“My ministry has confirmed the presence of Provincially Significant Wetlands on the Thundering Waters property (and) we have also acknowledged the potential presence of species at risk which could require authorizations under the province’s Endangered Species Act, 2007.” – Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Kathryn McGarry
A Brief News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted March 28th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – Concerned about the fate of the Thundering Waters Forest given plans by a China-based developer to construct residential and commercial buildings on a portion of the roughly 500-acre site, the Niagara Falls Nature Club’s conservation director, Joyce Sankey wrote a letter to the province’s Premier, Kathleen Wynne, this past February, urging her not to see policies that would protect its wetlands, forests and grasslands weakened in any way.
“The Niagara area has lost 90 per cent of its pre-settlement wetlands making it vital to preserve what remains,” said Sankey in the Nature Club’s February 16th letter to the premier, a copy of which was shared with Niagara At Large. “Recently, the MNRF (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) mapped additional wetlands in the Thundering Waters area. This is a beautiful natural complex with forested swamps, old growth trees and a meadow area which, with so much diversity, provides habitat for a wide range of species.”
“These wetlands were not newly discovered, we knew they were there,” Sankey’s letter added. “They were scientifically evaluated and mapped and designated as provincially significant wetlands (PSWs).”
Then the Nature Club’s letter turned its attention to a letter that has concerned many residents across the region, wanting to preserve the Thundering Waters Forest as a natural heritage are for present and future attention. It is a letter written by Niagara’s regional government chair, Al Caslin, to the Ontario premier this past January.
“Alan Caslin, Niagara Regional Chair, has recently written asking you to consider weakening Ontario’s protection for PSWs,” Sankey stated in her letter to the premier. “Niagara has an abundance of developable land, some currently for sale. There is no need to degrade and perhaps destroy our natural areas for another subdivision. …”
“Premier Wynne,” concludes the Nature Club letter, “please do not weaken Ontario’s wetland policies or make exceptions to our wetland policies so that a few can increase their wealth. Ontario now has wetland policies which are strong and, with the current threats to our environment, should be enhanced. Wetlands, forests and grasslands provide ecosystem benefits for all the citizens of Niagara.”
This March 24th, Sankey and the club received a response to their letter from Wynne’s Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Kathryn McGarry. That response reads as follows –
“Thank you for your email regarding the proposed Thundering Waters Development in Niagara Falls. I note you have also shared your concerns with Premier Kathleen Wynne. I would like to provide you with some information.
The Ontario government is committed to conserving natural heritage areas, including significant wetlands, to ensure a healthy natural environment, while balancing the social and economic needs of our communities.
The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), issued under Ontario’s Planning Act, identifies provincial interests and sets direction for municipal land use planning decision-making. Planning decisions must be consistent with the PPS.
The PPS states that development is not permitted in Provincially Significant Wetlands. Developers must demonstrate that there will be no negative impacts to the features and functions of other significant natural heritage areas before any development is considered.
The role of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is to confirm the presence of Provincially Significant Wetlands and assist in the technical interpretation of criteria and information for the identification of other natural heritage features. My ministry does not have a role in municipal decision-making related to development under the Planning Act. However, under the provincial one-window planning system, the provincial government can appeal planning decisions made by municipalities if it deems them to be inconsistent with the PPS.
My ministry has confirmed the presence of Provincially Significant Wetlands on the Thundering Waters property, and acknowledges the proponent’s identification of several other natural heritage values, such as significant wildlife habitat or significant woodland habitat. We have also acknowledged the potential presence of species at risk which could require authorizations under the province’s Endangered Species Act, 2007.
Again, thank you for writing.”
No doubt, many people across the Niagara region and other regions of the province will be watching to see how true McGarry, Wynne and provincial government a whole will remain to their commitment “to conserving natural heritage areas, including significant wetlands.”
The citizens’ campaign to save Thundering Water Forest rolls on.
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