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Environmental groups hope to nearly double size of the Greenbelt

"The environmental groups, which include Ontario Nature, Earthroots, EcoSpark and STORM, contend these areas are “critical to a healthy agricultural industry and biodiversity in the region.” They argue that adding them to the Greenbelt would ensure the protection of clean drinking water sources from suburban sprawl in the GTHA."

The Little Rouge Creek winds through Rouge Park, which has been named a Canadian National Park.

LUCAS OLENIUK / TORONTO STAR

The Little Rouge Creek winds through Rouge Park, which has been named a Canadian National Park.

By: 

 

Greenbelt, meet “Bluebelt.”

That’s the vision of a collection of environmental groups that wants to almost double the size of the protected band of land around the Golden Horseshoe to include water systems such as the Oro Moraine and the Humber River headwaters.

The proposal calls for 1.5 million acres to be added to the 1.8 million-acre Greenbelt — already the biggest of its kind in the world — as the Liberal government continues a review of the protected zone that was mandated upon its creation 10 years ago.

Burkhard Mausberg, chief executive officer of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, said the proposal was created through consultations with conservation officers, scientists and environmental groups. It has been submitted to a provincial panel, headed by former Toronto mayor David Crombie, that is preparing recommendations for the future of the Greenbelt. A report is expected in the coming weeks.

“If we were to grow the Greenbelt,” Mausberg asked, “what should we look at? The uniform answer we got back was: Look at water resources. Look at drinking water sources, look at important watersheds, look at coast lines, look at rivers. In essence, make the Greenbelt the ‘Bluebelt.’”

Click here to read the full article.

What’s Next for Ontario’s Greenbelt?

Ontario's 7,300 square-kilometre Greenbelt is undergoing a critical land use review that could determine the fate of one of Ontario's greatest environmental legacies.

BY 

 

When Ontario’s 7,300 square-kilometre Greenbelt was approved by then-Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty in 2005, reaction was mixed.

Some saw the protected space as the best defence against suburban sprawl and the gradual destruction of watersheds, forests, marshes and agricultural land in Canada’s most heavily populated area. Others worried the strict new rules would limit housing stock, jack up home prices and wipe out the nest egg farmers had built in the hope of selling their once-isolated farms to developers.

Now, 10 years after coming into force, the Greenbelt Plan—along with the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, the Niagara Escarpment Plan and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe—is undergoing a co-ordinated land use planning review.

From March to May of this year, the province held regional town halls to solicit public feedback and encouraged municipalities, industries, regions and environmental groups to offer their thoughts on how to strengthen the existing plans.

Here’s why this matters.

Visit Torontoist to read the full article.

Species at risk languishing in limbo

barn swallow, credit: GrrlScientist CC BY 2.0

barn swallow, Credit: GrrlScientist CC BY 2.0

When governments pass laws that set out explicit requirements and timelines for action to be taken, you would expect that they’d be prepared to obey the law. Not so with Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA).

Under SARA, the federal government must decide whether to list a species within nine months of receiving its designation as at risk by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Yet about 150 designated species at risk are stuck in limbo awaiting listing decisions.

Until they are listed under SARA, species at risk fall outside the law and its safeguards. No recovery plans. No action plans. No management plans. No protection against harm to the species or its habitat.

 In our view, these delays are unlawful.

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Shared office space available in the historic 401 Richmond building!

Earthroots has the perfect space for a two person team at a very reasonable rate of $500 per month (the two desk work space could be divided and rented separately). We are located in the heart of downtown Toronto at Richmond and Spadina.

 

What we are offering:
- shared work space in an open concept office with the great people at Earthroots 
- access to all the amenities at 401 (rooftop garden, courtyard, meeting room that can be rented at a reasonable rate, the building also has a cafe)
- wifi, phone, 24 hour access to the office
- use of our common space that includes a kitchen area
- the adoration of our office cats Jake and Elwood!

 

401 Richmond is a vibrant community that is home to over 140 artists, non-profit organizations, cultural producers, micro-enterprises, galleries, festivals and shops. http://www.401richmond.net/events/specialEvents.cfm

If you are interested in applying, please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - available November 1st.

 

How ‘Clean Fill’ Became a Dirty Word

Sheep farmer Doug Cox says filling the gullies on his property to increase his herd and improve his profits is a normal farm practice. But in the absence of regulatory oversight, neighbours fear soil and water contamination. Photo by Pete Paterson.

IN THE HILLS

By Tim Shuff

With a proposal to flatten his farm fields, a Mono farmer stepped squarely into the centre an environmental hornets’ nest.

When you look across Doug Cox’s farm from the corner of Mono Centre Road and 5th Line, all you see are gently rolling green fields, not the two gullies hiding in the back corner of the property. They’re not much bigger than a rural building lot, but these hollows are deep, steep and all but bare – a pox on the otherwise pastoral property, and a persistent stress on the mind and pocketbook of this sheep farmer.

The sandy slopes do not hold topsoil. Grass grows in thin patches. They’re too steep to work with machinery, and too dangerous for grazing sheep. The forest on the other side of the property line that cuts through the gullies hides opportunistic coyotes who steal ewes and lambs under the eyes of the patrolling sheepdogs. On a property that’s only 43 acres – small for a working farm – these seven acres sit idle.

So when someone came to Cox, 68, with the idea of filling them in, he was keen. After 35 years of living with these worthless hollows, he was enthused by the possibility of filling and grading them flat enough that he could work the land with machinery and grow hay. The plan would allow him to increase his sheep herd and make his farm more profitable. He would also net a payoff for taking the fill. All he needed was approval from Mono town council.

It was at that point Cox planted both feet squarely into a hornets’ nest of an issue that is bedevilling rural municipalities across the Greater Golden Horseshoe – how to deal with the vast and increasing quantities of fill being generated by the region’s building boom.

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Grassy Narrows sues Ontario over mercury health threat from clearcut logging

Ground breaking case invokes Charter to protect First Nation community from toxic harm

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Toronto – Today the Grassy Narrows First Nation is filing legal proceedings against Ontario asking the Divisional Court to overturn provincial plans for a decade of clearcut logging on Grassy Narrows’ homeland. 

This small Indigenous community fears that clearcut logging will release mercury into local waterways further poisoning local fish and people who already bear the burden of mercury that was dumped into their river by a paper mill in the 1960s.  Grassy Narrows alleges that the logging plan will prolong and deepen the ongoing tragedy of mercury poisoning in their community and therefore violates their Charter rights to security and freedom from discrimination.  This could become the first case to successfully use the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to protect people against harm and discrimination arising from environmental degradation.

“It saddens me that we are forced to fight in court to protect our children from the dangerous mercury impacts of clearcut logging,” said Grassy Narrow Chief Roger Fobister Sr.  “I hope that the court will finally end Ontario’s long legacy of forcing harmful decisions on our families and our homeland.”

Scientific research indicates that clearcut logging in the boreal forest can raise mercury levels in local fish above the limit for safe human consumption. Many of the lakes in areas where logging will take place already faces fish consumption restrictions due to the past industrial dumping of mercury. Despite this evidence, Ontario refused Grassy Narrows’ request for an environmental assessment of the impacts of clearcut logging on the health of the community, its waterways, and its fish.  The 1,200 plus page logging plan approved by Ontario does not even contain the word ‘mercury’.

After repeated attempts to convince Ontario to withdraw the clearcut logging plan, today Grassy Narrows commenced an application for judicial review in the Ontario Divisional Court.  Among other things, the application asks the Court to overturn the government’s approval of the clearcut logging plan, and refusal to conduct an individual environmental assessment of the mercury impacts of the plan.

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Fall Public Consultations - Add Your Voice!

 

Review of the Conservation Authorities Act

The province has initiated its review of the Act, with a process very similar to the one involving the Greenbelt: a high-level concept paper has been posted to the Environmental Registry; public discussions are planned; and draft changes will be posted for further consideration at a later date.  The paper and contact info can be found on the Environmental Registry (posting # 012-4509).  

This proposal has been posted for a 91 day public review and comment period starting July 20, 2015 - please submit your comments by October 19, 2015.  All comments received by the deadline will be considered as part of the decision-making process by the Ministry if they are submitted in writing or electronically using the form provided in this notice and reference EBR Registry number 012-4509.

 

Wetland Conservation

Similar to the approach above, the Province has posted a wetland conservation discussion paper on the Environmental Registry (posting # 012-4464).  It is a high-level document; “listening sessions” are being held; and a draft set of policies should be posted at a later date for further consultation.

Locations and dates of the listening sessions include:

· Ottawa, September 16th:  RA Centre, 2451 Riverside Drive, Ottawa  6:30 - 8:00 PM

· Toronto, September 23rd:  Black Creek Village, 1000 Murray Ross Parkway, Toronto  6:30 - 8:00 PM

· Thunder Bay, September 29th:  Valhalla Inn, 1 Valhalla Inn Road, Thunder Bay  6:30 - 8:00 PM

· London, October 6th:  London Public Library, 3200 Wonderland Rd S, London  6:30 - 8:00 PM

· North Bay, October 8th:  Discovery North Bay Museum, 100 Ferguson Street, North Bay  6:30 - 8:00 PM

· Niagara Falls, October 14th:  Gale Centre 4171 4th Avenue, Niagara Falls  6:30 - 8:00 PM

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Save Wolf Lake: Expedition 2 Recap - Summer 2015

Cliffside Sunset

On July 18th, 2015 a group of four made the journey north along rugged logging roads to the shores of Wolf Lake and the majestic stands of old-growth red pine. The goal of this trip was to continue the visual documentation of this at-risk area that began three years ago.

This team was led by the Creative Director of the Wolf Lake Coalition, Rob Nelson, and also included photographer and videography Christoph Benfey of Low Key Studio in Hamilton, and volunteers James Horner and Ian Muller.

Wolf Lake Expedition 2 placed a greater emphasis on videography, and the variety and volume of equipment transported into basecamp allowed for the collection of an impressive selection of creative and visually stunning footage (we're keeping most of it under our hats for now).

Read the full story and check out the spectacular photos here.

A native crisis by water – and mercury

Globe and Mail Editorial

 

From 1962 to 1970, Reed Paper’s pulp and chemical mill at Dryden, Ont., near the Manitoba border, dumped its waste into the Wabigoon River and on into the English River and ultimately Hudson Bay. That effluent contained mercury – which was used for bleaching paper. By one estimate, 9,000 kilograms of methyl mercury were put into the river system.

So the mercury in turn found its way into the fish that were the major staple of the people of the remote Grassy Narrows and Whitedog reserves. Severe neurological and birth defects resulted. The nearest major hospital is in Winnipeg, a three-hour drive.

The mercury poisoning was recognized long ago, but the two First Nations understandably continued to eat their local fish and drink the water from their lakes and rivers.

A similar horror was detected in Japan in the city of Minamata in 1956, and it was Japanese scientists who ascertained in 1975 that Grassy Narrows was suffering from a version now called Ontario Minamata disease.

The people of Grassy Narrows were financially compensated, with about $17-million, in 1985, but that’s far from being the end of the story.

It has now emerged that the mercury levels in parts of the English-Wabigoon river system are actually rising, 45 years later. In some areas, the mercury content is twice the threshold for remediation. One approach, called “natural recovery,” is evidently not enough. Natural recovery appears to mean doing very little or nothing and waiting for the ecosystem to cleanse itself – laissez-faire in a literal sense.

To read more click here.

 

Other links on this story:

 
 
Press release and report: FreeGrassy.net
 

The Oak Ridges Moraine needs you - add your voice!

Show your support for increased protection of the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Greenbelt by Thursday, May 28th.

The 2015 review of the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, Greenbelt Plan, Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and Niagara Escarpment Plan is underway.

These vital areas support healthy communities in southern Ontario by providing food, clean water and wildlife habitat - yet they are still under threat from urban sprawl, contaminated fill, quarries and new highway development.

This is your chance to advocate for stronger protection of these critical lands.  

Please click on the link above to send a message to the government - your voice will make a difference!

Click here for more information about the review process.

 

Learn more about our Moraine for 2015 campaign here.

Photo courtesy of Kim Lowes.

Grassy Narrows: It’s not too late for the Ontario government to do the right thing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

In a joint statement issued today, 16 social justice organizations, faith groups, trade unions, and environmental organizations are calling on Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to immediately withdraw the provinces 10 year plan for clearcut logging on the traditional territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation.

The organizations are particularly alarmed by the province
s refusal to conduct an environmental impact assessment of its logging plans, despite acknowledgement that runoff from clearcutting could lead to the introduction of more mercury into the river system.

In the 1960s, the province allowed an upstream pulp and paper mill to dump massive quantities of mercury into the river. The river system has never been cleaned up and the people of Grassy Narrows are still dealing with a severe health crisis.

Read the joint statement here.

Read more...

Groups urge public involvement in review of Oak Ridges Moraine and Greenbelt plans

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Toronto, ON – This afternoon the provincial government launched the much anticipated public review of the plans that protect the Oak Ridges Moraine, Niagara Escarpment and Greenbelt. This review is an important opportunity to strengthen these plans to further protect water, nature and communities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

"When these plans were first introduced over 10 years ago, they represented the leading edge in conservation planning and protection of our invaluable land and water resources," says Debbe Crandall, policy advisor for Save the Oak Ridges Moraine (STORM) Coalition. “This review positions the province to re-commit to a strong environmental agenda by strengthening these plans and eliminating policy gaps that have emerged, with the goal of leaving a protected landscape for the next generation of Ontarians,” she adds.

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