The Talon – Vol. 24, No.3 August 2014

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The Talon – Vol. 24, No.3 August 2014

Inside this issue:

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…

Majority of Ontarians Want To See Greenbelt Grow
By Jenny Chan

After nine years, support for Ontario’s Greenbelt remains strong. Ontarians want to see more land included in the land protection policy according to a recent poll conducted by Environics Research Group.

According to the survey, three-quarters of Ontarians (74%) feel it is very important to continue to grow Ontario’s Greenbelt. Polling results align with Mississauga, Oakville, and Toronto taking the necessary steps to grow the Greenbelt. These cities have begun work to include areas along Fourteen Mile Creek, Credit River and Etobicoke Creek river valleys, and the Don, Humber and Etobicoke Creeks as part of Ontario’s Greenbelt. This is in addition to the recent inclusion of Glenorchy Conservation Area to Greenbelt protected land.

“Growing the Greenbelt ranks up there with developing public transit and increasing access to local food,” says Burkhard Mausberg, CEO of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation. “This overwhelming response is a most encouraging sign.”

Support for the Greenbelt is at an all time high with 93% of Ontarians supporting the 1.8 million acres of protected land.

“Knowing that we are going into the review of Ontario’s Greenbelt Plan in 2015, we are delighted that the Greenbelt remains an important contribution to the quality of life in Ontario,” said Mausberg.

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