 23, 2018

Falls development appealed
Letters from ministry never reached council, says environmentalist
Allan Benner


This is an aerial view concept drawing showing the pedestrian lifestyle centre proposed for GR (CAN) Investment Co. Ltd.’s development adjacent to Thundering Waters Golf Club in Niagara Falls. – Special to The Niagara Falls Review

An environmentalist is appealing a decision by Niagara Falls city council in support of a controversial $1.5-billion mixed-use development, while councillors who opposed the May 8 decision are crying foul — claiming information from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry was withheld from them.

Longtime Niagara environmentalist John Bacher has filed an appeal with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, citing inconsistencies between the city’s official plan amendments and provincial policies concerning provincially significant wetlands and wildlife habitat located at the site of the Riverfront Community development formerly known as Thunder Waters.

Despite the opposition to the official plan amendment, Niagara Falls planning director Alex Herlovitch said there’s still a great deal to do before any work begins on the massive development.

He said the official plan amendment outlines the requirements for any future planning applications, such as rezoning, subdivision, condominium and site plan agreements.

“It’s a policy document that they adopted, and whether it’s this developer or any other developer working on plans in the Riverfront Community, they would have to abide by the rules,” Herlovitch said. “There’s a whole series of further reports, applications and decisions that council will have to make before any shovel goes in the ground.”

Meanwhile, he said the wetlands on the site will not be affected.

“There is no development in the wetlands. Those have all been protected by the amendment that council adopted in May.”

Bacher, however, said official plans provide overall guidance for future development, and should protect environmentally sensitive areas from development rather than finding ways to permit it.

They are intended to address “big issues, like what should be safe for nature and what you can build on,” he said.

“It should be addressed in the official plan stage.”

He was also concerned that two letters regarding the development, sent from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to city planning staff on Dec. 11 and Jan. 15 were never provided to councillors.

Bacher said he provide councillors with copies of the letters himself, but that was on Aug. 7 — months after council voted 6-2 in favour of the official plan amendments to allow the project to move forward.

Herlovitch said a letter from the MNRF dated April 30 was provided to councillors at the meeting. But he said the previous correspondence was not provided to councillors because it included MNRF concerns about environmental impact studies that had already been addressed.

He said the letters from December and January were written in response to environmental impact studies, and “many of the concerns of those letters were already addressed.”

Herlovitch said remaining concerns were addressed through 27 recommended changes to policies.

Nevertheless, learning about the missing documents came as a shock to Coun. Wayne Campbell, who joined Coun. Carolynn Ioannoni as the only two councillors who voted against the official plan amendment during the May 8 meeting.

“This was, I felt, very important information,” Campbell said. “It’s unbelievable. I was really taken aback.”

Ioannoni said just the information in the MNRF’s April 30 letter was enough for her to oppose the amendment.

Herlovitch dismissed the concerns as politicking.

“It sounds like grandstanding to me by people who wish to be re-elected in October,” he said.

He said the letters from December and January were written in response to environmental impact studies, and “many of the concerns of those letters were already addressed.”

Herlovitch said remaining concerns were addressed through 27 recommended changes to policies that were being presented by the developer.

He said he couldn’t speculate on whether the vote might have been different if council had access to the earlier correspondence.

Coun. Joyce Morocco said the documents likely wouldn’t have changed her mind.

“Based on the information, I don’t believe it would have changed my decision. We can’t land-lock all of that land,” she said.

Morocco said she also made it clear to the developer that if all 27 recommendations are not met, “then don’t bother coming back.”

“It’s really a tough balance when you have people coming in that have invested and bought private land — it’s not that it was city-owned — it was private land and the intention was to develop,” she said.

Environmentalist Owen Bjorgan said the letters list numerous concerns about the development, including the presence of provincially rare vegetation and threatened wildlife.

“The ministry is still saying, for a variety of scientific reasons and concerns, this development is not ready to go through,” he said. “This is the province using real science, attempting to tell Niagara Falls city council about a major land use change.”

Bjorgan, who has been publicly opposed to the project for the past several years, said the MNRF letters point out discrepancies between scientific data and information provided within the developer’s environmental impact study.

Some discrepancies have not been addressed.

For instance, he said the MNFR pointed out that peer-reviewed scientific literature show bat species found in the area “have a very high level of specific site selection,” which contradicts information in the study.

Allan.Benner@niagaradailies.com
905-225-1629 | @abenner1

https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news-story/8857406-falls-development-appealed/

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