Conservation Authority Honchos Try Explaining Why Biodiversity Off-Setting Is A Good Thing For Niagara

A  Commentary by Doug Draper

Posted March 22th, 2016 on Niagara At Large

Niagara, Ontario – As public concern grows over what the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority is up to with its recent fetish over something called “biodiversity off-setting,” to play around with what’s left of the region’s wetlands, I posted a piece late this February urging Niagara At Large readers to take their concerns directly to the NPCA’s board of directors.two upper beaverdam march

In this age of fear and loathing and online, where many say they feel a reluctance to use the internet to express their views on hot topics, at least some of you took advantage of a list we posted here of board members’ names and email addresses, to express your concerns over this thing being packaged by the NPCA and provincial government as “biodiversity off-setting.”

One person who did was Niagara, Ontario residents Sheila Krekorian and Joe Skura, who received responses from only two of the NPCA’s .14 board members – the board’s chair Bruce Timms, who is also a Niagara regional councillor for the City of St. Catharines, and Brian Baty, who is a regional councillor for the Town of Pelham.

Interestingly enough, and however much the rest of us may take issue with the responses Sheila received from Timms and Baty, they were at least more informative on the issue at hand than anything NPCA staff or board members shared with an audience of more than 200 Niagara area citizens at a public meeting this past January.

At that January 27th meeting, held at the NPCA’s Ball’s Falls Centre on January, members of the public who pay taxes for this so-called “conservation authority” and who drove narrow, two-lane roads on a dark cold night to get to this meeting, were treated to more almost an hour-and-a-half of grade-school presentations on ecology that had nothing to do with the issue at hand before they finally had a chance to ask questions.

Randalls-Island-salt-marsh-inhabitants-Fernand-Brunschwig-2010

Then when one member of the audience specifically asked for the NPCA’s definition of biodiversity off-setting, it couldn’t give one. Nor could it offer any iron-clad guarantees that it could construct a new wetland that would perform the same vital services for wildlife and natural waterways than the wetland it would allow destroyed through the offsetting process.

But few if any were fooled by all of this beating around what is really at stake here for what is left of Niagara’s natural areas.

Just as the term “enhanced interrogation techniques” is code for torture, biodiversity off-setting is code for allowing a developer to destroy a natural wetland area for housing or some other asphalt or concrete construction, then attempting to build a suitable facsimile of that wetland someplace else.

And oh, by the way, in the hope of keeping the tree huggers and dicky bird lovers from kicking up too much of a fuss, the NPCA is floating the idea of replacing every acre or hectare of natural wetland it destroys with at least three acres or hectares replicated in a place that, for the time being at least, is not in the bulldozer’s way.

But now, and with Sheila Krekorian’s permission, here is the note she and Joe Skura sent to members of NPCA’s board, along with the responses they received back from board members Bruce Timms and Brian Baty –

Here is our email to Bruce Timms of Februray 18th, 2016: Bruce: you know darn well this idea is a really bad one. You cannot re-create what Mother Nature has created no matter how much money you throw at it. We expect you to protect Niagara’s land, not sell it to the highest bidder and “offset” it with a cheap imitation. Sheila Krekorian and Joe Skura

Response fromBruce Timms Much of the land we are discussing were cleared for Forming 100 years ago the ignored for 20 years and returned to slew forest like they were before our ancestors cleared them, we can restore any of the clear land very quickly, and the benefit will last for many years, we are talking 3 Acres restored for one Acre turned into employment land or homes. We are not talking about wainfleet bog or heartland forest as some have suggested. Let’s continue the conversation. You are quite right, we are not talking ground truthed provincially significant wetlands.

Response from Brian Baty: The position of NPCA is to provide a serious scientific study on a limited basis (i.e. 3  sites in Fort Erie, Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake) to determine potential success with a potential bonus of a 3X increase in resulting wetlands. I invite you to talk with our restoration staff to learn of past and current successes. Particularly I would welcome a tour of the E.C. Brown conservation area in Pelham near the Central Niagara Airport by you to see firsthand the created wetland. Perhaps in late May or June when the plentiful natural species are active. Thanks for including me in your communication!

Now here is the list of those who sit on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s Board of Directors, along with their email addresses so you can, if youwish, send them your views on this issue.

The list begins with the NPCA’s chief administrative officer, who’s inbox should be choked every day with complaints from us about where he and the current board is taking this body that should be a voice for protecting and preserving what is left of our natural spaces.

Carmen D’Angelo, Chief Administrative Officer, Phone 905-788-3135 x.251,Email cdangelo@npca.ca

Councillor Bruce Timms, Chair, City of St. Catharines bruce.timms@niagararegion.ca brucetimms@yahoo.com

Councillor Sandy Annunziata, Vice-Chair, Town of Fort Eriesandy.annunziata@niagararegion.ca

Councillor Brian Baty, Member, Town of Pelham brian.baty@niagararegion.ca

Stewart Beattie, Member, City of Hamilton jsbeattie@npca.ca

Dominic DiFruscio, Member, City of Thorold, ddifruscio@npca.ca

Mayor Jim Diodati, Member, City of Niagara Falls, 905-356-7521 ext. 4201 jim.diodati@niagararegion.ca

Councillor Bill Hodgson, Member, Town of Lincoln bill.hodgson@niagararegion.ca

Mayor April Jeffs, Member, Township of Wainfleet april.jeffs@niagararegion.ca ajeffs@wainfleet.ca

James Kaspersetz, Member, City of Hamilton jkaspersetz@npca.ca

Mayor Douglas Joyner, Member, Township of West Lincoln douglas.joyner@niagararegion.ca

Mayor John Maloney, Member, City of Port Colborne, 905-835-2900 ext. 301john.maloney@niagararegion.ca

Councillor Tony Quirk,  Member. Town of Grimsby tony.quirk@niagararegion.ca

Councillor Rob Shirton, Member, Haldimand County rshirton@haldimandcounty.on.ca

Following is the names and contact  information for the Niagara, Ontario area’s four provincial members of parliaments (MPP). They should be engaged in this issue because the NPCA was created by and is subject to the provisions of Ontario’s Conservation Authorities Act.

St. Catharines Riding – Liberal MPP Jim Bradley, 2 Secord Drive, Unit 2 St. Catharines L2N 1K8 Email: jbradley.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org Phone: 905-935-0018

Welland Riding – NDP MPP Cindy Forster, 60 King Street, Canal View Welland, Ontario L3B 6A4,  905-732-6884, cforster-co@ndp.on.ca

Niagara Falls Riding, NDP MPP Wayne Gates, 6746 Morrison Street Niagara Falls, Ontario L2E 6Z8, 905-357-0681,

Niagara West-Glanbrook Riding, Progressive Conservative MPP Tim Hudak, 4961 King Street East Beamsville, Ontario L0R 1B0, 1-800-665-3697, tim.hudakco@pc.ola.org

You should also consider expressing your concerns to the Ontario Cabinet Minister whose portfolio links with the activities of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and other Conservation Authorities across the province. Contact Bill Mauro, Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, by clicking on  the following –

bmauro.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org , Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Suite 6630, 6th Floor, Whitney Block 99 Wellesley Street West Toronto, Ontario M7A 1W3 –  416-314-2301

And finally , one of the items on social media that is receiving a huge number of hits is a short video produced by Niagara native Owen Bjorgan who is studying biodiversity at Guelph University,which I am going to post again for you to view right here. Please click on and give it a watch, then share it with others.

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NOW IT IS YOUR TURN. Niagara At Large encourages you to share your views on this post. A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who share their first and last name with them.

Visit Niagara At Large at www.niagaraatlarge.com for more news and commentary for and from the greater bi-national Niagara region.

 

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6 responses to “Conservation Authority Honchos Try Explaining Why Biodiversity Off-Setting Is A Good Thing For Niagara

  1. As for the pretensions behind this initiative claiming high science-there is a spelling mistake in slough forest-is called “slew forest.”

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  2. Gail Benjafield

    In response to Doug’s original call to action last month, I sent an email letter to selected ‘officials’ of the NPCA and of the Regional council .and more. I received courteous replies. I sent this to all St. C. reps (including Mayor Sendzik but not Caslin or Petrowski, as I knew that was hopeless. I heard back from Mayor April Jeffs, from St. C. councillor Debbie MacGregor, and Sendzik (his computer generated reply which addresses no reply to issues, just thanks one for ‘getting in touch’.). I also heard back from Brian Baty, MPP Jim Bradley’s office and later the Min. of Natural Resources. I thanked them all. Yes, I did hear from Bruce Timms , but in a way I cannot speak about online, so ……

    Jeffs, MacGregor and Bradley’s office suggested there were many concerns about anything the NPCA undertakes, given their endless press about various heritage sites they operate, and also their manner of appointing jobs within the organization. ‘Nuff said

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  3. This conservation ‘authority’ is a disgrace to us all and a remnant of the Harris reign when provincial oversight was removed. Is there any point to addressing these councillors and mayors directly? Or is it more appropriate to call on many more at a provincial level? We should at the very least have 6 knowledgable leaders with established ecological and moral integrity on this board.

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  4. I’ve had the great opportunity to work as an environmental / land use planner from the Rockies to the Annapolis Valley and in many places in southern Ontario. I can attest to the ecological importance of wetlands to the “environment” and to the loss of these significant resources.
    I fully support the position that “bio-diversity offsetting” is untenable for residential, commercial and most industrial expansion, particularly when there are ample opportunities available elsewhere on a Regional basis.
    It should not however, be automatically ruled out for site specific expansion of industrial uses or provincially defined “employment areas” where there are not viable alternatives. The viability of the alternative should not be weighted toward land development economics.

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  5. Marlene Sanders

    I also contacted all of the politicians on the list. I only heard back from April Jeffs, Mayor of Wainfleet, Tony Quirk and Sandy Annunziata, Vice-Chair.
    In my email to Sandy Annunziata I also called him out for being on his phone almost the entire night at the Balls Falls “information” session instead of paying attention to what was happening and listening to the concerns, especially
    in light of the position he holds on the NPCA board. He was sitting across from me so I could see that he was on his phone.
    Shame on Bruce Timms for spelling it as “slew forest” and I don’t even understand most of his first run-on sentence.

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  6. Gail Benjafield

    As Hanlon has noted, where is the leadership? It is well documented in the press that this organization is stuffed with sinecures, and with leaders that cannot spell, do not know how to define biodiversity and now apparently pay no attention to the taxpayer, just on their phones, as noted above. Not only can some not spell, one person sent me a reply email which he intended for a compatriot on the NPCA. You know who you are, if you are reading this.

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