A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted August 23rd, 2017 on Niagara At Large
Wayne Thomson, a Niagara Falls, Ontario councillor and former mayor for the city, called it “one of the best presentations I have heard on the issue.”
The issue was Thundering Waters Forest – 484 acres of forest, wetlands and savannah grasses that is in the crosshairs for urban development these days – and the presenter is a young Niagara citizen and biological sciences graduate Owen Bjorgan, who started the Niagara Falls city council meeting this August 22nd wondering if he was even going to be heard.
It was another Niagara Falls councillor, Kim Craitor, backed by fellow councillor Carolynn Ioannoni, who first put a motion on the floor, granting Bjorgan – one of several citizens who had only days ago finished spending a week camping in Thundering Waters Forest to draw attention to its plight – to make a presentation to the council about the purpose of the camp-out and what they experienced around them while they were there.
At first, some councillors and a member of the city staff wondered if it was proper and fair to grant Bjorgan an opportunity to speak because representatives for GR Canada – the China-backed company proposing the residential and commercial development in Thundering Waters Forest – was not there to present their side, and there would be future opportunities for Bjorgan and others to speak at public meetings required under provincial legislation and that probably will be scheduled sometime toward the end of the year.
Then when yet another councillor, Wayne Campbell, said he would favour letting Bjorgan speak as long as he didn’t get into matters around the GR proposal, Craitor’s motion to give him a hearing was supported by a majority on the council, including Mayor Jim Diodati, who has been a leading supporter of GR’s plans.
During his presentation, Bjorgan stressed that more than have of the 484 acres in Thundering Waters Forest are home to wetlands, including what have been mapped out by Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry as “provincially significant wetlands” or PSWs, in a region where we now have 10 per cent or less of the wetlands that were originally here left.
The lands, added Bjorgan, also host a Carolinian type of forest – also under stress in Niagara through much of the Great Lakes region – that is home to a broad range of wildlife where it still exists.
“There is no ecosystem in Niagara like the Thundering Waters Forest,” stressed Bjorgan, calling it “unique,” “rich” in biodiversity, and “remarkable,” making it a gem people in the region should want to preserve.
To watch and hear Owen Bjorgan’s entire 10 minute-plus presentation to the August 22nd, Niagara Falls city council meeting, click on the screen directly below –
At the end of his presentation, Bjorgan handed out to members of the council some letters Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati wrote to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne in support of the GR development proposal for Thundering Waters Forest. The letters were obtained by Niagara citizens through provincial “freedom of information” requests.
Some councillors also joined Thomson in praising Bjorgan’s presentation. Councillor Vince Kerrio told Bjorgan; “You did it well.”
Carolynn Ioannoni said she was pleased to see Bjorgan and other young people who participated in the 24/7 camp-out for a week in Thundering Waters Forest getting so engaged in an issue.
“I am impressed with your passion,” she said. “You may run the world someday.”
For those of you who may want to view the entire segment of the August 22nd session of Niagara Falls city council, starting with Councillor Kim Craitor tabling the motion granting Owen Bjorgan permission to speak, click on the following –
.NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space below the Bernie quote.
A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.
For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater bi-national Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .
“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders