Rouge National Park Reaches Important Final Stages of Establishment

Notice to SLSN members:

This is the time for Naturalists and natural environment advocates to show you care about the beauty, biodiversity and health of the Rouge River watershed and Park and taking steps to protect the Rouge. Important conservation steps in the Rouge to the south of us, can set a tone for future conservation in the Lake Simcoe area in the future.

Some important developments summarized below by Friends of the Rouge.

Ontario Minister Brad Duguid and the Provincial Government are insisting that the Federal Government fully honour its agreement to “Meet or Exceed” the Provincial Rouge Park, Greenbelt and ORM policy framework, as a necessary pre-condition for the transfer of Provincial Rouge Park lands to the Federal Government for the creation of a national Rouge Park (Toronto Star Articles Attached).

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s draft Rouge National Urban Park legislation (Bill C-40) and management plan threaten to undermine the park’s ecological integrity, ecological potential and size.

The originally proposed Rouge NU Park Study Area was 160 km2 of publicly-owned land, mainly in the Greenbelt.

In the maps recently released by Parks Canada, the proposed national Rouge Park has shrunk to an area of only 50 Km2 , less than one third of the original 160 km2 national park proposal.

The current Park proposal is less than half of the publicly owned Greenbelt lands surrounding the Rouge; and only marginally larger than the existing Rouge Park.

Please attend one or more of the upcoming Parks Canada meetings on the Rouge NU Park draft Management Plan and please support FRW’s reasonable request to the Federal Government.

Tuesday September 16 in Pickering, Pickering Recreation Complex, O’Brien Room, 1867 Valley Farm Rd, Pickering, ON L1V 6K7, 7 PM

Thursday September 18 in downtown Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Jackman Hall, 317 Dundas St West, Toronto, ON M5T 1G4 7 PM

Paul Harpley,
President SLSN

NAFTA leaders could save the monarch butterflies

By Carter Roberts & Omar Vidal
(CNN) — Twenty years ago last month, the North American Free Trade Agreement was born. The goal of NAFTA was straightforward — to encourage the free movement of goods and capital between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Few points in history have been as important in forging bonds between our three countries.

While NAFTA is a relatively new pact that ties our nations, there are some things that go back far longer that bind us. Like the annual monarch butterfly migration, which started long before the trades, borders or foreign affairs were even an issue.

There’s no record telling us when monarch butterflies first began their journeys of up to 2,800 miles between southern Canada, the northern U.S., and central Mexico. It’s easy to assume that an end date for the migrations is just as elusive, but reality tells a different story.

In January, we got grim news from the central mountains of Mexico, the southernmost destination for migrating monarchs and sanctuary for their winter hibernation.

According to surveys carried out by World Wildlife Fund, together with Mexico’s National Commission on Protected Areas and other partners, the entire hibernating population of monarch butterflies in the 2013-2014 season occupied an area of forest not much bigger than a football field — a mere 1.6 acres. This is a 44% drop from the previous season, and a continuation of the freefall migrating monarchs have taken since data collection began two decades ago. 2013 was the worst year for these butterflies in recorded history. Now people are talking about the migration disappearing altogether.

There are several reasons for the decline, including extreme climate events in the U.S. and Canada as well as deforestation in Mexico. Yet the biggest culprit is likely the widespread extermination of milkweed, a flowering plant critical to monarch butterfly reproduction and development.

Across much of the monarch’s range, particularly in the midwestern U.S., milkweed has fallen victim en masse to changing land use and the advent of herbicide-resistant crops. In short, the cupboard is bare for monarch caterpillars, and as a result one of North America’s most dazzling natural wonders is on the brink of vanishing entirely.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to witness any part of the monarch spectacle, you understand why we can’t let this happen. Whether a blanket of orange against a deep blue sky; a forest draped from root to leaf in dormant monarchs; or a single butterfly fluttering past you en route to join the masses, there is nothing quite like it.

The proverbial silver lining to this dark news on migratory monarch numbers is that it may have come at an opportune time.

Next Wednesday, February 19, U.S. President Obama will meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Peña Nieto at the North American Leaders’ Summit in Toluca, Mexico. Toluca is just a short distance from the monarch’s hibernation sites. During the summit, the butterflies will still be in nearby forests, poised to emerge from a four-month siesta that began in early winter.

White House officials have said the three leaders will discuss “a range of issues important to the daily lives of all of North America’s people.” What isn’t clear is whether the plight of the monarchs will make the agenda, and if the three countries bound by an age-old butterfly migration will together show resolve in making sure this unique connection isn’t permanently severed.

Whether monarchs flying south from Ontario, across America’s heartland to converge on the oyamel fir trees of the Sierra Madre; gray whales hugging the California coast as they migrate from Baja to the Beaufort Sea and back again; or pronghorn antelope clinging to strongholds from the Northern Great Plains to the Sonoran Desert, the natural bonds connecting the U.S., Mexico and Canada stretch back millennia and transcend anything that can be traded or written on paper. They are bonds to take pride in, that unite the countries of North America in unexpected, beautiful ways. Something we simply cannot let disappear.

The summit in Toluca may be the last hope we have of saving the monarch migration. President Peña Nieto himself has been committed to the conservation of the monarch sanctuaries of Estado de Mexico since he served as governor there from 2005 to 2011. He knows firsthand the significant efforts and sacrifices of Mexico’s local indigenous communities, authorities and civil society organizations to protect the sanctuaries. He also knows the important contribution the butterflies bring to local social and economic well-being.

Only a joint effort from all three countries will turn the tide in favor of the monarch. Our leaders must re-energize efforts to conserve the monarch butterfly, like those under the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation that was born alongside NAFTA. This plan must include concrete actions to halt destruction of milkweed in the U.S. and Canada, restore monarch habitat in all three countries, and strengthen law enforcement in Mexico to stop deforestation. If together we could pull off something as big and ambitious as NAFTA, solving the monarch crisis must be within our means. We urge our heads-of-state, on behalf of all the people of North America, to use this opportunity to commit to the long-term preservation of one of our most ancient and spectacular bonds.

The Town of Georgina’s Recreation Facility Needs Study and Trails and Active Transportation Master Plan.

The studies for this project are nearing completion and the Town hosted one final Public Information Center at The ROC Chalet the evening of Thursday, November 28th, 2013. A few members were able to attend and feedback to be incorporated into the study, and see how the studies have progressed. The final reports and recommendations will be presented to Council in January. Any input at this stage will still be incorporated. Please contact the Town if you have any comment. Details of the Plan are now supposed to be on the Town of Georgina Web Site.

Landowners and Farmers

There are many simple things residents can do to protect drinking water sources, including:

  • Maintaining their septic systems
  • Disposing of hazardous waste properly
  • Minimizing their use of pesticides, fertilizers and de-icing salt
  • Storing fuels properly

Farmers can also protect groundwater sources by:

  • Controlling field and stream bank erosion
  • Using safe storage and handling systems for manure
  • Creating a nutrient management plan
  • Controlling barnyard runoff and diverting clean water

Landowners, including farmers, can apply for funding for projects that protect municipal drinking water through the Landowner Environmental Assistance Program in the Lake Simcoe watershed and the Rural Clean Water Program in the Toronto and Region watershed.

Source: York Region Web Site 2013-11-26

Bird Deaths in Canada

Birds in Canada yearly face many serious threats to their lives. Below is a summary of key causes of their deaths below, recently quantified through scientific research in Canada (270 million deaths).

Sources of annual, human-related bird fatalities in Canada
Domestic and feral cats 196 million
Collisions with Power lines and electrocutions 26.1 million
Collisions with houses or buildings 24.8 million
Collisions with vehicles 13.8 million
Game bird hunting 4.7 million
Agricultural pesticides 2.7 million
Agricultural mowing 2.2 million young birds (equivalent to 1M adults)
Commercial forestry 1.4 million nests (equivalent to 900,000 adults)
Collisions with communications towers 20,000

Source: Richard Elliot, Director of Wildlife Research, Environment Canada. ONNATURE, Winter 2013/2014, pp. 38.

Update on Ontario Government Gutting of Species-at Risk

Ontario Nature continues to fight the Ontario Government gutting of legislation that protects at-risk species. This is unacceptable, so we’re taking them to court.

New rules that came into effect in July allow major industries like forestry, mining, aggregates, energy, housing and oil and gas pipelines to avoid strict (and necessary!) environmental standards intended to protect at-risk species and their habitats.

What does that mean?

It means that projects like subdivisions, roads, pits and quarries are protected more so than endangered and threatened species. We simply cannot stand by as industry is given carte blanche to pave, drill, drain and bulldoze critical habitats.

We are demanding justice for wild species.

Together, we need to raise $50,000 between now and the end of November to prepare our legal case and launch a public campaign.

Will you please support this urgent appeal with your gift today?

Ontario Nature members and supporters like you fought hard for our gold standard Endangered Species Act back in 2007. But now our leaders are failing to deliver on their promise to protect endangered species.

Our government abandoned Ontario’s most imperiled species, taking away the protection they desperately need. But we are here to defend the species we love.

Take action with your gift to Ontario Nature today. Please stand with us for nature, and justice, today.

Yours for nature—and justice,

Executive Director, Ontario Nature

Neonicotinoid pesticides in Ontario

Information fromThe Ontario Beekeepers’ Association

The petition to ban neonicotinoid pesticides in Ontario has over 40,000 signatures! We’ve surpassed our goal, but let’s not stop here – we’re making significant progress toward protecting the future of pollinators and other wildlife. If each of us gets one more person to sign the petition we could pass 50,000 this week before we submit it to Premier Wynne.

In addition to supporting our efforts toward a ban in Ontario, here’s an opportunity for impact at the federal level: The Pest Management Regulatory Agency, the Federal body responsible for pesticide regulation and compliance in Canada, has issued a Call for Comments to their plans to protect bees from exposure to neonicotinoids. In their report (found here: http://bit.ly/15YVdoS), they acknowledge that the majority of examined pollinator mortalities were a result of exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides and “that current agricultural practices related to the use of neonicotinoid treated corn and soybean seed are not sustainable”.

They suggest a number of protective measures, but not a ban as yet. They need to hear from you! In addition to your own concerns, you can tell the PMRA that continued use of neonicotinoid pesticides poses an unacceptable likelihood of serious harm to honey bees and native pollinators and reduces pollination of wild plants in a way that may alter ecosystems. Tell them you are concerned about toxic build up in water and soil. Tell them you want these toxic chemicals removed from use before the 2014 planting season.

Here is the email link for comments: pmra.publications@hc-sc.gc.ca. You will need to provide your name, phone number and email address along with your comments.

Let’s make sure they don’t just hear from those with vested interests in pesticides, because, make no mistake, those who are against the ban are out in full force, using every means available to prevent or delay change. They have the resources, but we have the passion, the science and the support of thousands like you. Ontario’s beekeepers will never give up pressing for change and we hope you won’t either. For more information: www.ontariobee.com/neonics

The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association

Ontario Nature – Endangered Species Action – against Ontario Liberal Government

After exhausting all other avenues, Ontario Nature has joined forces with Ecojustice and Wildlands League to take the government to court for unlawfully gutting Ontario’s gold standard Endangered Species Act. We simply cannot stand by as the government trades in its gold standard act for fool’s gold.

This spring, the government approved changes that dramatically weaken protection for Ontario’s at-risk species, like Blanding’s turtle, American eel and lakeside daisy. We believe the changes are unlawful. The Endangered Species Act was intended to protect and recover the province’s most imperilled species. Instead the government has exempted a broad suite of industries from the law’s requirements to protect species and their habitats and significantly reduced government oversight of harmful activities.

Forestry wins the jackpot with a five-year blanket exemption. A blanket exemption for an industry that affects over 40 million hectares of land in Ontario! You can imagine what that means for a species like the woodland caribou that has already been pushed out of 50 percent of its historic range in the province.

But forestry is not the only industry that gets off the hook with the new exemptions. Others include mining, pits and quarries, hydro, wind power, subdivision development, road-building and waste management. Across the board, the new regulations protect industries over species, allowing industry to pave, drill, drain and bulldoze crucial habitat with almost zero government oversight.

Ontario’s gold standard Endangered Species Act has been undone, and we intend to set it right. For the sake of the more than 200 at-risk plant and animal species in Ontario and for everyone who believes that the law should be implemented as it was intended; we’re taking the government to court.

Caroline Schultz
Executive Director
Ontario Nature

Provincial Policy Statement 5-year Review (which commenced in March 2010)

Letter to Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing – endorsed by SLSN.

Via E-mail (minister.mah@ontario.ca)
The Honourable Linda Jeffrey
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
17th Floor, 777 Bay St
Toronto, ON
M5G 2E5

Dear Minister Jeffrey

Re: Provincial Policy Statement (2005), five-year Review

We, the under-signed, are writing to express our support for the Ontario government’s commitment to land use planning reform and to highlight important issues that have yet to be adequately addressed through the ongoing five-year Review of the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS).
We endorse the Province’s goal of promoting vibrant, healthy communities, while protecting the natural environment and creating a greener economy. We are pleased to note the renewed emphasis on sustainability, system-based planning, active transportation, transit and green infrastructure in the Draft Amended PPS. To more fully protect biodiversity and to mitigate and adapt to climate change, however, there are still significant issues which can and should be addressed through the ongoing PPS Review. To this end, we urge you to make the following key changes:

1. Establish clear priorities: The scope of the PPS is very broad, covering many interests and potentially conflicting land uses. We strongly recommend that the PPS be amended to clearly state that in the case of a conflict, the protection of human health and the natural environment will be prioritized.

2. Protect significant natural features and prime farmland from aggregates extraction: Now is the time for Ontario to revisit and revise the preferential treatment accorded to aggregate extraction under the PPS. Unfortunately, the Draft Amended PPS includes changes that would offer even more preferential treatment to aggregates extraction. Specifically, there is a proposed loophole that would allow aggregates extraction to proceed in prime farmland and in significant natural heritage features, based on the unrealistic premise that rehabilitation afterwards will fully restore the values lost. This loophole must be closed, first because rehabilitation may not occur for decades 2– if it ever occurs. (There are over 4,000 abandoned pits and quarries in Ontario that have yet to be rehabilitated.) And second, because the science of rehabilitation is far from perfect: removing huge quantities of rock and gravel results in permanent changes to hydrology and soils, and thus to the very conditions which support particular crops and plant and animal life.

3. Enhance protection for wetlands: We are pleased to note the increased protection offered to coastal wetlands in the Draft Amended PPS. The proposed revisions do not go far enough, however, to adequately protect this valuable resource. Wetlands are key to maintaining water supply and water quality and to enhancing landscape resilience in an era of climate change. They also provide habitat for many of the province’s most imperiled plants and animals. We urge you further revise the PPS so as to protect all coastal wetlands and all provincially significant wetlands province-wide. In the absence of an assessment of significance having been made, the highest level of protection should apply. In addition, given the dramatic loss of wetlands in southern and eastern Ontario (at least 72%, and over 90% in some areas), the PPS should be amended to protect all wetlands in this region from development.

4. Require system-based planning for natural heritage across Ontario: A new requirement of the Draft Amended PPS is the identification of natural heritage systems in southern and eastern Ontario. This is an important step, but does not go far enough. The protection and enhancement of natural heritage systems is a critical component of strategies to conserve biodiversity and to mitigate and adapt to climate change. As noted in a letter to you, dated April 5, 2013, from 31 community and environmental organizations in northern Ontario, natural heritage should be afforded equally strong protection in the north as in the south, since “good planning should be for all of Ontario.” The identification of natural heritage systems should be required across Ontario.

5. Require planning at the watershed and/or sub-watershed level: In order to meaningfully address biodiversity loss and climate change and to protect water systems, it is imperative that the PPS require watershed planning at the appropriate ecological scale.

6. Retain current policies for species at risk: The Draft Amended PPS significantly weakens the current level of protection for species at risk offered under the PPS by deferring to provincial and federal requirements, including the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA).This legislation allows development to occur through permits and exemptions without consideration of matters normally addressed through municipal land use planning. We urge you to maintain the current level of protection by retaining the existing PPS 2005 policies regarding species at risk, which include a clear prohibition regarding development in the habitat of species at risk and on lands adjacent to that habitat.

7. Reference technical guidance: To assist planning authorities and decision-makers with implementation and to enable the development and adoption of progressive policies in official plans, the PPS should explicitly refer to the Natural Heritage Reference Manual, which provides detailed guidelines for natural heritage protection, and should require planning authorities to consider that guidance.

In conclusion, we fully support the PPS vision of fostering strong, sustainable, healthy and resilient communities across Ontario. To do so requires an approach to land use planning that accurately reflects and upholds the true value of our ecosystems and the goods and services that they provide.
Thank you for your attention. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Dr. Anastasia M. Lintner – Staff Lawyer & Economist, Ecojustice Canada
Caroline Schultz – Executive Director, Ontario Nature
Theresa McClenaghan – Executive Director and Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law Association
Andrew McCammon – Executive Director, Ontario Headwaters Institute
Julie Cayley – Manager of Government Relations, Ducks Unlimited Canada
Naomi Grant – Chair, Coalition for a Livable Sudbury

c.c. Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario