An orginal article by Dr. John Bacher:
April 18, 2018
Dr. John Bacher
There is now a push by GR Canada Limited by get approval for “The Riverfront Community”, in the heart of rare and ecologically diverse Carolinian wildlife habitat in Niagara Falls. This threatened life zone has come to be known through a decade of struggle to rescue it from backhoes as the Thundering Waters Forest.
GR Canada is focused now on a May 8 Public Meeting under the Planning Act. This spectacle is expected to trigger a few weeks later an approval by Niagara Falls City Council of Amendment 117 of their official plan.
GR Canada’s “expert” advisors are seeking to prove that 11.6 hectares of what are now defined as Environmental Conservation Areas, (ECAs) are dead and dying forests. They claim these ECA forests mapped over a decade ago by the Niagara Region have become dominated by dead and and dying Green Ash trees, and Buckthorn. Savanata, GR Canada’s ecological consultants, claim that the ECA lands free of the Buckthorn blight are so tiny in scale that they cannot be mapped.
Savanta is so blind to anything but ash and buckthorn that it cannot make exceptions for ECA lands that have been identified as a Bat Mater Colony. There are three Endangered Bat species, which the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MRNF) believe may root here. The right type of locations need to be selected so that the sound based (acoustic) instruments can record bats during their short roosting period from June 1 to June 30th. Bats require forests of mature or dead trees, notably oak, hickory and maple. They also benefit from oak lives. Ash trees do not assist in their roosting.
GR Canada is seeking to rush for approval before the bat studies are undertaken within Riverfront. Its consultants, the Niagara Planning Group, says that if the bats are found after Amendment 117 is approved the impacted areas can be protected through a Holding Zoning designation.
The ECA Polygon where bats may roost is termed Polygon B, (FOD7-3). Savanta’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) indicates that such designations are living deciduous (leafy) forests. The term FOD means Fresh (dry, or non-wetland) Forests. While not mapped as a viable ECA area by Savanata its own test plots here for forest health reveal Polygon B is thriving. Here test plot Number 14 is given a green dot- the symbol of a healthy forest.
Savanta’s willful blindness has impaired its sight to be unable to see the oak, hickories and maples among the dead ash and living buckthorn. It admits there are healthy Cottonwood and Sliver Maple dominated forests on other ECA lands. I saw such forests near a sinkhole where a brook flows underground just outside Riverfront’s boundaries. Above it soars a tall Eastern Cottonwood. While withdrawn from Riverfront after the sinkhole’s discovery, these lands, vulnerable to collapse and ground water pollution, are still proposed through arrows in Amendment 117’s land use schedule for a future road.
GR Canada is pushing for a public meeting before MNRF is scheduled to undertake three wetland evaluations in the summer. These wetlands are proposed by Amendment 117 as the site of a future collector road, residential development and “mixed use”. (ie. potential shopping center)
The Public Meeting will also be held before the permitting process is conducted for an Endangered Species which has summer roosting habitat in Riverfront, the Barn Swallow. It thrives on the insect rich Hawthorn dominated lands which occupy most of the land within Riverfront. Unlike surrounding farmlands, these Hawthorn fields have not been poisoned by agricultural chemicals, fatal to Barn Swallows. If the amendment is approved before the permitting process is completed this unusual Hawthorn habitat be be eliminated through the “authorized destruction” provisions of the Endangered Species Act.
With the planned Public Meeting not having the needed information to inform the public on what Riverfront may do-let us pray that it will be canceled by Niagara Falls Council until further notice.