Rainforest Alliance questionnaire
I’ve spent some time thinking about the Freele Tract recently, as I considered a response to the questionnaire the Rainforest Alliance is asking community members and stakeholders to answer. This is part of the process of evaluating the County of Simcoe’s decision to locate its organics and other waste facilities there, in the context of the county’s Forest Management Certification. The Forest Stewardship Council seal of approval on wood products is an indication they are sourced from ethically and sustainably managed forest. There are rules governing ‘excision’ or removal of a portion of forest. A meeting to explain all of this is being held next Tuesday in Elmvale.
Here are my answers to the questionnaire:
Please describe your general or specific interests in the Simcoe County forest lands and forest management and more specifically what are your interests in the Freele tract forest. For example, are you a neighbor, recreationalist, a logger or a concerned or interested citizen? Please describe in as much detail as you wish and feel free to identify multiple categories of interest.
I am a resident of Springwater. I love Simcoe County’s forests and take pride in the fact that the drive to reforest Ontario almost a century ago by Premier E.C. Drury and his friend Ontario Chief Forester Edmund Zavitz is rooted in our county. I walk almost every day in one or another county forest. I am a naturalist and I observe and teach my grandchildren to observe life in the forest. I keep an eye open for invasive species, pull them up when I can and on occasion notify forestry staff of infestations and vandalism. The Freele Tract is not the closest tract to my home so I don’t visit it often, but I care about the continuing health and integrity of all of the county forests.
When and how did you first learn about Simcoe County’s proposal to develop an Organics Processing Facility and Materials Management Facility at 2976 Horseshoe Valley Road West, Springwater?
I learned of the possibility when the short list for the recommended sites was announced in 2015. I was part of a group that in 2009 stopped Dump Site 41, a landfill site that was being built on the 2nd Concession of Tiny Township. What I and others took from that chapter of the county’s history was that we would support all efforts to reuse, recycle and divert waste. We also support the county taking care of our waste ourselves, not exporting it elsewhere. We are totally in favour of local composting.
As a member of a successor group, AWARE Simcoe, I was involved in an evaluation of the short-listed sites. Our conclusion was that the best site would be the one located at the confluence of Highways 11, 400 and 93. The reasons included: minimal need to upgrade local roads; future accessibilty for other municipalities, especially Barrie; proximity to Georgian College; the possibility of creating a showcase and demonstration facility that’s easily accessed by the general public.
I personally was shocked that five of the seven short-listed sites were county forest tracts, an indication that the evaluation matrix used by the county ascribes little value to these critically important defences against the worst effects of climate change and groundwater degradation – but instead appears to consider them merely as a way of holding the properties until some more financially advantageous use presents itself. Recently, the County clear-cut and used 10 acres of the Orr Lake Tract for a public works yard, another example of forest land being converted to industrial use.
Has Simcoe County provided you adequate opportunity to submit comments and concerns related to the proposed location to your point of view?
Yes. There were opportunities for groups and individuals to put forward views. However there was no indication that our group’s submission was given active consideration, which raised the question in our minds of whether this constituted meaningful consultation.
What impacts are you apprehending related to this project? Did Simcoe County respond to your questions and concerns?
There will be serious environmental impacts (see below). There will also be adverse impacts to the local community, from traffic, noise, and disruption of a way of life.
Our group’s submission was not addressed with us. I found the process to be unsatisfactory.
I was also dismayed that Simcoe County Council voted to refuse to even allow discussion by its members of an excellent plan put forward by Springwater Township Deputy Mayor Don Allen (Springwater being the host municipality).
To your knowledge, are there any special sites or sensitive resources present on this parcel planned to be converted?
This is a link in a wildlife corridor that extends from the Matchedash Bay Provincial Wildlife Area through the Copeland Forest to the Minesing Wetlands. It represents an element of undisturbed forest interior. It takes a century to grow a self-sustaining mature forest. Few of Simcoe County’s forest tracts are at that stage, but they are in the process of transforming from red pine mono-culture plantations to a mix of indigenous species that will support the biodiversity that existed here for millennia. We have pushed biodiversity to its limit in Southern Ontario. Species are crashing. We cannot afford any loss of forest cover when desirable alternatives exist.
OTHER ISSUES? Please use this space to disclose any other issues you would like to bring to our attention
Beeton Woods: In 2014 the County of Simcoe granted a special permit to clear a privately owned forest north of Beeton, in New Tecumseth. Local residents tried to save this forest, which was designated Agricultural and Environmental Protection 1 and 2 lands, and where butternut trees were growing. There were a number of reasons it was felt the county should not have granted the permit, including the fact that there was an open planning application (subsequently withdrawn) for a subdivision on the property. At the request of a group of Beeton residents, AWARE Simcoe appealed the county’s decision but failed to get an injunction to stop the clear-cutting pending a judicial review. Since then, the county has taken the lead in pursuing $5,000 in costs that were awarded against us. The developer was awarded $27,000, which is also being pursued. At a time when there is an urgent need to defend and enhance natural processes, I feel the county’s punitive approach regarding Beeton Woods will deter meaningful public participation and encourage sprawl and destruction.
These were the recommendations to an April 14, 2014 County Council hearing regarding the Beeton Woods special permit in a presentation I made on behalf of AWARE Simcoe. They speak to the county’s conduct of its forestry operations. No dialogue ensued on any of these ideas.
A. We recommend that the clearing of the (Beeton Woods) forest cease. Once a forest is gone, it is gone forever. If it was to be replaced, tree for tree, by a planting elsewhere, the benefit will not be felt for decades, and many species will not be around to make the transition. We cannot plant a mature forest. So we must exercise due diligence before taking one out. People recognize this. This is why Beeton residents have risen up to defend the woodland. The land may be privately owned, but the forest, the birds, the turtles, the fish are our joint heritage and their survival on our landscape depends on all of us being mindful of our actions.
B. In the interest of better lines of communication between the public and the Simcoe County forestry department, we recommend setting up a forest advisory committee composed of residents, naturalists, woodlot owners, loggers, recreational users and other stakeholders. The committee could address issues such as criteria for Special Permits, sale and purchase of county forest, control of invasive species as well as appropriate penalties for violations (the fine for illegal harvesting of 6 healthy butternut trees in 2012 was $300).
C. We recommend the county explore purchase of this agricultural property as an amenity for Beeton residents, and to maintain an important natural link in the fragmented landscape of south Simcoe. One of the criteria for designating a High Conservation Value Forest under your forest management plan is whether it is fundamental to meeting the basic needs of local communities. We submit that the quality of life in Beeton is enriched by the nearby forest and it meets your requirements.
Links to AWARE Simcoe website on this issue