Sierra activist nearly expelled from Land Use Planning meeting for planned development project in Niagara

The following article was written by Dr. John Bacher, Greenbelt Campaign leader at Sierra Club Ontario, and a member of the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society (PALS).

"Environmentalists believe the overall development could destroy a rich ecosystem, while others believe the project would be an economic boon to the city."

During the evening of November 20th, 2107 in a hockey arena in the City of Niagara Falls, I came close to being expelled from a land use planning meeting. In this regards, what came to mind was an appreciation of the Sierra Club's distinguished record of linking human rights with struggles to protect the environment. Disturbingly, however, this was not an example taken from the Sierra Club's efforts to support such campaigns against repression in distant Mexico and Russia. It emerged out of my own work to protect Ontario's wetlands and forests with the Sierra Club of Canada Foundation.

At the public meeting I spoke on the need to conduct bat maternity roosting studies before the proposed 500 acre Thundering Waters Forest development project went to a Public Meeting under the Planning Act. After finishing this I was about to explain how the developer's concept plan in Amendment 130 to the Niagara Falls Official Plan is based on removal of protection for provincially significant wetlands on the site. This point is controversial since the developer, Helen Chang, has denied that any wetlands will be destroyed for the development.

I heard a loud male voice ordering me to stop speaking. I then went to the back of the room. Then I was spoke to by a security guard who ordered me out of the room. Fortunately, the security guard was overheard by a Niagara Falls City Councillor in attendance, Carolyn Ioannoi. She asked the security guard who ordered me to leave to identify his supervisor. He did and the City Councillor told him that I had a right to remain in the meeting. He then agreed and I was told that I could remain. As a result from a concerned member of the public I was able to learn new information how salt from ice could negatively kill wildlife such as frogs and the increased traffic could devastate the Snapping Turtle, a Species At Risk.

To read about this in the Niagara Falls Review news article, please click here.

Blog photo of environmentalists protesting a planned development in Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara, obtained from CBC News website.

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