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.

905-225-1629 | @abenner1






Natives Are Defending Ontario Forests, John Bacher PhD and Danny Beaton

Another original article by Dr. John Bacher:


March 21, 2017


Natives Are Defending Ontario Forests

Dr. John Bacher (PhD) and Danny Beaton



(l) Dr. John Bacher and Danny Beaton, Niagara Council 2016, Photo: Carla Carlson


Our Mother Earth is protectively robed in a cloak of beautiful forests, but in southern Ontario they are threatened by urban sprawl. Most of the remaining forests away from the northern taiga bogs and the rocky Canadian Shield are wetlands that farmers have gained the wisdom to understand are unsuitable for agriculture. These vital wildlife refuges are now threatened by a policy review that has escaped coverage in the mainstream media, outside of the Niagara Region.

The cornerstone of public policy in Ontario, whose concepts have emerged from the United States’ Clean Water Act and subsequent battles by environmentalists in the courts, is protected achieved from the wetland policy mandated in 1992. It was achieved following a process triggered by the New Democratic Party, (NDP) government of Ontario, initiated by the previous Liberal government.

The core of the wetland policy is that once it achieved a scoring of 600 points, a wetland is considered “provincially significant”, and therefore legally prohibited from development and what is technically termed, “site alteration.” Apart from having plant species that thrive in wet environments, what pushes generally the point score to the needed threshold is the presence of species at risk.

The wetland policy was one of the achievements by the NDP government when it was intensively consulting with native peoples on needed environmental reforms. During this time the respected Iroquois Confederacy Chief, Arnie General, would complain about the need for better mileage allowances, although he tried to economize through getting around in a mini two seat car.

During the early 1990s when the wetland policy was being developed Danny Beaton a Mohawk of the Turtle Clan, worked closely with General and other environmentally concerned native leaders such as Norm Jacobs. This experience stood put him in a good position, when in 2015 brave public servants sent alarm signals privately to environmentalists that two disturbing changes in public policy were being made to open up southern Ontario’s wetland forests to developers.

The two changes that were being proposed to open the gates to developers were to the Conservation Authorities Act and the Provincial Wetland policy. Currently wetlands are evaluated by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. (MNRF). The policy change was to change the Conservation Authorities Act to permit the staff of municipally appointed Conservation Authorities, subject to influence from developers, to evaluate wetlands. The other change was to allow currently protected provincially significant wetlands through having them destroyed by developers if compensation in the form of what was called in a provincial consultation paper, “bio-diversity offsetting”, was made.

In September 2015 Beaton journeyed to Newmarket, where the consultation on the Conservation Authorities Act was taking place with environmental groups. Beaton’s inspiring words denouncing the firing of conservation authority staff who had worked to protect wetlands woke up the environmentalists present. This discrediting of proposed alterations to the conservation legislation had the impact of developers putting even more pressure on the province to implement bi-diversity offsetting.

Developers targeted the 500 acre Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Falls for what they termed a “pilot project” in bio-diversity offsetting. The old growth predominately oak forest is a refuge for a number of endangered species. These include three species of bats, the rare Black Gum, the Wood Thrush, Acadian Flycatcher, Chimney Swift, Monarch Butterfly, the Nine Spotted Lady Beetle and the Snapping Turtle. The forest is rich in vernal pools that provide critical habitat for obligate species, such as the Blue Spotted Salamander, and the Wood, Chorus and Grey Tree Frogs. It also contains rare Buttonbush and Rufous Bullrush communities.

On April 12 Beaton went to the Niagara Falls City Council to rescue the threatened Thundering Waters Forest. He spoke about the dangerous precedent that was attempted to be set at Thundering Waters, which could spread destruction to forests throughout Ontario.

Danny speaks about the sacredness of Creation and Mother Earth at Niagara Falls City Hall Council, 2016, Photo: Sandy Devih Heeralal

Beaton’s words helped to inspire an Oneida resident of Niagara Falls, Karl Dockstader. He mobilized his extended family in Niagara Falls to take part in the struggle to save the Thundering Waters Forest. Dockstader also subsequently played a major role in mobilizing native leaders in the struggle on both sides of the Niagara River.

Dockstader played a key role in organizing on July 7, 2016 in front of the City Hall of Niagara Falls a rally by the Indigenous Solidarity Coalition of Niagara. Here native leaders who took part included Celeste Smith, Allan Jamieson, Lester Green and Kelly Frantastic Davis.  Smith, who is of the Wolf Clan of the Oneida of Grand River, called for a “moratorium on the development of the Thundering Waters Forest until a clear, transparent, public process can decisively establish a full social, environmental and economic benefit of this forest remaining completely intact.”

In his many writings in defense of the Thundering Waters Forest Dockstader penned the moving essay, the “Life Cycle of a Niagara White Oak Tree.” The essay is a tribute to the tallest and oldest tree discovered in the threatened forest. It is estimated by an expert, a Mohawk ecologist of the Turtle Clan, Dr. Barry Warner, to be 250 years old.

Dockstader wrote how, “Almost 250 years ago then Superintendent of Indian Affairs William Johnson stood only a few miles” from the now great oak, when it was just a seedling. Then in the Treaty of Niagara of 1763 Dockstader explains, Johnson “planted the seeds for a covenant of peace that became formative in the country now called Canada. This agreement, the Treaty of Niagara, which came on the heels of the Royal Proclamation, laid the foundation to formalize the importance of Niagara as a traditional land of peace, strength and integrity. Johnson understood better than any of his contemporaries that the only path to peace was by including the principles of people original to the land. Those legally affirmed principles of land stewardship-such as equal access to resources like water and air for all living things-now tower over the Western cultural appetite for endless exponential growth.”

Beaton and Dockstader woke up the residents of Niagara and a few leaders of environmental group. It is to be hoped that their message of the urgency to protect threatened forested wetlands and the wildlife that they depend on is heard more widely.

For The Sake Of What’s Left Of Niagara’s Natural Heritage, Have Your Say On Reforming the Ontario Municipal Board

Another original article by Dr. John Bacher, first published by Niagara At Large:

For The Sake Of What’s Left Of Niagara’s Natural Heritage, Have Your Say On Reforming the Ontario Municipal Board
OMB Consultation Is Underway – Here’s How You Can Get Involved In Making The OMB Process More Responsive To Conservation Concerns
A Call-Out from Niagara, Ontario conservationist John Bacher

Between now and December 19th, the Ontario government is engaged in a review of the role of the Ontario Municipal Board. (OMB).


Niagara conservationist John Bacher stands under a giant white oak tree in the Thundering Waters Forest area now being eyed by developers and some Niagara politicians for urban sprawl – a matter that might one day be decided at an Ontario Municipal Board meeting.

Appealing to the OMB is the only way to reverse the decision of an elected municipal council on a land use planning matter. Over the years this has involved decisions on the protection of the unique Niagara Fruit Belt and threatened forests.

The most important training of my life under the guidance of two thoughtful role models, Mel Swart and Robert Hoover, was to develop an appreciation of the role of the OMB in protecting the environment.

Although cynics may dismiss the OMB’s role as a haven for high priced lawyers and consultants, I can show you amazing orchards and forests which would not be here today had not it been used successfully to defend Mother Earth.

Shortly after their election victory, the Ontario Liberals made an important reform to the OMB. This is outlined on page 16 of the government’s discussion document, “Review of the Ontario Municipal Board.” (This 35-page report can be downloaded from the website of the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing)

On page 16 of the report the exact wording of the big reform of 2005 of no former Premier Dalton McGuinty is described. This is that, “Refusals and non-decisions on applications for urban boundary expansions” can no longer be appealed to the OMB by developers.

For the land use planning novice, the wording on page 16 may appear to be odd or confusing. What it means simply speaking, is that if a municipal council has the guts to stand up to a powerful developer and their minions, their decision concerning protecting farmland and rural forests stands.

The obvious way to strengthen the land use planning decision is to extend the big reform of the OMB made in 2005 to cover all of what Ontario land use policy terms, “The Core Natural Heritage System.” This would in essence protect forests both within and outside urban boundaries.

Right now the City Councilors in Niagara Falls sitting on the fence over the fate of the Thundering Waters Forest are using the pretext of a possible costly OMB appeal to justify their sitting on the fence. Let us hope that through this review of the OMB, the provincial government has the guts to pull this fig leaf away.

To get involved in the reform of the OMB you can do it in two ways. One is by sending an email to OMBreview@ontario.ca The other is to comment through the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights, (EBR) registry. This can be done by searching the registry number 102-7196, on the website – Ontario.ca/EBR.

John Bacher is a veteran conservationist in Niagara, Ontario and is the Chair of Greening Niagara

For more on Greening Niagara click on – http://www.greeningniagara.ca/

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

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

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(l): Dr. Bacher and DannyBeaton. Photos by Les Stewart, SpringwaterParkcc.org

An original article from Dr. John Bacher: (pdf)

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.”
20150926 470Posted on SpringwaterParkcc.org and iLoveMidhurst.ca.

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