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thistleclub Aug 20, 2019 12:10 PM

Hamilton Conservation Authority
Ontario government urges winding down of conservation programs to conserve cash
(Toronto Star, Robert Benzie, Aug 20, 2019)

The cash-strapped Progressive Conservative government is hoping to conserve money by winding down some conservation programs.
Conservation Ontario said local municipalities and conservation authorities were been told in a letter last Friday from Premier Doug Ford’s administration to shut down any initiatives that are not related to their “core mandate.”....

Environment Minister Jeff Yurek confirmed late Monday night that the letter had been sent to Conservation Ontario.

“Over the years, conservation authorities have expanded past their core mandate into activities such as zip-lining, maple syrup festivals and photography and wedding permits,” he said.

Yurek noted the Tories had signaled the changes in the More Homes, More Choice Act earlier this year, the legislation designed to make it easier to build new homes.

“Bringing conservation authorities back to their core mandate will allow municipalities to better manage conservation authority budgets and programs,” the minister said.

“The legislative changes we’ve made ensure conservation authorities focus on delivering core services and programs that protect communities from natural hazards and flooding while using taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively,” he said.

NortheastWind Aug 21, 2019 6:14 PM

These extra programs are needed revenue sources to pay for these core programs.
The programs are the direct result of the Harris government's claw backs in the '90's.

The Ford government sucks.

thistleclub Aug 23, 2019 9:53 AM

Related story in GTA points to potential ramifications of the Ford government's order: closure of conservation areas and nature trails.

Pioneer Village, conservation areas threatened by Ford government directive, official warns
(Toronto Star, David Rider & Francine Kopun, Aug. 22 2019)

A Ford government order that conservation authorities halt non-essential activities could trigger the closure of Black Creek Pioneer Village, conservation areas and nature trails, the chair of the agency protecting GTA watersheds is warning fellow board members and the government.

In an email to the board Thursday, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority chair Jennifer Innis said she had “in-depth conversation” with representatives of Environment Minister Jeff Yurek about TRCA concerns with the controversial directive sent last Friday to Ontario’s 36 authorities.

Yurek’s letter “indicated that CAs must begin to ‘wind down’ non-core programs and services,” Innis, a Caledon regional councillor, told board members in the correspondence obtained by the Star.

“The wording would suggest that we must end programs and services such as our conservation areas, education centres like Black Creek Pioneer Village, trails, SNAPs (sustainable neighbourhood action programs) and PPG (Partners in Project Green), as examples.

“Obviously, that would cause great concerns to our organization and our member municipalities. It was imperative that the Minister be made aware of our concerns.”

…Yurek’s order has triggered alarm among conservation authorities, which operate some facilities and festivals as money-makers to help fund core programs.

As the province doesn’t fund those activities, winding them down won’t save taxpayers any money, they say.

This move was likely precipitated because conservation authorities irk housing developers when they weigh in on developments and applications to build in regulated areas of watersheds under their authority.

It's also worth remembering that Bill 108 also guts the Endangered Species Act and Environmental Protection Act, two more telling inclusions in the More Homes, More Choice Act.

thistleclub Sep 22, 2019 4:20 PM

Majestic forest once covered much of Hamilton
(Hamilton Spectator, Tom Hogue, Sept 10 2019)

Pine trees the size of wind turbines towered over thick stands of oak and walnut in a rain forest setting that stretched from Dundas to Lake Erie.

A natural wonder from today's perspective, but this 18th century local landscape was an obstacle to settlers who needed to clear land for crops.

Hardwood forests were simply set fire after choice softwood pines were culled for British naval masts.

By the mid-19th century, over 100 sawmills operated along the Erie coast, Port Dover was a busy shipping hub for U.S. markets to the south and a new plank road fed the industrial boom in newly established Hamilton.

Wood had arrived as a profitable enterprise — but it was considered an infinite and therefore expendable resource.

Almost 90 per cent of the forest frontier to the south of Hamilton would be gone by the dawn of Confederation.

The most visible scar was the logged out Niagara Escarpment around Hamilton. Where 300-year old pine sentinels once towered over the city, only stumps and dirt remained along the shadeless ridge.

Not until dust-bowl conditions appeared in Norfolk among other new Ontario deserts in the early 20th century did the crisis take shape.

It was a McMaster student who pushed the panic button.

At Turkey Point, Long Point and other areas, sand blowed freely across 4,000 hectares, concluded a 1908 report prepared by Edmund Zavitz, whose forestry interests stirred at Mac (when it was located on Bloor Street in Toronto) and in post-grad studies at Yale and in Michigan.

"On a particular windy day, dark clouds of sand eerily covered the horizon, appearing like a threatening rain storm," John Bacher recounts of those early observations in his book Two Billion Trees and Counting: The Legacy of Edmund Zavitz.

The "wasteland" report by Zavitz proved instrumental in establishing provincial funding for reseeding efforts and the creation of Ontario's first Forestry Station in St. Williams, Ont.

Bacher describes Hamilton as an early turning point in the slow creep toward acceptance of the tree as a resource in desperate need of management.

It was a 1878 gathering here of the Ontario Fruit Growers Association when Chief George Johnson of the Six Nations and others raised concerns about lost forest cover, Bacher said.

During the Hamilton visit, Fruit Growers' president Robert Burnet witnessed for himself the extent of deforestation along the Niagara Escarpment and expressed his shock in an 1879 report to members:

"Hamilton, which might have enjoyed a scene of beauty for generations yet to come, has allowed the face of her fair mountain to be barbarously shorn of the leafy covering, to the great detriment of the city and injury to the proprietors," Burnet wrote.

From that point forward, forestry would become one of the influential group's chief fields of study and concern, Burnet announced, prefacing his remarks with the statement: "The universal curse of an old civilization is the reckless destruction of the original forests."

"We can never estimate the valuable timber that has been sacrificed to a hungry greed to clear the land."

An unlikely critic of the runaway lumber trade was James Little, whose own timber and sawmill operations extended throughout southern Ontario from a centre in Caledonia.

Little had grown rich in the mad rush to cut Wentworth, Brant and Norfolk timber in the 1850s. When the supply of local pine was exhausted by 1870, he left for literally greener prospects in the Quebec lumber trade.

Fearing other regions might suffer a fate similar to the ravaged forests of the Hamilton area, Little's perspective softened in Montreal.

"He became an early conservationist because he had seen what happened to this part of the world and was afraid that the problem that forced him to leave Ontario would become a problem in Quebec," Bacher said.

But Little's message "was a voice in the wilderness," Bacher said. Not until 1911, when Zavitz's wasteland report gained the teeth of provincial legislation, did political will take seed.

For work that led to the establishment of forest reserves, parks and new lumber industry practices, Zavitz earned the handle "father of reforestation."

Read it in full here.

thistleclub Mar 9, 2021 5:34 PM

The province's war on nature continues apace.

To pave way for wetland development, Ford government retroactively changing law
(CBC News, Mike Crawley, March 5 2021)

The Ford government is proposing a retroactive change to provincial law to clear the way for a controversial development project on a protected wetland.

The change in legislation was tabled by the government Thursday as part of an unrelated bill about expanding broadband internet in rural areas.

The amendments to Ontario's Planning Act would nullify a key clause that limits the scope of ministerial zoning orders (MZOs), a powerful tool that helps fast-track developments by overriding local zoning rules.

CBC News has obtained an internal document that shows the government is making the change specifically to to bolster its case against a lawsuit that aims to halt a development on the Lower Duffins Creek wetland in Pickering.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark issued an MZO in October to fast-track a distribution centre and production facility in the wetland, south of Highway 401 near Pickering's border with Ajax.

The amendments to the Planning Act "appear designed to retroactively legitimize the order" regarding the Lower Duffins Creek project, according to the coalition of environmental groups that has launched the lawsuit

The Ford government has issued 33 MZOs since last April, more than the previous Liberal governments issued over the course of a decade.

Ontario's Planning Act currently says any such order must be consistent with all relevant "provincial policy statements" that are in effect at the time.

However, the amendments tabled Thursday say that provision "is deemed never to have applied" to any MZOs.

Read it in full here.

thistleclub Apr 8, 2021 4:30 PM

Hamilton Conservation Authority plan to let builders move wetlands sparks testy debate
(Ancaster News, Richard Leitner, Apr 6 2021)

A Hamilton Conservation Authority plan to let developers bulldoze some wetlands and other natural features if they recreate them elsewhere is dividing its own directors, even before the city and public get their say on a staff discussion paper.

The proposed “natural heritage offsetting” policy, which draws on ones at three other authorities, including Toronto’s, would only permit the trade-off if unavoidable and the lost habitat can be replaced by something equal or better.

While also prohibiting destruction of irreplaceable habitat, it still didn’t sit well with some directors at their April 1 meeting.

“This is a dramatic shift in conservation authority policy,” said Stoney Creek Coun. Brad Clark, questioning a goal to enact the change by this fall. “What’s the urgency?”

Authority chair Lloyd Ferguson said the initiative responds to a developer’s request last October to move a wetland in Ancaster’s airport employment growth district to make way for a 1.3-million-square-foot warehouse.

But Ferguson, councillor for Ancaster, said he’s aware of another two pending requests from the same area, arguing the policy will yield better land use, slow expansion of the urban boundary, and result in a net habitat benefit.

“It would actually enhance it,” he said. “The compensation may be three to one, two to one, four to one — who knows? That’ll come out in the public consultation.”

But Clark told Ferguson the authority seems to be acting “at the behest of a developer.”

“No, I think it’s more trying to create jobs and allow these things to move forward and get more tax credit,” Ferguson said.

“When did the conservation authority get in that business?” Clark shot back.

“OK, I don’t want to debate this with you,” Ferguson responded. “We’re not in that business, we’re in the conservation business.”

“Then why did you say it?” asked Clark, who joined two other directors in opposing the release of a discussion paper for public consultation. “I think this is wrong for the conservation authority to be going in this direction.”

Read it in full here.

thistleclub Apr 30, 2021 11:13 AM

Mike Harris’s former environment minister appointed by province to head Greenbelt Council
(Toronto Star, David Rider & Breanna Xavier Carter, Apr 29 2021)

Retired MPP Norm Sterling, an Ontario environment minister in the Mike Harris government of the 1990s, is the Ford government’s choice to lead the Greenbelt Council.

Sterling replaces David Crombie, who resigned in November over the province’s controversial limiting of local conservation authorities’ ability to deny development permits for sensitive lands. Crombie called the moves by Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government “high-level bombing” that “needs to be resisted.”

Sterling’s appointment set off a new wave of criticism for the Ford government, which has frequently used ministerial zoning orders to force particular development approvals and is pushing to build Highway 413 through parts of the Greenbelt, a band of protected farmland, forests, rivers and lakes.

The Opposition NDP noted Sterling voted in 2005 against the creation of the Greenbelt.

“Putting the fox in charge of the henhouse is classic Doug Ford,” said NDP environment critic Sandy Shaw in a statement.

“Time and time again Ford has been busted trying to pave the Greenbelt as a favour to his donors. Ontarians have a right to be worried about this appointment.”

In 1995, Sterling faced criticism for slashing the Environment Ministry’s budget by 40 per cent while arguing that “implementing stronger environmental policies” would counter the funding loss.

Read it in full here.

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