The Need for an Ontario Land Use Planning Board, Dr. John Bacher

Another original article by Dr. John Bacher, first published on JohnBacherPhD.ca.

Dr. John Bacher (PhD)
July 10, 2017

The Need for an Ontario Land Use Planning Board
The Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society
Dr. John Bacher

John Bacher, a researcher with the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society, walks on farmland that he helped save from development in Niagara Falls, Ontario on Saturday, March 28, 2015. Environmentalists are cheering a decision at the OMB denying the urban boundary expansion of Niagara Falls. It was one of the biggest farmland protection cases at the OMB in Ontario history and is particularly significant in light of the greenbelt reviews currently underway. (Photo by Peter Power for The Toronto Star)

1. Province is to be Commended for Addressing Need to Reform Ontario Municipal Board (OMB)
The provincial government is to be commended for undertaking the difficult challenges of making improvements to legislation regulating the operations of the Ontario Municipal Board. (OMB) In general these reforms build on those introduced in 2005. Of these, most beneficial was the prohibition of an appeal a municipal council decision to prohibit the expansion of a human settlement area. PALS is of course pleased that this laudable reform was carried on in the proposed legislation. As expressed in our earlier comments, this needs to be further clarified. It seems strange that encroachments on designated environmental protection areas are not treated as expansions of the human settlement area.

2. PALS is Pleased with Most Proposed Changes to OMB
At the outset, PALS wishes to make it clear that we support all, with two exceptions, of the proposed changes to OMB. Changes to restrict appeals, have more transparent procedures, eliminate appeals of ministerial zoning orders, and provide financial, legal and planning support to appellants acting in the public interest in championing provincial policy are long overdue. PALS also supports the reform that instead of “good planning”, decisions of an appeal body should be based on lack of conformity to provincial policy.

PALS has been involved in the development of provincial policy since our founding in 1976. We have taken part in numerous public consultations regarding planning policies. Throughout that time our OMB appeals, most of them successful, have been provoked because of violations of provincial policy. These appeals have also become a discovery expedition into fields of provincial policy which often tend to be ignored by planners working for municipalities and the private sector.

3. PALS Believes Good Planning Means Conformity to Provincial Policy
The use of the term “good planning” by the OMB is essentially an archaism to the period before 2005 when the extent of provincial policy was much more limited than it is today. Earlier there was nothing comparable, for instance, to the 2005 Natural Heritage Implementation Guidelines, which can be if actually applied, a sound basis for good planning in both rural and urban areas. By protecting water quality these guidelines would safeguard as one of the most our most dedicated members, Jean Grandoni, has stressed, fish habitat. The protection of streams from storm water pollution due to urban sprawl which poisons aquatic life, is one of the most vivid ways in which all of our rural landscape is food lands.

One of the basic principles of the Natural Heritage Implementation Guidelines is the protection it gives to the headwaters of streams. This also should protect considerable areas of rural land from urban expansion. PALS’ has found however, that the attitudes of municipalities have made this policy a ‘dead letter’.

The challenges of protecting stream headwaters is shown by PALS’ experience in a 2014 OMB hearing regarding the Ontario Motor Speedway in Fort Erie. This was a difficult experience for us, since our proffered expert witness, Dr. Hugh Gaylor, was not permitted to give opinion evidence as a planner because of his one-year membership in PALS. More seriously however, the headwaters of Miller’s Creek were permitted to be turned into a massive parking lot, since the planning instruments were manipulated so the motor raceway was not an urban expansion but a “special policy area.”

Long after the hearing was concluded, PALS’ learnt that there is a provision for special policy areas in the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS). It has nothing to do with putting parking lots over headwaters on agriculturally zoned and designated lands. The term applies to areas which are in floodplains but are already urbanized.

Before the current guidance of provincial policy, it was understandable why the OMB had to in effect invent its own policy to ensure good planning. For many decades, even after the devastation and loss of human life in floodplains caused by Hurricane Hazel, there was no formal policy to compel zoning to prevent development on these hazardous lands. Despite formal policies that exist today however, threats to such areas persist.

4. Large Swaths of Provincial Policy Not Embedded in Municipal Plans
What is of great concern to PALS, is that while the basic concepts of good planning are well embedded in provincial policy, they are not well reflected in land use planning guidelines approved by municipalities. One disturbing aspect of this failure, is to properly protect the headwaters of streams as mandated by provincial policy. While decades old policies to protect fish habitat are slowly creeping into official plans, the same cannot be said for policies mandated by the most recent version of the PPS. These are policies to ensure adaptation and mitigation for climate change and to protect imperiled bio-diversity.

PALS’ took part recently in extensive Niagara Region public consultations in its mandated five year review of its official plan. During this period there was no discussion of the need to update the plan to implement these new policies of the PPS.

Some may suggest that for both climate change and bio-diversity, what is needed is simply to follow older policies of the PPS and protect large blocks of forested habitat and rural land from sprawl. This approach however, is inadequate. Many threatened wildlife species, have more specific habitat needs.

For instance, PALS’ has become familiar with the habitat requirements of vernal pool obligate species, such as the Western Chorus which in Ontario, is experiencing a marked population decline. Many forested areas which provided habitats for these frogs in the past, now fail to do so because of drainage. Municipal plans need to implement the new PPS plans for bio-diversity, which have been effectively shelved.

5. New Policies for Intervenor Funding Show Need for Ontario Land Use Planning Board
Given the stubborn refusal of municipalities to implement PPS policies on biodiversity and climate change, and the welcome new provisions for intervenor funding, PALS expects that many appeals will be made to what is planned to be called the Local Appeals Tribunal (LAT). The proposed new name for the tribunal however, LAT, does not give sufficient dignity to the important matters it will be adjudicating. A more appropriate one would be the Ontario Land Use Planning Board.

The term OMB has its origins before the Planning Act of 1946. For almost four decades, its adjudications based on land use planning were confined to the municipalities, (entirely urban), that had special provincial legislation to conduct land use planning. Even after the Planning Act of 1946, land use planning did not get going in predominately rural areas until the passage of the comprehensive zoning by-law of Thorold Township in 1959, when it was approved by the OMB, following appeals,. A critical role in the passage of- this by law was played the Township’s Reeve, a subsequent founder in 1976 of PALS, Mel Swart.

Swart’s success in using Planning Act controls to restrict quarries played an important role in the creation of the Aggregate Policy of the Planning Act. Subsequently, both he as an Ontario Legislator and PALS played a major role in securing the agricultural policies of the act.

PALS’ deep involvement in land use planning and the OMB shows us why an appeal tribunal should clearly have an expression of the importance of land use planning in the long- term interest of future generations in its name. This would be most clearly expressed as the Ontario Land Use Planning Board.

6. Decisions of Ontario Land Use Planning Board Should be Final
PALS’ is opposed to the proposal in the draft legislation that alterations by a provincial appeals tribunal to a municipal council land use planning decision should , if a council continues to object after ninety days, require a second hearing in order to be upheld. In this regard our views are shaped by the OMB rejection of a proposed urban boundary expansion in the City of Niagara Falls in the watershed of the Ten Mile Creek. The council of Niagara Falls even had the temerity to appeal our OMB victory to the courts, which resulted in a cost award to PALS and Jean Grandoni. This appeal by the city is illustrative of the profound contempt municipalities in Ontario have for provincial policy. If found to be in violation of policy by a provincially appointed planning board , municipalities should not have a second hearing to argue their case.

An important role in our OMB victory was played by our lawyer, David Donnelly, who acts in effect as a policy advisor to many Ontario environmental groups. He has warned that the proposed double hearing process could turn the proposed LAT into a rubber stamp for municipal councils.

The victory of PALS and Jean Grandoni at the OMB was based on a number of violations of provincial policy. Critical to the victory was the testimony given under subpoena from PALS, of Mark Christie, a senior planner with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. (MMAH) The essence of his testimony was that the urban expansion was not needed as it has been provincial policy since the 1980s that calculations of residential land supply should be made on an upper tier, (regional) basis. In opposition to PALS, the City of Niagara Falls and the Niagara Region argued that excessive land supplies in Port Colborne and Fort Erie should not be used to prohibit an urban boundary expansion in Niagara Falls.

Christie’s expose was one of many violations of provincial policy uncovered at the hearing. One was a failure to follow the protocols of the Canada Land Inventory, which require on-site soil tests when soil mapping results are challenged. It was also demonstrated that the agricultural policy was violated by the failure to consider lands of lesser capability in southern Niagara Falls. Another was to ignore the Niagara Region’s Official Plan’s implementation of provincial policy to protect natural heritage. An onsite visit by experts of all parties confirmed that the subject lands are a deer migration corridor. It also demonstrated that a forested area contained a vernal pool, which in violation of storm water management guidelines of the province, was proposed to become a storm water pond.

7. PALS Proposals are Modest Additions to Proposed Reform Package
In conclusion, PALS wishes to stress that our two proposed legislative alterations are reasonable and modest alterations to well-intended reforms. Municipalities’ failure to respond for many years to PPS policies and more recently policies for climate change, to curtail urban expansions, and the protection of bio diversity, show the need for an Ontario Land Use Planning Board whose decisions should be final.

Reproduced with permission. JohnBacherPhD.ca

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Secret Peer Review of Botched Environmental Assessment, Dr. John Bacher

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

The Media Co-op
June 15, 2017

Secret Peer Review of Botched Environmental Assessment
Freedom of Information Act Request Reveals Secret Peer Review of Thundering Waters Forest Development Scheme.
Dr. John Bacher

In the afternoon of July 7, 2016 in front of Niagara Falls City Hall native people and environmentalists from across Niagara gathered at a rally to call for the protection of the threatened Thundering Waters Forest. Here the Cayuga elder Alan Jamieson remarked how, “You have enough shopping centers.” in a plea to rescue the refuge. The Oneida environmental champion Karl Dockstader lamented how the planned “deforestation is an affront to the traditional indigenous leadership.”

“This is a no-brainer. “We the people” want to save the Thundering Waters forested wetland from development.” – Carla Rienzo

Following the indigenous rally many protestors went to attend a public participation session held in the basement of Niagara Falls City Hall. One of the most important bits of information to be disclosed there was that a peer review was underway of the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared by Dougan Associates for the proponent of the Thundering Waters development, GR Canada Investments. It was revealed that the environmental consulting firm doing the report was North/South Environmental.

What is quite bizarre was that although the North/South Peer Review was completed about a week later on July 15, 2016 its contents were not released to the public until ten months later. The 14 page report remained secret until a Freedom of Information Act request was filed by Ed Smith with the provincial government. Access fees of $350 dollars were paid for by various events in August 20016, such as a fund raising concert by citizens working to rescue the Thundering Water Forest from development.

The secret report was authored by ecologist Leah Lefler. It had considerable impact in shaping the comments about the draft EIS by Ian Thornton, of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, (MNRF). However, so far no Niagara politicians have acknowledged it exists.

Thornton found North/South’s peer review to be “Very thorough”, taking a position which “closely aligns with our comments.” It informed his conclusions conveyed to the Niagara Falls City Council just before its August 23rd meeting.

Lefler’ s criticism which stressed the need to study currently unprotected wetland areas for possible expansion and conduct acoustic surveys of the mature and old growth forested habitats used by endangered roosting bats, reinforced MNRF’s own analysis. This properly guided the Niagara Falls’ Planning Department’s advice to Niagara Falls City Council to delay the Public Meeting under the Planning Act legally required for any re-zonings to take place.

While Thornton’s advice properly suspended the momentum to destroy the Thundering Waters Forest on August 23, the process should have been terminated five weeks earlier. The Planning Act meeting should have never been scheduled. The North/South peer review clearly demonstrated that the recommendations of the draft Dougan EIS were not adequate to meet the requirements of Ontario and municipal law to protect natural habitats, wetlands and wildlife.

The key clash between the Dougan reported, authored by Stephen Hill, and Lefler was the issue of the need to expand the designations of provincially significant wetlands (areas protected from development), which at the time (the designations since have been expanded), comprised only a third of the 484 acre site. Lefler argued that adjacent then unprotected wetlands “should be evaluated…to determine if they should be complexed as part of the Niagara Falls Slough Forest Wetland Complex.”

Other documents obtained by the same access request show Niagara politicians denouncing the expansion of the Niagara Falls Slough Forest Complex as apparently arbitrary. These ignored however, the reality that this was done on the basis of research mandated by the City of Niagara Falls and the Niagara Region’s own policies for peer review of EIS documents.

Lefler also clashed with Hill over the need to protect dry forests in Thundering Waters. He stressed that provincial, regional and city policies all stressed that, “Development is not generally permitted” within such areas unless “no negative impact can be demonstrated.”

Lefler found that assumptions minimal impacts could not be justified without additional research. He calculated that the development would trigger the removal of “approximately 93 hectares of natural vegetation, including wetland, woodland and meadow vegetation.” There was however, in Hill’s EIS no discussion of the possible “impacts related to the removal of features, such as changes to wetland hydrology, loss of habitat, edge impacts, etc.” Lefler discovered that there was also silence “on how the proposed land use plan will maintain the existing water balance and hydrology” in the protected wetlands. He found that with such omissions “it is impossible to determine whether or not environmental impacts will occur and to what extent they are expected to occur.”

Lefler indicated that more work needed to be done for an adequate “Assessment of Significant Wildlife Habitat.” In this regards what was especially important for the peer reviewer was the habitats of endangered bats. He urged that to protect bats “tree cavity surveys should be completed” and that “acoustic surveys be completed.”

Considerable attention in Lefler’s critique was directed towards the future destruction caused by roads and traffic. In this regards Lefler noted that road construction was proposed through parts of the otherwise protected provincially significant wetland. He found that Hill ignored “the impacts to the features and ecological function” of these wetlands “from the construction and use of the proposed road network.”

Lefler detailed how not only roads through otherwise protected wetlands, but throughout the threatened Thundering Waters Forest would have terrible consequences for wildlife. Her peer review detailed how, “Roads are a major cause of mortality to small mammals, amphibians and reptiles.” One example cited show horrific devastation in 2014 on a 250 meter segment of road brought about the deaths from collisions of most of the 1,200 amphibians who attempted to cross it. “

Another clash between Lefler and Hill took place over the issue of what is an adequate width of a buffer. Hill’s report attempted to justify a minimal 15 meter buffer. In response the peer reviewer replied that, “In general, a wider buffer will better achieve the intended functions than a narrower buffer. In our opinion, a 30m buffer is necessary when wetlands or treed wetlands become surrounded with development in order to mitigate the increased stresses with urban land uses, particularly residential development.”

Lefler went into considerable detail to innumerate the extensive threats from residential development near treed wetlands. These included “encroachment, dumping of yard waste, invasive plant spread, domestic pets preying on birds and small mammal populations” and ad-hoc trails. He also stressed that without adequate buffers trees were vulnerable to being blown down by wind.

In addition to his “major comments” Lefler added 68 “minor or editorial comments.” One was that no studies for salamanders were on within the southern half of the property. Another concerned the approach towards the endangered Chimney Swift. Studies taken on the Eastern Whip-poor-will were found not to meet species at risk protocols. He identified a failure to assess vernal pools for “Significant Wildlife Habitat for Woodland Amphibian Breeding Habitat.” The denial of the presence of breeding habitat for the endangered Acadian Flycatcher was challenged.

The most revealing of the peer reviewers minor comments relate to a vernal pool obligate species, the Gray Treefrog. Lefler caught how while Hill’s text “states that only a couple of Gray Treefrogs were detected”, Appendix F in the EIS indicated, “that a total of 6 Gray Treefrog individuals were heard calling, which is more than a couple.”

The missing four male Gray Treegfrogs illustrate a broader problem with the Thundering Water’s scheme than even Lefler was able to capture through his stinging rebuke. While driving around the perimeter of the threatened forest, Adrin Willems and I on the evening of June 12, 2017 were able to hear around two hundred individuals give their short flute like trills. This symphony at risk is a treasure beyond the abilities of the best peer reviewer to capture.

Reproduced with permission. JohnBacherPhD.ca

Canada’s Largest First Nations newspaper and the Midhurst sprawl plan’s “junk science”.

Ontario continues to encourage Simcoe County as the “wild west of development/sprawl”.

Free download here.

First Nations Drum
April 1, 2017

 

Ontario Planner Struggles to Save Huron-Wyandot Homeland

By Dr. John Bacher (PhD) & Danny Beaton (Mohawk, Turtle Clan)

Opinion

The Turtle Island region of Huronia – otherwise known by its archaic colonial name of Simcoe County – is under environmental assault by urban sprawl. A blockade to stop Dump Site 41, the occupation of Springwater Provincial Park, and sacred water walks along the shores of Lake Simcoe are tactics being used to rescue the traditional territories of the Huron-Wyandot.

Victor Doyle is a senior planner with the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, (OMMAH) and is inspired by the earth-respecting spiritual actions of various Ojibway communities and their many Mohawks allies. Doyle has been with OMMAH for three decades and is at the epicenter of ongoing battles to protect this sacred land with his fighting for provincially-directed land use planning to rescue wildlife, farms, forests and water from human greed.

Doyle’s most avid opponents are twofold – corporations, and the powerful minions of developers who run Simcoe County (politicians). Doyle’s determination to stand up against their pressure has earned him their enmity. One such politician is former Mayor Doug White of West Gwillimbury, who as far back as 2010 dismissed Doyle’s defense of Ontario’s land use policies as the mere rantings of “one unelected provincial bureaucrat.”


Waawaasaegaaming (Lake Simcoe) Water Walk 2015, The Narrows, Orillia, ON. Photo by Les Stewart

Chief Planner of Toronto, Jennifer Keesmaat, has made Doyle the public voice on the issue, commanding media attention on the research of agronomists, foresters, conservation biologists, land use planners, hydrologists and municipally-controlled conservation authorities. Though no official title accompanies Doyle’s point-man position, his stature and prominence should be effective in forestalling or preventing further encroachment.

Two brave conservationists, Wayne Wilson and Patti Young, are no longer with the Nottawasaga Conservation Authority due to their opposition to urban sprawl from the booming City of Barrie spilling over into its watershed and into the community of Midhurst in Springwater Township. In 2014, both Wilson and Young departed under the guise of an NVCA “efficiency audit.” Young vacated her position first with Wilson following suit.

While such relatively obscure figures cannot get the media’s attention, Doyle’s warnings about violations of provincial land use policy ravaging Huronia have been published in two of Canada’s leading newspapers, the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail. Doyle’s first warnings about Huronia appeared in the December 12, 2009 edition of the Toronto Star. The newspaper characterized his warnings as “a damming memo from Ontario’s senior planner” that paints “a stark picture of unsustainable sprawl, congestion and skyrocketing infrastructure costs if the province proceeds with a controversial strategy to urbanize large swaths of Simcoe County north of the Greenbelt.”


Waawaasaegaaming (Lake Simcoe) Water Walk 2015, Tudhope Park, Orillia, ON. Photo by Les Stewart

When penning his 2009 warnings, Doyle worried about schemes promoted by corporations to turn the small hamlet of Bond Head, a village of 500 people served by septic tanks, into a city of 114,000 persons. This threat still endures, although now in a more modest scale of a 30,000 hectare proposal. A new danger emerging is the construction of 10,000 housing units in Midhurst. The biggest problem posed by this development is the polluted runoff spilling into Willow Creek, which is a major source of water flowing into the Minesing Wetlands. The wetlands are an important refuge for rare, endangered and ecologically significant wildlife including the endangered Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly, Sturgeon, Bald Eagle, Trumpeter Swan, Sandhill Crane, Blue Winged Warbler, and various turtles.

As Doyle took to writing his second citizen report this spring, Ontario’s land use planning system’s “Co-ordinated Review” appeared to be on the brink of collapse. A freeze on urban boundary expansions – a key principle of both the Greenbelt and the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan – was under attack by media, developers and municipalities.

The Toronto Globe and Mail provided a link to Doyle’s full 27 page report titled “The Growth Plan and the Greenbelt Plan: Settling the Record Straight” where he vigorously defends urban boundaries. This led to a modest expansion of the Greenbelt on urban river valleys and on grape and fruit tree growing lands in Grimsby. While “Setting the Record Straight” saved the Greenbelt, it has not yet rescued Huronia. The warnings in the report do show why Midhurst, Bond Head and all of its remaining rural land need the protection of the Greenbelt.

Nonsense used to justify the urbanization of Willow Creek, such as the claim urbanization does not harm streams, is junk science, and has been refuted by Doyle using data from the watershed report cards assembled by conservation authorities. Using a study by the Credit River Conservation Authority, Doyle demonstrates how surface water in urbanized areas is always rated, “Very Poor” or “Poor” and explains that damaged watersheds are without any native fish, turtles or frogs.

Doyle said the main threat posed to Minesing Wetlands wildlife refuge from urban sprawl is “the major issue of habitat loss, which, in turn, is the key loss of bio-diversity.” Doyle warns refusal to extend the Greenbelt into Simcoe County is causing a mass sale of farms purchased by land speculators. His report states, “development interests continue to be speculatively buying or securing huge land assemblies tens of thousands of acres beyond the green belt.” The speculation in Simcoe County has led to farmland to commonly sell for $54,000 dollars an acre. In contrast, in the better regulated Waterloo region, farmland cost $14,000 an acre.

Doyle’s report illustrates the necessity of the struggle to protect Huronia inside the Greenbelt – a struggle made more difficult by the hostility we received while walking around Lake Simcoe with Ojibway environmental leaders in the “Walk for the Water.” My experience includes a driver of an animal control vehicle angrily scowling at us for taking a rest near a bicycle trail.

Those in Huronia that care for the earth should not be treated with contempt, but with the honor given to one standing-up for the sake of the entire community and the life web supporting it. The province must rescue Huronia by extending the Greenbelt.

The province must rescue Huronia by extending the Greenbelt.

Six (or so) great new YouTube videos by Dr. John Bacher.

Dr. John covers the sublime to the ridiculous in the latest shenanigans.

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Speculation buys up, in a very practical way, the intelligence of those involved.  — John Kenneth Galbraith

 

 

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