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Botanical Discovery of Threatened Liatris Spicata in Thundering Waters Sit-In

by Dr. John Bacher

Dense Blazing Star in Thundering Waters sit-in site. Photo: Owen Bjorgan
Dense Blazing Star in Thundering Waters sit-in site. Photo: Owen Bjorgan
Activists camping in the Thundering Waters Forest. Photo: Owen Bjorgan
Activists camping in the Thundering Waters Forest. Photo: Owen Bjorgan
Regionally rare butterfly Milkweed in Thundering Waters Forest. Photo: Adrin Willems
Regionally rare butterfly Milkweed in Thundering Waters Forest. Photo: Adrin Willems
Threatened Dense Blazing Star near sit-in site. Photo: Daniel Nardone
Threatened Dense Blazing Star near sit-in site. Photo: Daniel Nardone
 Dense Blazing Star near sit-in site. Photo: Daniel Nardone
Dense Blazing Star near sit-in site. Photo: Daniel Nardone

At sunset on Sunday, August 13, 2017, following the setting of a sacred fire by Mohawk fire keeper Fred Bowering, a sit in to protect the threatened, complex, Thundering Waters 483 acre ecosystem was launched by the Land and Water Defenders.  The goal of the defenders, who have  have gathered around 30 campers on site, is to build public support for the provincial government to purchase the area as a park. Bowering explained how the wild lands “are worth more than all the money in the world and we must keep places like this.”

Through a wetland re-evaluation in October 2016, following a peer review of the developer’s proffered Environmental Impact Study, (EIS) most of the area is now protected from urban development through a protective designation of provincially significant wetland.  However, there remains after buffering constraints,  about 150 acres of drier lands that could be turned into probable high rise towers.

Development of drier lands, with less tree canopy than the surrounding Pin Oak dominated wetlands, will fragment and degrade the Thundering Waters ecosystem. Many of these areas provide nesting habitat for species at risk, such as the Wood Thrush and the Eastern Wood Pewee. But one of the surprising findings that have emerged from the Land and Waters Defenders sit in is that part of the site is one of the rarest ecosystems in Ontario, Tall Grass Prairie. This is illustrated by the presence, of a Threatened species, a tall purple colorful wildflower, Liatris Spicata. (Commonly known as Dense Blazing Star) During the sit in Dense Blazing Star photographs were taken by eco-activist, Daniel Nardone, who was familiar with the species as a former Windsor resident. 

Dense Blazing Star according to its current recovery plan  is only recorded in ten sites in Ontario, all in the southwestern part of the province. Here ninety percent of the population is found on the Ojibway Nature Reserve in Windsor, Pinery Provincial Park and Bkejwanog  ( the Walpole Island First Nation). The main threat to the species' survival in Canada, according to a status report, “is loss of habitat through land use change, mainly to development.”  Its Ontario recovery plan warns that the species survival “is dependent on provincially rare habitats that are subject to continual development pressures.”

The discovery through the sit in brings into further discredit the proffered EIS prepared by the developer by Dr. Stephen Hill of the consulting firm, Dougan Associates. Earlier through field work I identified another prairie species at Thundering Waters. This was the regionally rare, Butterfly Milkweed, missed by the EIS. What is astonishing that Hill would miss an even more iconic and showy wildflower, the Dense Blazing Star. The habitat of this Threatened prairie species, was dismissed as mere, “Gray Dogwood Cultural Thicket.”

It is common for sit ins to be occasions for significant environmental research. Under the leadership of Danny Beaton, (Mohawk, Turtle Clan), the struggle to stop Dump Site 41 was won after excavations were found to dirty water, contrary to the incompetent statements of engineers. Only after a few days the Sit-In to save Thundering Waters found that the developer’s EIS to be grossly in error.

 


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Topics: Environment

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John Bacher (John Bacher)
St. Catharines
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ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECT

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