From Doug Draper
Posted February 11th, 2016 on Niagara At Large
The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority – a government body created by the Province of Ontario decades ago and stacked with board members appointed by municipal governments in the region – is floating the idea of destroying at least some of that’s left of Niagara’s natural wetlands to make way for more development.
The NPCA says it is thinking of taking this idea to the provincial government for approval under the guise of something called “biodiversity offsetting” which involves (as best as one can determine from an explanation offered by Conservation Authority’s chief administrative officer Carmen D’Angelo at a public meeting this January) replacing some wetland for development and replacing it somewhere else with something the same or similar that someone would construct.
More than 200 citizens attended the January meeting, many of them to express their concern or outright opposition to the idea. And when one citizen asked NPCA representatives flat out for a definition of “biodivesity offsetting,” one Conservation Authority member stood to say they do not yet have a full definition of the term.
Asked by another citizen what guarantee the NPCA can offer that it could construct a wetland as suitable for wildlife to survive and thrive in as the one covered over or bulldozed away for development, a member of the Authority responded; “The best we can do is create suitable habitat. … That is probably the best we can do.”
That left some citizens in the audience concluding that when it comes to natural areas as vital to the health of watersheds and wildlife as wetlands, doing the best one can do to recreate them is not good enough.
“The value of that land is more important than any development you can put on that land,” responded Leslie Adams, a member of the Ontario Biodiversity Council representing conservation, Aboriginal and other groups across the province. “You cannot commodify it.”
That brings me – once again – to a powerful video produced by another citizen, Niagara native Owen Bjorgan, and posted on Niagara At Large earlier this February.
The video does such a good job of addressing what Owen, who is also in his last year of majoring in the field of biodiversity at the Guelph University, calls the “myth” of biodiversity offsetting,” that we are posting it again, right here for you to click on and to watch and share with as many other people across this region as possible.
Owen Bjorgan, who is 23 and who is one of many young people concerned about the health of a planet they are inheriting, and one of many concerned about what this Conservation Authority appears to be up to when it comes to one of precious natural resources, sums up what “biodiversity offsetting” is and why it must be moved to the trash bin as quickly as you can click a delete key on a computer, this way.
“The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority is looking to implement “biodiversity offsetting”, a practice that would allow for the destruction of current natural wetlands at the promise of “offsetting” the losses.”
“This would be done by recreating artificial wetlands at another geographic location in order to strike an apparently balanced trade-off. You don’t need to be a scientist,” says Owen, “to understand that wetlands and the species they harbour can only be successfully created by two factors; natural processes, and time.”
“Niagara is a part of the Carolinian Canada life zone, which boasts the highest biodiversity of anywhere in Canada. With over 85% of Niagara’s original wetlands lost, both the natural and human community cannot afford biodiversity offsetting.”
In the days and weeks ahead, Niagara At Large will continue to post news and commentary on this issue.
NAL will also continue to provide updates on the growing campaign by citizens across this region to do what the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority should be doing – working for the protection and preservation of what is left of our natural places for present and future generations without bending to the interests to a handful of developers (not all of them by any means) who can’t seem to work within the boundaries of decades worth of lands that are already zoned for development and don’t require the gutting of vital, life-sustaining zones of our watersheds.
Stay tuned for more on all of this.
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