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Environmental Registry of Ontario
29 Jun

Environmental Registry of Ontario I have found that walking among trees, enjoying birds, and breathing in the lovely forest smell is a sanity saver during this pandemic. We are seeing increasing evidence that a healthy and intact ecosystem not only helps us feel better now but could reduce the likelihood of another pandemic. As developers are not taking time off from pushing their agenda to build in what are now forests, meadows and wetlands, the work to preserve nature is more vital than ever. Ensuring that natural areas continue to exist as habitat for the wildlife that we love will take all of us. We have the right and obligation to stand up for the environment and to be heard. An easy and effective way to let the Ontario government know your views on environmental and development proposals is to set up an account at the Environmental Registry of Ontario. https://ero.ontario.ca/page/welcome. On the home page you can register for an account that will allow you to see proposals, deadlines, contact information for a person working on the file, and a place to submit your comments. As long as you haven’t included identifying information your comments will be published online, read and considered. With an account, your comments will be archived for you, you can see updates, and you can choose key-words if you would like notices. Although many files are long and complicated, googling proposals will bring up articles that show the gist of them. You don’t need to be well-versed in environment bureaucratic-speak and you don’t need to write a brief. A few sentences saying what you think of the proposal and what you would like the government to do can be very effective. You may also wish to email a copy of your comments to your MPP. One proposal you might wish to respond to is 019-1680, Proposed Amendment 1 to “ A Place to Grow: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe”. This revision to the growth plan asks for comments about allowing quarries and gravel pits in the habitats of species at risk and making it even easier for developers to destroy more wetlands and forests in order to build more roads and subdivisions. Now, how long did it take you to decide how you feel about these proposals? How long did it take you to decide whether the government is on the right track with these plans? Exactly! Joyce Sankey

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02 May

Navigating appeals to planning decisions can be a complex process. When the provincial government recently announced they were shutting down the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre (LPASC), many local citizen groups were dismayed. The LPASC was set up as a service to assist citizens by providing input to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). Prior to the establishment of the LPASC, presenting at hearings often required the services of lawyers and planning experts. This gave the developers an advantage over local citizen groups that lacked the funding for such resources. The LPASC was able to provide assistance to concerned citizen groups and enabled them to participate more effectively. Navigating planning policy The average citizen may only fight a planning decision once in their life and thus have a limited understanding of how to proceed. Laura Matthews, Communications & Stakeholder Relations Lead at LPASC, explains that planning policy is nuanced and it takes experience to navigate this complex process. She says the centre can benefit municipalities and developers as well as residents as it can help mediate and guide people to an early resolution. Everyone benefits when residents have the assistance they need to participate in the planning process. Here are some examples where support from the LPASC has helped local citizens and citizen groups contest controversial planning decisions. Thundering Waters John Bacher is appealing a development in Niagara Falls in a beautiful forest called Thundering Waters. His fight to save the forests and wetlands is ongoing. (For more information about this appeal, read one of our recent blog posts about the battle for Thundering Waters). John says “The hearing was successful since the attempt to dismiss the appeal for lack of evidence was rejected by the hearing officer. The success was because LPASC supplied us with the two letters which were suppressed by the Niagara Falls Planning Department. LPASC also helped me by writing the Case Synopsis which was also important to our case. The synopsis that LPASC wrote based on facts I provided was well written. It is horrible to think what would have happened had not LPASC existed when it did.” Kitchener vs. parking garage Dawn Parker reports, “It was the buffering and professionalism and timeliness that the support centre provided that led to the negotiation of a settlement. All the parties were happy with the settlement and settling helped to maintain good relationships and friendly conversations.” This resident’s group was not against the development, but only wanted some changes.  Now they have that better outcome with the possibility of mature trees, storm water management and green infrastructure. The LPASC will be missed Everyone in Ontario benefits when all residents have the assistance they need to have a say in the planning process. The Ontario government is closing the centre by June 30th. The LPASC will no longer be accepting new requests for professional services from the public but you can still access some helpful resources on their website. Joyce Sankey is the Conservation Director of the Niagara Falls Nature Club. She, and a growing number of Niagara residents, are working to ensure that natural areas remain protected. Dawn Parker is a professor in the school of planning at Waterloo, but she is not a planner. She, along with a group of motivated neighbours, still needed help with their appeal of a five-story parking garage in the city of Kitchener. While they provided strong evidence, phrasing the problems in the appropriate legal language proved difficult. The LPASC helped them with their appeal; giving them full legal support, which they otherwise would have had to pay a high price to obtain.

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22 Nov

The good news from the election on the 22nd of October was that there will be new faces on the Niagara Regional Council and therefore on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) board. We need to be diligent and push for new citizen faces, people who have the true love of Niagara’s natural areas foremost, to be appointed to the NPCA board. Just because a potential appointee is not a politician and has expertise in ecology doesn’t mean that this person will support preservation instead of development. Wonderful people with expertise in environmental concerns and a commitment to the biodiversity of our area live in Niagara. We need to find them and urge them to put their names forward and urge councils to appoint them. Please get involved. If we sit back and wait to see what happens, we will have more of the same problems we had before. A number of concerned citizens have regularly been calling and emailing elected officials urging them to save areas like Thundering Waters. More people are involved than ever before. Still, although we are loud, we are not huge in numbers. Elected officials feel comfortable calling us special interest groups and ignoring our concerns. Who is to blame for this? Have you contacted your mayor or councilors lately? No? Then you are to blame and you are to blame for many of Niagara’s forests and wetland areas being paved over. We have new councils and new opportunities. Please email or pick up the phone. If we all reached out, we would not be a special interest; we would be a large part of the community that would vote for an official who voted on the side of preserving our natural heritage. We would be listened to. When politicians and developers promise to protect wetlands, look further. Provincially significant wetlands have legal protection. It is building too close to these wetlands and also destroying the forests and meadows near to and connecting these wetlands that eventually degrade them. Watch out for their weasel words like “balance” or “smart development” and let council members know that building any residences in natural areas is absolutely not acceptable. We are polite and quiet people but we need to be confident and assertive people. Please speak out. We have new councils and we need to introduce ourselves. Please email and/or pick up the phone. The time to save our natural areas from the destruction caused by inappropriate development is now.

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Nature for Water
21 Mar

March 22 is World Water Day and this year the theme is Nature for Water. There are problems all over the world concerning access to clean water. Water is affected by pollution, desertification, and over-population. Although we can’t solve the world’s problems, we can look at our own situation and make improvements. We are surrounded by lakes and rivers, so much so that we seldom think about wetlands. Although in Niagara we have already lost more than 90% of our wetlands, few of us care enough to act when developers continue to build housing developments in our remaining natural areas. It is not just the Thundering Waters swamp forest that is threatened. Many of our most ecologically valuable lands are privately owned and, with people from outside Niagara eager to buy homes here, it seems that times are ripe for those who value land only for its monetary value to cash in. All of us will be poorer without the ecosystem benefits that intact natural assets give to us. Wetlands provide flood protection, water and air purification, carbon storage and they are a wonderful source of biodiversity. Developers cannot build in provincially significant wetlands, but they can build close to them and they can isolate them. Developers in Niagara continually destroy wetland complexes, areas where more than one wetland is linked to another and separated by a non-wetland area. These complexes are vital for wildlife to survive. Wetlands not rated as provincially significant have little protection. Buffers are vegetated areas that help to protect wetlands from some of the problems that nearby development brings, such as salt run-off, pollution, invasive plants, and human and pet interference. They provide some protection for wildlife. The Ontario Natural Heritage Manual recommends these buffers be 120 metres, the minimum is 30 metres. Your elected officials in Niagara have recently said, on a number of occasions, that 10 metres will do. The smaller buffers allow more houses to be built. The developer will be richer and the environment poorer. Why are we permitting development in our natural areas? Why are don’t we practice smart growth and place our residential developments in areas without significant natural features? Spring is coming and we look forward to seeing birds and plants, many of which rely on wetlands. We will smell the fresh air and soil, purified for us by wetlands. We will hear the choruses of frogs again this year and we will begin saving our wetlands so that never will our spring be truly silent. Joyce Sankey

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22 Nov

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