by John Bacher
Niagara's municipal politicians have mounted an offense against forest defenders by their response to the bravely circulated document, "A Call For Accountability at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority” (full 25 MB document here). A threatening salvo was fired by Robert Burns, solicitor with the law firm, Broderick and Partners. It alleges that the authors of "the Call" are "motivated by malice" in their "false and defamatory" attacks.
Following Burn's missive another barrage called "A Special Statement" was fired off. It uses a three fold attack on environmentalists.
First "A Special Statement" condemns conservationists for not focusing on "valid concerns." It claims the authentic debate shaping the future of the threatened 500 acre Thundering Waters Forest, "has shifted to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), the City of Niagara Falls, and the province."
In reality there has been no big shift because of the mounting exposés of environmentally harmful impacts that would result from the wiping out of the Thundering Waters Forest. This has caused a major delay which has prevented the OMB from considering the issue. Before both it and the City of Niagara Falls City council can consider the development scheme there has to be a Public Meeting held under the Planning Act. Holding such a meeting was delayed by the Niagara Falls City Council in response to concerns raised about environmental impacts in a letter from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. (MNRF)
Among concerns that MNRF has raised are the impact of the proposed development on Species At Risk. These include the Wood Thrush, Eastern Wood Pee-Wee, Barn Swallow, the Chimney Swift, and the Tri-Coloured Bat. Both bats and swifts may utilize the old growth forest for critical nesting habitat, taking advantage of tree cavieties and aged bark.
A second prong in the attack on conservationists in "A Special Statement" is a vigorous defense of the "Strategic Plan" of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA). It was this very plan which resulted in justifications for the firing of brave NPCA staff who worked with me in the past to rescue the Thundering Waters Forest.
The website of the NPCA which details the Strategic Plan and its various drafts is full of descriptions of the attacks on dedicated people who helped me. It describes how the drilling of these heroic people took part in "Sleeves rooled up" interogation sessions, where "candid stakeholder" interviews took place. Here the stakeholders took great pleasure in what are termed "empowered... change management working groups led by NPCA board members." These leaders were all NPCA board members who were at the time, elected municipal politicians.
In the verbiage of the Strategic Plan and its various drafts, "stakeholder" is a euphemism. It is a simple slick code word for developers and their minions who clashed with me in my battles eight years ago to protect the Thundering Waters Forest. The NPCA website clearly names three of these so called stakeholders who tried, in vain, to drive a stake through the heart of the Thundering Waters Forest. One is Ed Lustig, who negotiated the deal with me that resulted in the wetland re-evaluation. Another is Richard Brady, who took part in one of the deal sessions. Another is Johnathan Whyte. After the Strategic Plan was completed, following an OMB mediation, Whyte signed a letter to Jean Grandoni and myself when plans for Thundering Waters north of Oldfield Road were completed.
"A Special Statement" concludes by praising the NPCA's Advisory Committee. Its Co-Chair is Jonathan Whyte. During the only public consultation held on the Ontario wetland policy review held in Niagara in 2015 (a second one was promised but never took place), Whyte was the only participant in a room of fifty people to present a brief in favour of what was termed, "bio-diversity offsetting."
One of the Advisory Committee members is Lisa Campbell. She is the author of a 2005 study referenced in the bibliography of the draft Environmental Impact Statement of the Thundering Waters Secondary Plan. It concluded that salamanders are absent from the Thundering Waters Forest. This is the conclusion that was later refuted in the 2010 wetland evaluation for the Niagara Falls Slough Forest, the victory that triggered massive firings of NPCA staff justified through its odious Strategic Plan.
The persecuting antics of Robert Burns and "A Special Statement" are just the latest episode in the eight year struggle to rescue the Thundering Waters Old Growth Forest and the rare species it supports. It is to be hoped that public outrage over these attacks will be another milestone in the campaign to save this precious place.