Sacred Farmland/Aquifers article: The Midhurst Secondary Plan = monstrous developers’ greed + ecocidal idiocy

Part 1 and 2 of a devastating critique of this grotesque sprawl proposal in Simcoe County.

Danny Beaton John Bacher Niagara

An excellent summary published by the Springwater News (p. 6) of the lunacy of the Midhurst Secondary Plan: a desecration of Mother Earth and her creation.  Click here for a free pdf download.

Sacred Farmland/Aquifers

Elder Danny Beaton and Dr. John Bacher

Few Canadians know or appreciate the watershed of Midhurst’s Willow Creek, which while marvelous in itself as a wildlife migration corridor and a template for wise ecological recovery, is even more important for its downstream outlet, the Minesing Wetlands. The Minesing Wetlands provides a sense of the beauty and sacredness of an environment guarded by native peoples since the retreat of glaciers over 10,000 years ago. This wonder, however, is now at risk from the massive urban sprawl blessed by the monstrosity called the Midhurst Secondary Plan. The Willow Creek watershed is on the eve of becoming the focal point for bitter battles over subdivision proposals at the Ontario Municipal Board. (OMB)

The Minesing Wetlands which Willow Creek feeds is Ontario’s Lost World. The famous fictional book and movie, which imagined explorers deep in the Amazon discovering giant species from a distant past, approximates the reality of this 6,000 hectare refuge for native species. It gives a glimpse of what Ontario was like before the ecocidal invasion of what is now our province by Euro-Canadians.

The word Minesing in Ojibway language means island. This illustrates how it is a haven for wildlife in a denuded and biologically sterile environment, at risk of being washed over by shock waves of urban sprawl unleashed by a storm of developers’ greed.

Minesing is the last home for entire ecological communities in Ontario, such as the Burr Oak and Hackberry swamp forests. Such ecosystems are a refuge for rare plants as the Beaked Spice-Bush and the Eastern Prairie and White Fingered Orchids. Minesing has southern Ontario’s largest Fen, providing refuge for the rare Least Bittern. Its large expanse of forest makes it a breeding home for the Threatened Cerulean Warbler. Careful documentation has found that 135 species of birds nest in the Minesing Wetlands.

The Minesing Wetlands provides nesting places for some of the most spectacular birds to be found in Ontario, such as the Bald Eagle, Trumpeter Swan and Sandhill Crane. The two heronies of this refuge are the oldest documented breeding grounds for the Great Blue Heron in Ontario. Minesing has a breeding colony for the threatened Black Tern. One of the biggest and most threatened fish in Ontario, the Lake Sturgeon, swims through the wetlands. While the Snapping and Painted Turtle are abundant here, it is also a refuge for threatened Wood, Map and Blanding’s Turtle. It is a staging post for the return of the river otter to southern Ontario. It mingles with another restored shaper of wetlands, the beaver, and the muskrat.

While the big birds, fish, reptiles and mammals of the Lost World of Minesing are impressive, the glory of the wildlife refuge is its being a haven for threatened insects. The wetland is so vast and formidable that it was never burnt out and subsequently farmed, like the ecologically restored, but originally once desertified landscape of Willow Creek around Midhurst. Now insects are threatened by agricultural pesticides. These are not used in a refuge which is controlled by public agencies and the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Minesing is haven for the rare Giant Swallowtail Butterfly. It is the largest Butterfly that lives in Canada. It is most significant for being the only place in Canada where an Endangered Species, Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly lives. It was thought to have been extirpated from Canada, but was discovered here in 2007 and listed as Threatened in 2012. It is also Endangered in the United States. The nearest population of this species is 180 kilometres away in Michigan.

Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly endangered status in both the United States and Canada is illustrative of the idiocy of European colonization and exploitation. This did not take place through the rigours of contemporary environmental reviews. It survived in Minesing since the tough wetland was too difficult and wet to be burned away, like the surrounding source contributor of Willow Creek. Its forest were burned away for ashes to make soap. The species has quite exacting needs for its survival. These were only discovered in recent decades by scientists working to rescue the shining emerald green dragonfly from extinction.

Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly is what scientists in the last forty years have become to appreciate as a vernal pool obligate species. Vernal pools are specialized environments that dry up usually by August. They provide habitat for tree frog species, such as Wood and Spring Peeper Frogs, which in the early spring, turn Minesing into an astonishing symphony of musical calls. During the late summer when the pools usually dry up, Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly survives by crawling into damp excavations made by crayfish.

The Willow Creek watershed that pours its flow into Minesing, had its population of Hine’s Emerald dragonfly wiped out by Euro-Canadian invaders. By 1900 most of the land here had been stripped of forests and degraded to marching sand dunes that threatened to bury Barrie, as they had done to an earlier seat of Simcoe County, Angus. However, through determined political leadership, guided by expert scientific advice. this was reversed. The lessons of history are now being ignored however. The watershed of Willow Creek, once buried by sand from burning trees, is now at risk of being covered
over by the cement of sprawl.

In October of 1905 the future Premier of Ontario, Ernest Drury, and the future Chief Forester of Ontario, Edmund Zavitz, went on a tour of the sand dunes of Simcoe County. While walking through the desert they came upon an important contributor to Willow Creek, a bubbling spring. With an abundant aquifer of pure clean water, similar to that which spawned the struggle to stop Dump Site 41, lead by Danny Beaton, (Mohawk Turtle Clan) Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians, Stephen Odgen and Elizabeth May, they decided that the spring provided an excellent place for a tree nursery to reforest the spreading desert. This nursery eventually become the 192 hectare Springwater Provincial Park. The park became a staging place for the reintroduction of the Trumpter Swan and Beaver, which now restored, thrive in nearby Minesing.

The battle to rescue Springwater Provincial Park from closure is illustrative of the difficult struggle ahead to stop sprawl in Midhurst. Following closure a year round Objiway struggle led by Beth Elson of occupation followed. It eventually, successfully resulted in the park being reopened under an arrangement between the provincial government and the Beausoleil First Nation.

Springwater Park is only one example of how Willow Creek watershed has benefitted from one of the most massive efforts at ecological restoration in Ontario. It has 21 Simcoe County Forests, which restored 2,039 hectares of blow sand wastes. The forested corridor along Willow Creek is substantial enough to provide a migration corridor for daring bear and moose to enter Minesing. This corridor could expand if it was properly protected from sprawl. The landscape is now an excellent example of how nature and agriculture can co-exist well, with an astonishing mosaic of Class One farmland and interconnected and slowly growing forests. The forests are especially thick in protecting Willow Creek and its tributaries.

The wonders of the struggles of ecological protection and restoration of the past are now threatened by the sinister prescriptions of the Midhurst Secondary Plan. As it stands currently, the plan calls for the construction of 10,000 housing units enough for 30,000 people, on +1,000 acres of the Class One and Two farmlands in the Willow Creek watershed. This will have an enormous environmental impact. Storm water will be dumped, laced with road salt, oil and other toxins into Willow Creek and eventually into Minesing. Building on top of the aquifer that provides recharge water discharged into the Minesing wetland, will also help to dry it up.

The struggle that stopped Dump Site 41 gives an appreciation of the magnitude of the effort to rescue Willow Creek and Minesing. The public servants who attempt to guide the provincial politicians with ecological folly know that it is folly to permit sprawl in Midhurst. The Growth Plan that is supposed to
guide land use planning in the most rapidly growing part of southern Ontario, originally attempted to confine urban growth in the Simcoe County region to the current municipal borders of Barrie. This would have kept sewage pollution out of the Minesing wetland.

The Growth Plan’s provisions were not changed on any rational basis, but simply to bow to potential developers. An aroused Ontario public would convince provincial politicians to listen to their land use planning advisors to impose a Ministerial Zoning Order under the Planning Act, to stop sprawl in Midhurst.

Part 1 and 2, published June 1st 15th.

Elder Danny Beaton, Mohawk Turtle Clan is an internationally recognized protector of Mother Earth. Dr. John Bacher is a researcher for the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society (PALS). Danny and John were central in the successful defense of Dump Site 41 and the Mega-Quarry in Melancthon, ON and denying the residential development of Springwater Provincial Park. They continue as important members of the Advisory Council of the Midhurst-based Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition.

Patrick Brown’s Empathy for Fellow Conservatives Beats That Of Natural World, Dr. John Bacher

Another original article by Dr. John Bacher, first published by Mediacoop.ca:

The Media Co-op
April 21, 2017

Patrick Brown’s Empathy for Fellow Conservatives Beats That Of Natural World
Dr. John Bacher

Ontario Conservative Leader Patrick Brown who is riding high in the public opinion polls to become the next Premier of Ontario, in on July 25, 2016 made a disturbing remarks regarding empathy. It was addressed to the Flamborough Chamber of Commerce. The speech was made at a business round table held at the Dutch Mill County Market, in Millgrove.

Flamborough is a quaint rural community of the City of Hamilton. Its landscape of forests and farms, a green island of the greater Toronto region. It is also home to the African Lion Safari, where visitors drive in cars for animal viewing through a predominately forested landscape.

Flamborough’ s bucolic landscape of pastures and forests near the spectacular waterfalls of the Niagara Escarpment, is the actual location for the dramas of the television episodes of the The Road to Avonlea. Most of the various CBC recreations of the pastoral celebrations of rural life in Prince Edward Island were filmed in here in Westfield Pioneer Village in the heart of Ontario’s Greenbelt.

Premier Mike Harris Announcing Mid-Peninsula Expressway.

A lot of effort by ecological restorationists and conservationists has been put into making the beauty landscapes of Flamborough celebrated in the CBC’s pastoral epic dramas. The most revealing aspect of this reality is seen in by one of Anne’s favourite forested paths. It is goes through an ecological restoration planting of coniferous trees. Such evergreen plantings were typically used to bring desertified landscapes, scarred by deforestation and resulting blow sands, back to life.

Like television viewers in awe thinking they are seeing Prince Edward Island rather than the Greenbelt in the City of Hamilton, few appreciate the wonders of rural Ontario’s rural landscape. This problem emerged in the Flamborough venue where Ontario’s Premier in waiting, discussed reviving the mid-peninsula expressway. He also denounced plans to double to size of Ontario’s Greenbelt.

The Greenbelt is quite connected to the path that Anne took through the restored evergreens that launched the Anne of Green Gables series. It ensures that the former desert landscape brought back to life by the massive plantings of evergreens, is not destroyed by the concrete wasteland of sprawl. Now there is a serious danger that protections for the Greenbelt lands around Hamilton, including Rockton, may be weakened by the easing on restrictions of expansions of rural hamlets.

Path in Restored Forest in Westview Pioneer Village Used in Road From Avonlea.

Many hoped that when Brown became PC leader he would bury the support for the mid-Niagara Peninsula Expressway. Unpopular in Burlington (Click here for the video of Stop The Escarpment Highway Coalition campaign.), where it would cut through the Niagara Escarpment near majestic Mount Nemo, it is beloved by Conservative politicians and activists in Flamborough, rural Hamilton, and throughout the Niagara Region. The City of Hamilton and Niagara Regional Council dominated by activists in the Conservative Party have been chronically calling for the construction of the mid-peninsula expressway since the early 1990s.

In his speech to the Flamborough Chamber of Commerce, Brown stressed that the need to review the cancellation of the mid-Peninsula expressway by the Liberal government. He promised it would be “very seriously studied” by a Conservative government lead by him.

The mid-peninsula expressway’s cancellation followed a long environmental assessment imposed by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, in response to a cased brought by the City of Burlington. In reviving the debate, Brown stressed the need for “empathy for the advocacy” done for the expressway by past Conservative leaders, notably his predecessor, Tim Hudack.

King Farm Vulnerable to Mid-Pen Expressway.

Empathy is an important word. It means being deeply connected to others. Such bonding applies to both people and the natural word. It can mean a loving caring attitude towards human beings and a deep bond with the natural world. Brown’s concept of empathy however, is quite disturbing.

Brown’s empathy is reminiscent of what during the Soviet Union during the 1970s was termed the “era of stagnation.” This was formulated by the expression, “respect for cadres”- meaning the ruling elite of the Communist Party. For Brown empathy means feeling for past Conservatives defending an expressway through the rural heart of Niagara, across the Niagara Escarpment and the enchanted rural green landscapes loved by millions of television viewers.

What makes Brown’s empathetic defense of the mid-peninsula expressway for his fellow PC politicians is that it collides with empathy for the wildlife that could be killed by the project. My concern for the importance of empathy increased through my participation as a member of the Community Advisory Group, (CAG) on the mid-peninsula expressway. ( by this time it had been re-branded as the Niagara GTA West Corridor)

Flamborough landscape vulnerable to expressway path.

The CAG group on the NGTA corridor found a lot of technical reasons to stop the mid-peninsula expressway. One was the realization, drawn to our attention by a Professor of Engineering of McMaster University, Robert Korol, that the capacity of existing expressways can be increased by stacking them. (putting lanes on top). Another was declining motor vehicle use by youth. One of the biggest issues was how good local transportation strategies could reduce clogging the Queen Elizabeth Highway in peak periods.

While technical considerations ultimately prevailed in the CAG forums, what proved to me to be most convincing was empathy. What pained me the most was an experienced when through a last minute cancellation of a ride share, I was forced to travel via taxi from my home in St. Catharines to the CAG meeting in Grimsby.

On the way the taxi driver told me of his horrible experiences during the first couple of weeks of the operation of the Red Hill Creek Expressway. What erupted was a terrible wildlife slaughter. For him it was particularly upsetting to see all the dead deer killed in collisions. He assumed that the road kill horror show ended only after all the wildlife that might cross the expressway had been killed.

Flamborough Farm Near Route of Expressway.

For me empathy regarding the mid-peninsula expressway concerns feeling the pain of the wildlife that may be killed by it. For Brown, it seems to be honouring his fellow Conservative politicians who are immune to it.

Click here for the Mid-Peninsula Transportation Corridor backgrounder proposal.

Reproduced with permission. JohnBacherPhD.ca

Thundering Waters issue, Niagara Falls

Thundering Waters Mini-Rally

Click here for 14:43 video: https://www.periscope.tv/uuangelak/1yNGanjAaNXJj?t=11s

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Niagara Falls Council meeting

Click here for 19:22 video: https://www.periscope.tv/uuangelak/1nAKEDPDqAvxL?t=3m11s

 

 

Niagara Region Again Attempts to Trigger Sprawl, Dr. John Bacher

Another original article by Dr. John Bacher, first published by Mediacoop.ca:

Dr. John Bacher
March 30, 2017

Niagara Region Again Attempts to Trigger Sprawl

Immediately following failed attempts to trigger urban sprawl by a court appeal and numerous amendments to the Niagara Escarpment Plan, Niagara’s politicians have taken a new course. This came in the form of a request on March 2, 2017, from the Niagara Regional Council to ask the Ontario government to amend its Growth Plan as part of the ongoing Coordinated Review of four provincial land use plans. The proposed changes in the Growth Plan would permit what are in effect urban boundary changes through the creation of “Special Policy Areas”.

600 year old Black Gum Tree near Queen Elizabeth Highway. – Photo credit: Nate Torenvliet

These Special Policy Areas would all be in the Ontario municipalities of Thorold, Welland, Niagara Falls, Fort Erie and Port Colborne. The motion attempts to resurrect a scheme from four years ago to promote urban sprawl through an extension of the urban service boundary along the Queen Elizabeth Highway (QEW) through currently-agriculturally designated lands in southern Niagara Falls. This was supported by the City of Niagara Falls. But the proposal was dropped in order to secure provincial support for the establishment of the Niagara Regional Official Plan of a “Gateway” economic zone.

Waverly Forest, Niagara Falls – Photo credit: Nate Torenvliet

The farmlands in southern Niagara Falls adjacent to the QEW are intertwoven in a mosaic with provincially significant wetlands, including a unusual forest, the Waverly Woodlot. It contains the most ancient tall old growth forests in Canada, a rare tract of Black Gum Trees, the oldest of which is 600 years old. It also has important rare Buttonbush communities, which provide habitat for a regionally rare beautiful bird, the Wood Duck.

Agricultural groups had opposed the urban expansions of the “Gateway” in the past, but the Niagara Region removed these objections through a “stakeholder” consultation in which environmental groups were excluded. In a report titled DPS-18-2017 the Niagara Region’s Planning Department justified the proposed “Special Policy Areas” as part of a more “sophisticated” approach to land use planning which avoid restrictive “limiting factors.”

Old growth Black Gum Forest and vernal pool. – Photo credit: Nate Torenvliet

The claims of superior sophistication which justify urban sprawl are belied by a massive land use supply which would not permit urban expansions under the current Growth Plan. In the course of its research for a case resisting urban expansion, the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society (PALS) discovered that there was a larger area for urban development that had not been reported.

Snapping Turtle, Waverly Forest – Photo credit: Nate Torenvliet

Previously it had been believed that the Niagara Region had a 40-year supply of urban developable land. Now, this land supply has been greatly expanded through the victory of the Town of Fort Eire over provincial government through a court battle contesting an 800-acre area known as Douglastown. Although environmentalists had been lulled into not fighting this battle on claims forested lands would be protected, destructive assaults on this important wildlife refuge in Carolinian habitat have already begun.

Black Gum and rare Buttonbush Community. – Photo credit: Nate Torenvliet

In the debate at Niagara Regional Council this month there was only one member, the Mayor of Pelham, Dave Augustyn who voted against the request to the province to amend the Growth Plan. In doing so he cited “the accumulated infrastructure backlog of $545 million just to replace poor and very poor existing pipes and roads.” For the sake of the fragile and unique habitats, it is to be hoped that the Ontario provincial government holds firm in the face of this latest urban sprawl offensive.

Reproduced with permission. JohnBacherPhD.ca

NPCA Pushes Ontario’s Wynne Government For Offsetting of Wetlands Through Hired Lobbyist, Dr. John Bacher

Another original article by Dr. John Bacher, first published by NiagaraAtLarge:

Dr. John Bacher
December 22, 2016

A Lobbyist This Excuse for a Conservation Authority Paid For with OUR MONEY, By The Way!

For the past two years the provincial government has been engaged in a disturbing public consultation.

And while that process of public consultation is now finished, there is internally at the cabinet table of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government at Queen’s Park a major debate, which is expected to be resolved in the first few months of 2017.

The aged wetlands in Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Falls, Ontario – home to a diversity of wildlife – have been a target for something called “biodiversity offsetting” – code for destruction – by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. Will Ontario’s Wynne government give the green light for that destruction to happen?

The Cabinet debate reviewing Ontario’s wetland policy which has been in place since 1992. The current policy which has been respected under New Democratic, Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments for 24 years has as its cornerstone a very important principle.

The big principle is that once deemed provincially significant, wetlands are to be protected period from what the policy terms “site alteration”. What is considered to be significant is a scoring system based on an accumulation of 600 points. Once a wetland has accumulated 600 points it is deemed to be provincially significant.

Growing numbers of Niagara area citizens are protesting further destruction of our wetlands and other natrual heritage.

What gives a place in the natural landscape high points for wetland protection is the presence of rare and endangered species.

Right now this situation is a driving point in the determination of brave public servants (including NPCA field staff in the unfortunate position of having to work for the body’s current managers) to stand up and defend the Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Falls, Ontario from developers’ ill-devised site alteration schemes schemes that could cause about two-thirds of the 500 acre forest to be mowed down for development.

To protect more land based on the habitat of threatened species, a wetland re-evaluation is now underway at the Thundering Waters site.

Three species of endangered bats are believed to have nest roosting in the threatened wetlands’ old growth forests. On this basis a re-evaluation of the ancient forested wetland complex is taking place. Other species at risk in the threatened forest which are being investigated include the Monarch Butterfly, Nine Lined Lady Beetle, the Chimney Swift, Barn Swallow, Eastern Wood Pee Wee and Wood Thrush.

The cabinet of Ontario’s Wynne government is now considering removing protection of provincially significant wetlands through a proposal termed “bio-diversity offsetting.”

What is so disturbing about the reality of the situation today is that while the hard working staff of the Niagara and Peninsula Conservation Authority, (NPCA) and that of the Ministry of Natural Resources carefully examine what species are found in the Thundering Waters Forest, professional lobbyists are at work in the corridors of power at Queens Park to undermine their labours.biodivesity-offsetting-sign

The problem around the lobbying now taking places can be gleaned from a May 20, 2015 report to the Board of Directors of the NPCA. It was submitted to the NPCA board by its then Chief Administrative Officer, Carmen D’ Angelo on May 20, 2015. This document outlined how the firm, Kealy and Associates is to “advance key issues amongst senior levels of government.” (i.e. the province). Among these “key issues” is what this report terms “biodiversity offsetting.”

The D’ Angelo Report, outlining a lobbying strategy to influence the provincial government, suggests that offsetting will serve to “allow specific development on wetlands.” It describes Kealy and Associates as a key agent in persuading the province to permit such development on now protected wetlands. This was proposed to be accomplished through what D’ Angelo termed “additional advocacy and strategy support” in securing such policy change with the provincial government.

On the basis of the publicly revealed D’ Angelo report, access to information requests have been made to the NPCA. These have been refused by the NPCA and the requests are subject to court litigation.

To ensure that wetland policy in Ontario is in fact based on what is truly good science, and not on what the D’ Angelo report terms the lobbying wizardry of a “professional communications firms”, these documents should – in a spirit of true openness and accountability – immediately be released by the NPCA.

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/

Reproduced with permission. JohnBacherPhD.ca

Centennial Gardens Fiendish Deforestation, Dr. John Bacher

Another original article by Dr. John Bacher, first published by Mediacoop.ca:

Dr. John Bacher
March 22, 2017

Trees needlessly felled in St Catherines park

When I intended simply to show my friend Daniel Nardone the wonders of winter waterfowl in St. Catharines’ Centennial Gardens I was given a rude shock.

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

The ducks had been given an eviction notice and there was a tree massacre of colossal scale. There was also bizarre trimming of tree limbs so to make it easier to play what we soon discovered was a sport called Frisbee Golf. The limbs so far at least had no protective measures taken such as special tree paint, to prevent the spread of infections.

Deforested cut trees in Centennial Park. Photo credit: Daniel Nardone

I am familiar with the usual arguments for cutting trees in the Centennial Gardens. One that has been goes that they have to be cut trees to protect sight lines. When trees crowd sight lines, the arguement goes, they make it possible for illegal activity to take place. In this regard, reference is usually made to sex work.

Deforested cut trees in Centennial Park. Photo credit: Daniel Nardone

The matter of tree cutting in the Centennial Gardens discussed in St. Catharines City Council has been reported by the St. Catharines Standard for several years. Until now, the proposals have mercifully been defeated due to budget cuts. When I examined the tree butchery, I could not see any evidence of them being cut to maintain or enhance sight lines.

Deforested cut trees in Centennial Park. Photo credit: Daniel Nardone

Most of the trees cut were adjacent to the Old Welland Canal in the middle of the park, far away from the Gale Crescent site lines. This stream has been identified as fish habitat by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. I have spoken to people who have been able to fish for native fish species, such as Brown Bullhead, in the park. Maintaining the existing tree cover benefits fish habitat by shading the stream.

Deforested cut trees in Centennial Park. Photo credit: Daniel Nardone

While some trees have been cut on the north side of the old canal, more were cut in the intact forest block on the south side. This large block of forest is of sufficient size to provide beneficial habitat for good indicator species of native wildlife, such as the Wild Turkey. Tree cutting should have never taken place here. This area moreover was quite spectacular visually, and a valuable – if under appreciated – asset to our city. While cycling on the path often in the company of my spouse, Mary Lou, I frequently stopped in sheer wonder of the beauty of the place.

Environmentalist Dr. John Backer investigates a large deforested tree stump, of a large mature willow tree that was cut down in Centennial Park, St. Catherines, Ontario. Photo credit: Daniel Nardone

From observation, the trees cut appear to be various species of Willow. It was not possible for me in the surprise encounter without a field guide, to identify which ones were the native Black Willow, or the exotic White and Crack Willows. However, in terms of ecological function, the various willows were doing well before being cut, in places clear cut. They provided shade for the Brown Bullhead and habitat for native species such as the Great Blue Heron and Wild Turkey.

There was one particular area where I found the tree removal to be most offensive. This was an intermittent stream close to where the Old Welland Canal disappears into an underground channel. Trees which once provided shade to this intermittent stream were removed by clear cutting. This removal was especially tragic since this spot should be managed as a vernal pool, with the hope that it would eventually become a valuable amphibian habitat. This area needs to be reforested.

If there are any plans to cut more trees in Centennial Gardens they should be stopped. One good long term principle of management should be that tree cutting in this park should be left to a native species that is found here: the Beaver.

Parks such as the Centennial Gardens with forests providing habitat for forest-interior birds such as the Wild Turkey need to be managed better than this clear-cutting.

Reproduced with permission. JohnBacherPhD.ca

Victory for Farmland and Niagara Escarpment, Dr. John Bacher

Another original article by Dr. John Bacher, first published by Mediacoop.ca:

Dr. John Bacher
March 14, 2017

Victory for Farmland and Niagara Escarpment

Although not captured by the major news media, January 26, 2017, proved to be a great day for stopping urban sprawl in the Niagara Peninsula and on the Niagara Escarpment. In the board room of the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) in Georgetown, ON, and in the Hamilton Court House important decisions were made to protect environmentally and agriculturally significant lands.

Ten Mile Creek Forest – Photo: Mary Lou J. Bacher

In Georgetown, the NEC, as part of its role in the process to amend the Greenbelt Plan as part of what is termed the Coordinated Review of four provincial land use plans, acted in response to 62 proposed amendments to the Niagara Escarpment Plan. On the basis of recommendations from its planning staff the NEC rejected all amendments that involved proposals to urbanize agricultural and natural areas.

Ten Mile Creek Farmland – Photo: Dr. Mike Dickman

While the proposed urban expansions were across the Niagara Escarpment, the most significant proposals were in the City of Niagara Falls, Niagara on the Lake and St. Catharines. It saw these municipalities and the Niagara Region oppose the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society, (PALS), and Jean Grandoni.

One proposed expansion, UA01, proposed that 168 hectares of what is designated in the Niagara Regional Policy Plan as “Good Grape” land be urbanized. Another, UAO4, originally recommended that 121 hectares of Niagara Escarpment forest lands be urbanized. When this proposal was finally rejected by the NEC on January 26th, it had shrunk to 17 hectares of forest on Glendale Road. An earlier proposal for an expansion along Taylor Road had been withdrawn.

In rejecting the proposed expansions, the NEC endorsed criticisms of them by PALS and Jean Grandoni. Regarding UAO1, they noted how the need for any expansion of urban boundaries in the Niagara Region had been earlier rejected by an Ontario Municipal Board decision on March 20, 2015, regarding lands immediately to the south. In its decision the NEC cited PALS’ conclusions regarding UA04 that it served to “seriously degrade the Niagara Escarpment wildlife habitat, with potential for impairing forest interior birds.”

Also on January 26, 2017, Justice J. Parayeski of the Ontario Superior Court struck a major blow against urban sprawl attempts by the City of Niagara Falls, the Region and development-minded landowners. This ruling, which rejects an attempt by the City of Niagara Falls to overturn a decision of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), NEC cited in its decision to curb sprawl, which will encourage protection of the unique agricultural area between Niagara Falls and Thorold and between the Escarpment and the Welland River. In addition, its precious Carolinian landscape gets another chance.

In the l960’s, the Niagara Escarpment Commission wanted to protect all of this area due to its richness in farms, forests and fisheries. However, the better wisdom of the NEC of that time was overruled by development pressures and lack of political will, which continue to this day, leaving a dangerously shrunken area protected by the NEC.

The lands in dispute , described as the Northwest Quadrant, which is bounded by the HEPC Tower Line, Kalar Rd, Mountain Rd, the QEW and Montrose Rd, are part of the shadow fruit belt, with its climatic advantage, influenced by the Niagara Escarpment, enabling the growing of grapes and other fruits such as pears, apples, plums, prunes. Peaches and cherries were even grown on Uppers Lane.

The OMB decision that Justice Parayeski upheld denied an attempt to urbanize approximately one hundred and eighty-five acres of the remaining Agricultural Watershed of the Ten Mile Creek, which is of considerable ecological significance. Such urbanization would have created a wall of cement south of the Niagara Escarpment, thus eliminating a vital deer and wildlife migration corridor.

The area’s importance for wildlife was demonstrated at an on-site meeting of experts that was part of the OMB procedure. Two deer appeared during this event and residents report confronting entire herds of eight deer crossing Garner Rd.

The pike- spawning Ten Mile Creek and associated vernal pools that are connected to it provide important habitat for breeding amphibians as well as the cleanest drinking water for wildlife that would otherwise have to drink from streams contaminated with sewage or travel long distance to find a spring. At the on-site visit, experts also found that in past ecological studies a large vernal pool, which in the developer’s concept plan was proposed for a storm water storage facility, had been completely missed .

Testimony at the OMB hearing by ecologist Dr. Michael Dickman established impressive documentation of the relationship between urbanization and storm water pollution. He found that the adjacent Shriners’ Creek, based on sanitary sewer surcharges within Niagara Falls’ urban envelope, had massively high levels of E-Coli bacteria. Nearby Beaverdams Creek is contaminated but to a lesser degree. In stark contrast, such contamination was lacking in the Ten Mile Creek which lies within an agricultural area.

Justice Parayeski found in his ruling that the arguments put forward by Niagara Falls were “unhelpfully posed in leading and convoluted terms”, and cited a number of points from the responding Factum prepared by David Donnelly, Counsel for PALS and Jean Grandoni. Among these were Donnelly’s conclusion that the OMB’s ruling was based on a “26-page decision that carefully sets out the issues and relied on approximately ten days of testimony from 14 witnesses, including subpoenaed evidence from a senior planner from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing…that support’ the Board’s reasons and the Decision”.

The recent court room drama is the second time that this Urban Boundary has been defended by the public and is against some of the same major parties. The first was the Ontario Municipal Board Decision of Feb l979, which pulled in the Urban Boundary in order to protect this unique agricultural community. The importance of the victory is illustrated by the frightening reality that had not the OMB rejected the expansion termed Niagara Falls Official Plan Amendment 106, there was another urbanization request it had already approved. This Amendment 107, involving 250 acres, including a large wetland slough forest straddling the Ten Mile Creek, now cannot proceed since it cannot be served.

The decision by the NEC provides ample evidence of why the Escarpment Plan area needs to be expanded onto adjacent rural lands, which were arbitrarily removed in 1977. It notes that such adjacent, predominately agricultural lands, “are an essential component of the Escarpment corridor…to provide a buffer to the more ecologically sensitive areas of the Escarpment.”

The public cannot continue to finance “Resources Protection” through the OMB and the courts that is supposed to be the responsibility of the Provincial Ministries of Municipal Affairs , Natural Resources and Agriculture. It is time that the Province enforced its own Provincial Policy Statements that call for the protection of such resources as our farmlands, fisheries and forests which are the basis of employment in this province. Lost resources equal lost jobs.

Reproduced with permission. JohnBacherPhD.ca