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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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Celebrating a Breeding Pair of Sandhill Cranes
07 Jun

Celebrating a Breeding Pair of Sandhill Cranes – By Lisa Bacon While driving to Niagara Falls on the chilly and drizzly morning of May 30th, 2020, I noticed an adult Sandhill Crane standing hundreds of meters from the busy road, infront of a well treed lot. Knowing Sandhill Cranes are not as common throughout Niagara during the warmer months, I decided to pull over and observe this majestic bird in its natural habitat.  Having my camera handy on the passenger seat, I snapped a photograph, immediately reviewing it.  There, in the background was another adult Sandhill Crane laying down at the tree line!  Appreciating this pair, I decided to wait a few moments to see if they would further emerge from the many trees, and perhaps walk towards the grass field. Just then, the second adult stood up, and began to forage towards the field.  I was wishing and hoping for a clear view.  To my surprise, I noticed a small yellow puff ball moving beside one of the Sandhill Cranes! I thought, could it be? Not one, but TWO adorable colts became visible! As I observed this beautiful moment with nature, I couldn’t wait to share this wonderful observation and photos with the Niagara Falls Nature Club, and fellow bird watchers. This news of Sandhill Cranes successfully breeding here in the Niagara Region is definitely worth celebrating! It warms my heart knowing Sandhill Cranes will mate for life, sometimes as long as 2 decades together! Wishing the Niagara Region Sandhill Crane family all the best in the future, and hope to goodness they stay safe.

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eBird Challenge 2020
07 May

eBird Challenge 2020: Birds Connect Our World Haven’t tried eBird yet?  This citizen science tool supports greater knowledge of bird populations and helps users to track their findings and develop their birding skills.  Here’s the challenge — if you haven’t tried it yet, now is your chance!  Bird Academy, through The Cornell Lab offers a free online course,  eBird Essentials to learn about the basics of using eBird.  It’s very accessible as you can use an app on a smartphone to track birds while you are birding, or you can access the tool online after you return home.  Being able to track birds from a stationary location means you don’t need to leave home.  If you are able to be outdoors, please bird safely in a location that is open to the public while maintaining a social distance of 2m from others. Share your experiences, share your sightings, share photos, or share your questions with our Niagara community of nature lovers in the co-hosted Facebook event page for Birds Connect Our World: Virtual Migratory Bird Day Celebration; a joint effort by the NPCA, Niagara’s 3 nature clubs, Birds on the Niagara and Niagara College. May 9 is World Migratory Bird Day. Just as the birds migrate without seeing borders, Birds on the Niagara is a joint Canadian and American effort to connect and celebrate the birds around Niagara.  Check out a wealth of resources with videos and interviews on the Birds on Niagara website. Enjoy!

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27 Apr

R. W. Sheppard Award for 2020 presented virtually to Marcie Jacklin Normally the conservation award of the Niagara Falls Nature Club is presented at our annual dinner meeting in April, when friends and colleagues gather to celebrate the best among us. With the adjustments to our routines necessitated by COVID-19, this occasion has been deferred to a more appropriate time. Some news just won’t wait, and so it is that we announce that the R. W. Sheppard Award for 2020 is being presented virtually to Marcie Jacklin, to recognize and honour her for her contributions to the Niagara community in the field of nature. Marcie’s passion for birding has led to her giving presentations to numerous nature clubs, as well as several libraries and service clubs, and to leading many bird watching hikes. She served as compiler for many years for Christmas Bird Counts and as director for the Buffalo Ornithological Society and the Ontario Field Ornithologists. She helped with Niagara’s Natural Areas Inventories and wrote four chapters in Niagara Birds, edited by John Black and Kayo Roy. She studied the wellness of residents in a nursing home after bird feeders were installed. Marcie is currently Chair of the Niagara Birding Conservation and Tourism Collaborative which is hoping to improve conditions for birds and birders visiting Niagara. She is proud to be one of the founding members and President of Community Voices of Fort Erie, an incorporated group advocating for protecting Fort Erie’s critical natural and historical resources for the benefit of current and future residents and visitors to Fort Erie. When in the future our lives move into the “new normal”, and we again gather to embrace our nature club family, we will complete this journey with the giving of the tangible plaque that marks the presentation of the R.W. Sheppard Award for Conservation to our dear friend and fellow member, Marcie Jacklin.

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23 Apr

Charlie PryerOur club fondly remembers Charlie Pryer, President of NFNC from 1978 to 1984, President of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists (now Ontario Nature) and recipient of the R. W. Sheppard Award for Conservation in 1989. He was a man who loved nature and his family, and who worked to preserve our natural areas. He loved birding, canoeing, laughing, and sharing stories.   So many good memories with those fortunate to have known him.Charles Albert Pryer

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22 Mar

Niagara Falls Nature Club has written a letter of support for the designation of the Niagara River as a Ramsar site.  Other letters of support from stakeholders are currently being sought to support the nomination.  Further information can be found on the Niagara River River Remedial Action Plan website.  Pursuing the Ramsar Designation  

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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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