But The Fight To Keep It From Being Bulldozed Over Is Far From Over
A News Commentary by John Bacher
Posted April 8th, 2016 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – A battle of sorts was won on the night of Thursday, April 7th at Niagara Regional Council.
Supporters of a proposal to have the Ontario government make a site specific application for the authorized destruction of provincially significant wetlands to make way for a large residential and commercial development project in Niagara Falls lost their bid to move that application forward as the clock in the council chambers went off literally at the 11th hour.
However, those Niagara regional councillors and others supporting this scheme are going to get a second kick at the can at an Committee of the Whole meeting scheduled for this coming April 21st.
One of the highlights of this April 7th regional council meeting occurred when wetland protection advocate Ed Smith referred to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry rating sheets that are responsible for the current controversy. He noted that the area is termed the Niagara Falls Slough Forest, a term which is expressive of it being rich in vernal pools. These temporary ponds are vital to the survival of many amphibian species for parts of their life cycle.
A look at the scoring sheets brings home the thrust Smith’s address to Niagara’s regional councilors.
The scoring sheets note that, “Several amphibian species are recorded present through the wetland units. These species have complex life cycles requiring permanent to semi-permanent water areas adjacent to uplands and must be able to move between these habitats to complete their life cycle. Since they are short lived and exist throughout the wetland they must be moving effectively in the complex and meeting their life cycles.” The sheet stresses that “Blue spotted Salamander is an S4 species and should be considered locally significant because it is not commonly found in Niagara”
The sheets reveal the significance of the forest coveted by developers to deer in central Niagara. Documenting an important deer corridor through the wetland, it found that the Niagara Falls Slough Forest is “the last remaining deer wintering area North of the Welland River and east of the Power Canal.”
For the first time what was proposed for wetland destruction was displayed for all to see on a map. Two stream valleys were proposed to be buried and replaced, as with the rest of the vaunted “Paradise” development with conventional building lots.
These and two other areas were to be swapped for areas which are now healthy mature dry forests, along the lines possibly of what one councillor suggested digging pits in them to make them flood. Other areas of proposed dry forest conversion are virtually surrounded by wetlands and would be difficult to cut into the planned cookie cutter lots.
Seeing the plan for flooding healthy dry forests as wetland creation is disturbing. Species such as deer and salamanders that use the wet forests also will have their habitats decimated by the lots in the mature dry forests, many of whose trees are marked by ladders established by hunters aware of these woods richness in wildlife.
The plans to continue the assault on the Ramsey Road Forest – an assault that began in 1993 with the willful destruction of several acres of forest here – made me shudder. It strengthens my understanding of something a
a dedicated ecological protection activis,t Emma Lee Fleury, told me on the way to the council meeting.
“If I can’t save this forest, I will leave Niagara,” she said. “If we lose this struggle, our region will become a giant slum, with only people living here who are captives and without happy choices.”
John Bacher is a veteran conservationist in Niagara, Ontario and long-time member of the citizen group, Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society. A past contributor of posts to Niagara At Large, his most recent book is called ‘Two Billion Trees and Counting – The Legacy of Edmund Zavitz’. John also works with the Greenbelt Program Team at the Sierra Club of Canada Foundation.
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