Protesting the NPCA’s Firing of Stuart McPherson, the Conservation Authority’s “last resident ecosystem restoration expert”
“It is frankly bewildering to try and understand why this new (NPCA) Board would sanction the loss of a valuable employee.” – from an Open Statement circulated by the Niagara Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada and the Niagara Restoration Council
By Dennis Edell, Chair of Niagara Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada, and John Bacher, Chair of the Niagara Restoration Council
Posted February 18th, 2019 on Niagara At Large
Last week, the alleged management of the Niagara Conservation Authority ﬁred Stuart McPherson, the Agency’s last resident ecosystem restoration expert.
Mr. McPherson was uniquely qualiﬁed as a water quality expert, with knowledge of the science and familiarity with the issues surrounding the management of Niagara’s watersheds.
This action was approved by the interim Board of Directors, acting without the advice of a qualiﬁed CAO.
According to Conservation Ontario, “Conservation Authorities are local, watershed management agencies that deliver services and programs that protect and manage water and other natural resources in partnership with government, landowners and other organizations.”
Unfortunately NPCA’s action not only ignores this mission, but it abdicates their responsibility in this regard. As noted in the Ontario Auditor General’s report, the NPCA has not done any work on improving water quality since it suspended its restoration program in July 2017.
In May 2018, eight months after suspending the Water Quality Improvement Program, the Board approved draft terms of reference for a new restoration grant and in August 2018 began accepting applications. A few months later the management team cancelled this same program. Such is the disarray at the NPCA that shows no signs of abating.
The Niagara Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada and the Niagara Restoration Council work together to restore and protect the headwaters of Twelve Mile Creek, Niagara’s major cold water resource that ﬂows from Pelham through Thorold and St. Catharines into Lake Ontario.
This partnership includes stream restoration in Short Hills Park and a Landowner Stewardship program to address the 80% of the stream that ﬂows through private lands. Prior to 2017, the NPCA was a primary local source of expertise and support for these projects.
With the ﬁring of restoration staﬀ, the cancelling of a restoration grant program and now the ﬁring of one of the last key restoration resource persons, NPCA management has conﬁrmed the low priority they assign to programs for improving Niagara’s water quality and aquatic health. This is the same important work that will help mitigate the recent unusual storm surge and ﬂooding events caused by climate change.
With the old Board of Directors voted out and the appointment of a new interim Board, there was reason to hope that the NPCA would return to its mission.
Given the current state of ﬂux at the NPCA and the critical comments from Ontario’s Auditor General’s report, it is frankly bewildering to try and understand why this new Board would sanction the loss of a valuable employee, especially when the recommendation came from an interim and unqualiﬁed management team.
Will Niagara ever have a focused and eﬀective Conservation Authority?
To read a news commentary Niagara At Large posted on the firing of this respectable NPCA employee, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2019/02/13/firing-of-another-respected-npca-employee-draws-public-anger-concern/ .
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