Niagara Conservationist Files Appeal To Rescue Thundering Waters Forest From Urban Development

“The protection of Thundering Waters may take up to three appeals to win the legal battle.”

News from John Bacher, a veteran conservationist living in Niagara, Ontario

Posted August 17th, 2018 on Niagara At Large

Niagara, Ontario – Earlier this August, in the Niagara Falls Clerk’s Department I filed a letter of appeal against Amendment 128 to the Niagara Falls Official Plan. The amendment seeks to pave over about 120 acres of the approximately 500 acres Thundering Waters Forest.

Although most of the Thundering Waters Forest is provincially protected wetland barred from development, much of the Amendment 120 lands known as the Riverfront Community are an unusual savanna complex. It is dominated by a native shrub species, the Dotted Hawthorn.

On Hawthorn Savanna lands nests two Species At Risk birds, the Wood Thrush and the Eastern Wood Pewee. It also contains habitat for a spectacular Threatened wildflower, the showy purple Dense Blazing Star.

On the savannah flourishes a regionally rare flower loved by butterflies, the blazing orange Butterfly Milkweed. Both iconic wildflowers, characteristic of prairie-savannah environments, are important for insects that are valuable plant pollinators.

The richness in insect pollinators is one of the reasons that the Hawthorn Savannah area, which dominates most of the OP Amendment 128 lands, provides summer foraging habitat for the Threatened Barn Swallow.

Other areas of such habitat have vanished because of agricultural pesticides. Here they flourish in a landscape not farmed since World War One.

Although the Hawthorn Savannah dominates the Amendment 128 lands it also has dry forests. These areas, designated by the Niagara Regional Official Plan as provincially significant woodlands, buffer the protected wetlands of the provincially significant wetland (PSW) of the Niagara Falls Slough Forest.

Snapping Turtles, a Species At Risk, are frequently found in the pounded ruts of long abandoned roads throughout the Riverfront lands.

In the northern limits are future study areas for possible bat maternity roosting habitat of three species of endangered bats. The large block of intact forest is also regarded by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) as breeding habitat for the Endangered Acadian Flycatcher.

According to the current recovery plan there are only an estimated 75 pairs of this specie surviving in Canada.

Wetands inside Thundering Waters Forest are vital to the web of life for all species and to the health of the Niagara River watershed.

There are three components of the Niagara Falls Slough Forest which are in close proximity to each other near a railway strip. In the spring, spectacular symphonies of mating Wood, Chorus and Spring Peeper frogs can be heard here.

These frogs and the Blue Spotted Salamander frequently migrate between these components of the Niagara Falls Slough Forest. Amendment 128’s failure to link these wetlands with protective corridors could lead to massive slaughter of wildlife.

The weirdest provision of Amendment 128 is its call for the “deforestation” of provincially significant woodlands. Among the trees found on these lands is a Species At Risk’, the Kentucky Coffee Tree.

Niagara conservationist John Bacher in Thundering Waters Forest

The massive deforestation is being advocated on the basis of the anticipated effects in two to five years of mass Ash die off from the Emerald Ash Borer. In this regard Niagara Falls is pioneering in a science fiction approach to land use planning.

The protection of Thundering Waters may take up to three appeals to win the legal battle.

This commentary was written by Dr. John Bacher, a long-time conservation activist in Niagara, Ontario, a Greenbelt Campaign leader at Sierra Club Ontario, and a member of the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society (PALS) .

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