‘With this report from the Ministry, it is hoped that the developers will digest it and give up on their plans.’
By John Bacher
Posted August 24th, 2016 on Niagara At large
In an August 19th, 2016 report prepared by Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry resource operations supervisor Ian Thornton, some alarms properly went off for 500 acres of the Thundering Waters Forest-Savannah now under threat of urban development.
Hopefully, the report will put an end to the junk science that is being employed by paid contractors for the developers to destroy this precious natural refuge for a myriad of wildlife species in the southwestern end of Niagara Falls, Ontario.
The report should help speed the process where it can be purchased by the federal and provincial governments for a nature sanctuary administered by guardians in the greater Niagara area’s indigenous community.
Thornton’s report begins by condemning the developer’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for not undertaking adequate studies on bats. He deplores that “no acoustic monitoring was undertaken to confirm presence/absence of species at risk bats.”
Thornton warned that this neglect may imperil three endangered species of bats, including Little Brown Myotis, Northern Myotis and Tri-coloured Bats, that may be living in the Thundering Waters Forest.
After exposing the EIS’s contempt for bats, Thornton then moves on to reveal its manipulative justifications for destroying the habitat of threatened birds. The birds of concern include the Threatened Barn Swallow, the Endangered Acadian Flycatcher, and the Threatened Chimney Swift.
Regarding the Barn Swallow, Thornton exposes the nonsense evident in the EIA that it does not matter if the species foraging habitat is destroyed, as long as there are no nests in the area. The EIS admits that “foraging habitat for Barn Swallows may be lost and local insect populations may be reduced as a result of the proposed development.”
The EIA then turns around and dismisses such concerns by claiming that only nesting habitat matters. Thornton nixes this nonsense by pointing out that “foraging habitat that may be impacted by development” is important since the species has “general habitat protection”.
Thornton also notes in his report that the fact that the Acadian Flycatcher was found only in one out of six visits to the site cannot be used – as the EIS claims – to discount the species. Its presence still requires protection since “habitat for this species appears to be present.”
Regarding the Chimney Swift, Thornton challenges the claim that the species simply nests in man-made structures such as chimneys. He points out that “the species is known to use natural nest sites such as trees.”
After exposing the developer’s funded EIS studies’ contempt for endangered species, Thornton then goes on to criticize ugly schemes to put roads through protected provincially significant wetlands. He points out that the 1.3 hectares of roads planned the developer has planned for these areas comprise two per cent of the acreage of the protected lands. Such plans, he points out, run counter to claims made by the developer that “all areas” of wetlands will remain protected.
Thornton further points out that plans to put roads in to provincially significant wetlands are contrary to Ontario’s Provincial Policy Statement, (PPS). He provides “direction that there shall be no development or site alteration” on these lands.
In addition to denouncing roads through protected wetlands, Thornton repeats a warning to the City of Niagara Falls – made earlier by wetlands expert, Dr. Barry Warner. This is that wetlands on the site which are not rated as provincially significant should be reviewed to see if they are. This could very well put an end to a absurd situation where the developer plans to have individual trees in old growth forested swamps protected with development surrounding them.
Thornton goes on to question the notion that wetlands can be protected while drier forests around them can be ground into dust for development. He stresses that;“The wooded areas on the property are contiguous with the swamp wetlands and together create a large wooded area of the landscape that provides forest interior habitat and connectivity with neighbouring wooded areas.”
He notes that this is especially important since these threatened forests provide “habitat for Wood Thrush and Eastern Wood Pewee, both species of Special Concern in Ontario.”
Thornton also questioned schemes put forward by the developer for the compensating the destruction of vernal pools by creating new ones within protected wetlands. He notes that this approach “does not support consideration of compensation strategies to address the policy test of negative impacts to features and functions of provincially significant natural heritage features and areas.”
With this report from Thornton and the province’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry out and now part of the public record, it hoped that the developers digest it and give up on their plans to do any building or paving over whatsoever on the Thundering Waters Forest lands.
It should be enough to encourage them to work with Niagara area residents, including members of the indigenous community, to encourage the provincial and federal governments to purchase these precious lands as part of a Native lands claims settlement to establish – for generations to come – a Thundering Waters First Nations Park.
To read the text of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s report on the developers’ draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Thundering Waters Forest area click on –
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/
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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