“The purpose of the camp is to prevent the ultimate destruction of Thundering Waters Forest (in Niagara Falls, Ontario) and raise public awareness as to the threat being posed.” – a statement from the Thundering Waters Forest defenders
A News Commentary by Niagara At Large publisher Doug Draper
Posted August 14th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – Late this August 13th, about eight Niagara citizens entered 484 acres of land known as Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Falls, Ontario and set up camp there, all in an effort to draw more public attention to an ongoing citizens’ campaign to save the land from urban development.
“This is our grandest attempt yet to raise public attention and support for saving this land,” Owen Bjorgan, a university graduate in biodiversity sciences and a spokesperson for the defenders told Niagara At Large this August 14th during an interview from the camp.
The defenders have every intentions of carrying on with the occupation in a peaceful, responsible manner, said Bjorgan, and anticipate that the number of people joining them will grow through this week. They are also extending invitations to politicians and other community leaders across the region to visit their camp as a show of support, he said.
A grassroots, citizens drive to save the Thundering Waters Forest – located in the Niagara River watershed and hosting a diversity of native vegetation, wildlife and “Provincial Significant Wetlands” (PSWs mapped out by field experts employed by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) – has been building since word began circulating more than a year and a half ago that a China government-linked company, GR Canada, is planning to build a so-called “Paradise” community with a mix of commercial and residential on a portion of the site.
The developers have insisted that they will be taking steps not to harm the PSWs and will save as much additional wildlife habitat as possible on the lands located near the southwestern corner of Niagara Falls, but many citizens, including individuals with backgrounds in conservation and environmental sciences, don’t buy it.
Stressing that Niagara is running dangerously short of natural areas to sustain a health environment, many people say that GR and other developers should find lands for building within existing urban boundaries that are not as vital to sustaining a rich diversity of biological life as places like Thundering Waters are.
The GR development has received support from Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati, Niagara regional chair Al Caslin and a number of other politicians across Niagara who welcome what the developers promise will be at least a billion dollars’ worth of investment that will generate jobs and more residents and visitors to the region.
Fred Bowering, a member of the Indigenous community in Niagara who told Niagara At Large this August 14th that he is not an “occupier,” but is with the other citizens in the camp as a “keeper of a fire” intended to offer one and all a closer connection to nature, said the monetary benefits being promised are not worth what would be lost.
“We are down to 10 per cent of our wetlands in this region and we have to protect what is left. … These wetlands filter and clean all the waters that connect to our river (the Niagara River) and Lake Ontario,” Bowering said. “These wetlands and this land (in the Thundering Waters Forest) are worth more than a billion dollars. They are worth more than all the money in the world and we must keep places like this.”
Niagara At Large will post more updates on the Thundering Waters Forest defender’s camp, along with more commentary on what is at stake here for our environment and for people in our region, including our American neighbours who share the Niagara River watershed and all it offers as a natural resource with those of us who live on the Canadian side.
Now here, for our readers, information, is news released circulated to media outlets in southern Ontario and western New York earlier this August 14th.
The Occupation of Thundering Waters Forest, NIAGARA FALLS, ONTARIO
Monday, August 14 2017
Last night at sunset, a group of Niagara area citizens established a camp in defense of our Mother Earth on the site of Thundering Waters Forest (see below for detailed directions) in Niagara Falls.
The purpose of the camp is to prevent the ultimate destruction of Thundering Waters Forest and raise public awareness as to the threat being posed. The local land and water defenders are determined to ensure the 484 acres of unique wetlands, supporting woodlands, savannah and threatened species are preserved.
A mega-development, ironically-called “Paradise in Niagara” is currently proposed for the land by an overseas developer, supported by local politicians and agencies. The team members are committed to a no-harm ethical framework as they are aware that the surrounding forest areas are delicate and should not be altered in any way due to human activity.
For more than 18 months, citizens have been actively advocating for the protection of this rich ecosystem that, because of unchecked development, has become exceedingly rare in Ontario. The Niagara area has already lost 90% of its wetlands and forests. We cannot afford to sacrifice more.
The defenders are concerned that politicians have not been truthful with the public; that they have hired lobbyists to convince the Province to pave over protected wetlands; that they have launched lawsuits to silence critics and that they are working behind the scenes with developers to get the project approved despite the strong opposition of citizens.
The team fears that local officials are operating without concern for the devastating, long-term impact this development will have on the environment.
The time for accountability is upon us; nature has very little left to give us. We have taken enough.
The team wishes to welcome members of the press and public to visit the site and engage with them in a discussion concerning the future of this invaluable ecosystem that is Thundering Waters Forest. See directions below.
Directions to the camp:
From the Queen Elizabeth Highway take the McLeod St exit (exit 27), go east on McLeod. In approximately 550 metres turn right on Dorchester Blvd. Follow Dorchester until it appears to end (Y in the road) and turn to the right, you will still be on Dorchester Road, continue on Dorchester across the railway tracks, about 75 metres after crossing the tracks you will see a trail going into the woods. It will be marked.
Niagara citizen and biodiversity expert Owen Bjorgan produced and narrated the following video more than a year ago, when the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority was talking about using something called biodiversity offsetting (gutting some of the wetlands and attempting to grow comparable wetlands somewhere else to make way for urban development) in the Thundering Waters Forest. The developers say the idea is “no longer on the table,” but the rest of us shouldn’t assume it won’t make a comeback or is dead.
To see Owen Bjorgan’s video, click on –
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