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Make way for pits and quarries

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In Issues
Oct 4th, 2019
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By Anne Bell Ontario Nature 

We told you at our last meeting that further battles were looming on the horizon as together with our mothership Ontario Nature we ask you to stand up for the environment. Here is a recent blog post by ON’s Anne Bell. The link to sign the petition is at the end of her message:

Here we go again. Relentless in the pursuit of its “open for business” agenda the Government of Ontario wants to weaken protections for nature in order to fast-track development across the province.

This time it is targeting the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), Ontario’s primary land use policy, with the goal of “reducing barriers and costs in the land use planning system.” Among other worrisome changes, it is proposing to allow aggregates extraction to trump existing protections for wetlands, woodlands and wildlife habitat, including habitat for threatened and endangered species.

That’s right. The natural world is just one more barrier to business, and according to the government it must make way for pits and quarries.

The proposal and it’s “exceptions”

The government is proposing to permit aggregates extraction in all significant natural features currently protected under the PPS: i.e., provincially significant wetlands (except in southern Ontario), provincially significant woodlands, valleylands and wildlife habitat, significant Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest, fish habitat and the habitat of threatened and endangered species. It would apply across Ontario, except in the Greenbelt.

Those two exceptions are interesting. The government plans to maintain protections for provincially significant wetlands in southern Ontario, yet many wetlands in the region have not yet been evaluated for significance. And since evaluation is not required, unevaluated wetlands which may well be significant would be open to aggregates extraction.

In central and northern Ontario, it won’t matter. Significant or not wetlands would be open for business.

As for the Greenbelt exception, once bitten twice shy apparently. After the Bill 66 debacle it seems the government knows better than to mess with the Greenbelt. Still, this exception underlines the vulnerability of nature throughout the rest of Ontario.

The empty promise of rehabilitation

The proposed amendment rests on the assumption that natural areas destroyed by pits or quarries will eventually be rehabilitated, as required by law. However, it does not acknowledge the fact that legal requirements to rehabilitate sites are often poorly enforced and routinely ignored. Further, aggregates operations are often open for decades. Indeed, most existing quarries in the Greenbelt are more than 50 years old. The proposal fails to account for the loss of significant and/or at-risk animals, plants and their habitats in the meantime – and likely permanently, as sites are rarely returned to their original state.

Let’s consider, for example, the endangered Jefferson salamander. According to the recovery strategy, isolated sub-populations are all that’s left of “what was once a more extensive, continuous range throughout southern Ontario.” Aggregate extraction is one of the most significant threats to this species. For an animal that shows fidelity to its home turf (mature forests where it forages and overwinters and ponds where it breeds), how likely is rehabilitation – which would occur many years or even decades after disturbance, if ever – to matter?

Put our species before stones and gravel

Yes; Ontarians need stone, sand and gravel for everything from homes to roads to subway tunnels. But the PPS is already heavily weighted in favour of the aggregates industry: it obliges municipalities to protect aggregates resources for long-term use and ensures that companies cannot be required to demonstrate a need for their products. Surely there are better places from which to extract these resources than our most precious and vulnerable natural areas.

This proposal and all other amendments to the PPS must be evaluated in light of the urgent need to respond effectively to the ongoing and accelerating loss of biodiversity loss here and around the world. If you agree, please join Ontario Nature in voicing your concern.

Here’s the link to sign the petition

 

4 Responses to “Make way for pits and quarries”

  1. Donna Deneault says:

    Aggregate mining must be done sustainably. If it is being done atop aquifers and in places crucial for endangered species and wetlands, then: that’s not sustainable. It does not take a science degree to see this happening.

    Here is the latest: I am pasting here a serious note from FB page “The Friends of the Waverley Uplands:— Friends we are calling on you to raise your voices even louder. As published in the recent Fall 2019 edition of the Tiny Cottager, a road improvement agreement now sits between Sarjeant and the Township. For those who aren’t aware, Sarjeant owns two pits adjacent to the Dufferin Teedon Pit. These pits are much larger, with non-expiring permits and will remove much more of our world’s purest water filter. While the focus has been on Duffern, Sarjeant has been working under the radar, clear cutting hectares of trees in the night, and making these arrangements with the township in preparation to ramp up their operations next door to Dufferin. IT HAS TO STOP. Please call upon our local, regional, provincial and federal governments to stop this devastation.
    =====================================================================
    “non-expiring water permits” ??? this is a first, to my knowledge. Clear cutting in the night??? Good Grief ! Why aren’t the police after them??? Please do read the article in “The Tiny Cottager” Oct2019

  2. Donna Deneault says:

    Further to my note above: Please do make a donation to FoTTSa “Federation of Tiny Township Shoreline Association”. They are working with the Canadian Environmental Law Association to stop the expansion of the Teedon Pit. The funding is so very critically important. THANK YOU.

    • Ann says:

      Donna,
      The Sarjeant issue is another nightmare for French’s Hill. Clear cutting trees in the dark?
      Tiny township needs to go after them for that.
      Pits and quarries are a scourge for the environment in Ontario, and Doug Ford is fully supporting it!
      I just hope we get the right outcome at the LPAT hearing and stop this nightmare. We need to protect French’s Hill and our precious water.

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