Ford Attacks Eco-Defenders Who Expose Secrecy and Deception

Written by Dr. John Bacher
Originally posted here

In a revealing move Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the shutdown of the newly created Local Planning Appeals Support Centre (LPASC). One of its important actions was to provide me with secret documents that had been suppressed improperly by the Niagara Falls Planning Department. These letters exposed how junk science paid for by a private developer was used to justify the destruction of provincially significant woodlands and wildlife habitat.

Thundering Waters Forest. Photo by Martin Munoz.

The suppressed letters were from Tara McKenna District Planner for the Guelph division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). The letters she wrote were to the Director of Planning for the City of Niagara Falls, Alex Herlovitch. They were dated December 11, 2017 and January 15, 2018.

The suppressed letters were in effect, scientific peer reviews of the work of the consultants, Savanta, a major corporate developer, GR Canada. They are proponents of Official Plan Amendment 128 to the Niagara Falls Official Plan. If approved the amendment would destroy 120 acres of natural habitat for nine Species At Risk. These are the Snapping Turtle, Midland Painted Turtle, Acadian Flycatcher, Dense Blazing Star, Kentucky Coffee Tree, Wood Thrush, Eastern Wood Pewee, Chimney Swift and Barn Swallow.

When acoustic surveys completed in July 2017 are finally released we may know if there area as suspected three species of Endangered Bats here. Although only 120 acres now are proposed for development, the Attorney for the GR Canada has vowed to proceeded with later Phase Two application.

McKenna told the Niagara Falls Planning Department that “Wetlands are not to be removed on the rationale that they will be destroyed by the proposed development.” She also explained to them that “storm water management facilities” to treat pollution were supposed to be established in protected wetlands.

MNRF’s letter also revealed how a number of “rare vegetation communities” were threatened by the development, most notably “old growth forests.”She decried efforts to individually remove protections from components of the protected Niagara Falls Slough Forest. Her letter stressed that such an approach violated MNRF’s “standardized” wetland evaluation policy.

Thundering Waters Forest. Photo by Martin Munoz.

MNRF’s concealed December 11, 2017 letter also challenged the pretense for development by GR Canada’s consultants Savanta that development could be permitted because that provincially significant woodlands had lost their ecological function from Ash Die Off. McKenna wrote that, “The potential future decline in ash canopy may change the dominant canopy cover but not necessarily the functional value of the woodland.”

LPASC’s release of McKenna’s letters expressed MNRF’s concerns exposed how at least 9 Species At Risk are threatened by the Riverfront development in Niagara Falls. The December 11, 2017 asked that the area where the Threatened Kentucky Coffee Tree was found be mapped. It found that Savanta’s focus on Snapping Turtle nesting areas was too narrow and urged that “The ecological function of the entire feature and adjacent lands should be evaluated.” The letter also found that Savanta “had not demonstrated the absence of turtle nesting areas on site.” It also challenged Savanta’s claims that a Threatened Wildflower, the Dense Blazing Star, was not native to Niagara. This species was discovered by Daniel Nardone in a August 2017 sit in on the threatened site.

Ford’s plans to dissolve LPASC are a crude example of how his scheming aids developers’ who threaten lands of great ecological sensitivity and biodiversity. In battles to protect such areas truth of this most powerful weapon. Ford ‘s move if not reversed, will benefit the powerful who plan to win hearings of the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal through the use of biased junk science. Had the Niagara Falls Planning Department succeeded in concealing the letters of December 11, 2018, and January 15, 2108, this would have been accomplished.

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