Springwater’s OP an exercise in saying “protect” and doing the opposite
The Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly’s only Canadian home is in the Minesing Wetlands -Chris Evans photo
‘I was not aware that they were being protected for development, not from development’
AWARE News Network
Eminent naturalist and Midhurst resident Chris Evans focuses on the Springwater Official plan and finds it wanting. In this important document, he explains how the township clearly recognizes that it is required to state that it will protect agricultural lands and protect, conserve and enhance natural heritage features, Environmental Protection Areas (EPAs) and water resources.
BUT there is no evidence it has any real intention do so. To the contrary, agricultural lands, EPA’s and natural heritage features appear to be simply areas reserved for future growth and development, Evans writes, and protection of natural heritage areas simply means an Environmental Impact Study is required and development can go ahead.
This is a long and carefully crafted critique by the naturalist who discovered the endangered Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly in the Minesing Wetlands. Evans and others worked on plans to protect and recover the Hine’s Emerald within Ontario’s planning framework. “I was naive,” he says, because he thought their efforts had a chance to save the Hine’s Emerald from the negative impacts of development.
Instead. he has found the laws and regulations are primarily controlled and designed by the development industry to ensure development and unsustainable growth will continue, while providing the illusion to the public that there is scientific and ethical regulation in place to protect air, water, earth, flora and fauna.
Here are the comments Evans submitted to Springwater’s planning department:
2021-03-11 Comments on the Official Plan Review 2021-02-23 Stakeholder Meetings
I reviewed the Draft Background Reports and on 2021-02-23 I viewed the presentation. Thank you for your invitation to participate and to comment. My comments and observations below mainly deal with the Bayfield Street Corridor Study, as neither of the other two studies contain any plans or recognition of the need to protect or preserve farmland, natural heritage or environmental protection areas.
I observed that the Bayfield Street Corridor Study:
● In the introduction, makes reference to “protecting and enhancing natural heritage features and water resources over the next 25 years”
● Section 2.4 states “The Township of Springwater’s Official Plan outlines the existing objectives and policies with respect to growth and development of urban lands, the protection of agricultural lands , the conservation of natural heritage areas , and the provision of necessary infrastructure.” and
● “Conforming with Provincial and upper-tier plans, the Township of Springwater Official Plan states the following goals: ○ To ensure the maintenance, protection and enhancement of natural heritage features; ○ To preserve and protect prime agricultural areas ;”
● Section 2.5.3 states ○ As it relates to the adjacent environmental features within the Corridor, Section 6.2.2 (Views and Focal Points) of the UDGs state the following: “The preservation, enhancement and creation of significant views and focal points shall be encouraged by preserving and enhancing views to natural heritage features, including woodlots, cultural heritage landscapes, water bodies, and across parks and open spaces.”
● Section 4.2.2 “Existing park spaces are generally accessed by vehicles and there is a lack of varied park spaces along the Corridor. This is most likely due to the fact that there are extensive Environmental Protection areas and natural heritage areas surrounding the study area”
● Section 5.1 “It will introduce new green amenity and park spaces that will be linked into the network of the existing parks, natural heritage areas and trails.”
● Section 5.3.2 states “A minimum of 5% park space has been accounted for in the plans of each area for amenity and /or public park space;”
● Section 5.3.7 states ” It is opposite of extensive natural heritage lands on the west side of Bayfield Street. ” ○ By this statement the study appears to recognize the value of the “extensive natural heritage lands” yet elsewhere the study speaks to helping to develop these natural heritage lands. Thus, all of the statements about “protecting and enhancing natural heritage features and water resources over the next 25 years” made above, appear to be false and subversive. It would appear that the Township declares it plans to protect and enhance Natural Heritage areas because it is obliged to do so, while it intends to simply develop these areas. There does not appear to be any credible intent to protect or enhance natural heritage features for the health of the natural heritage systems nor for their inhabitants nor for the citizens of the Township or the Province.
So, the above excerpts show that the Study recognizes that they are required to state that they and the Township intend to protect agricultural lands, protect, conserve and enhance natural heritage features, Environmental Protection Areas (EPAs) and water resources, yet there does not appear to be any real intention nor plans to adhere to, effect or implement these declarations. To the contrary, the following evidence demonstrates that agricultural lands, EPA’s and natural heritage features appear to be simply areas reserved for future growth and development.
Section 2.5.2 of the study quote sections 5.4 and 5.5 of the Midhurst Secondary Plan as follows:
5.4 Environmental Protection Area I (EPA I) Any proposed development within, or adjacent to the Environmental Protection Area I shall be required to prepare an Environmental Impact Study.
5.5 Environmental Protection Area II (EPA II) Prior to any lands being considered for development within or abutting any area within the Environmental Protection Area II, an Environmental Impact Study is to be undertaken.
So, protection of natural heritage areas simply means you require an Environmental Impact Study and you are free to develop it.
Examples of Environmental Protection Areas (EPA) where development is proposed or in progress:
Figure 9 of the study shows: plans 9219, 10633, 10104 all of which contain or consist of EPA I or II designations.
The Hasty Tract where the Township plans to build the Firehall, Fire Training Centre and Community Hub and Recreation Centre.
Similarly, the Approved and Proposed / In Progress projects in Figure 9 of the study are all composed of agricultural and or EPA. So, apparently agricultural lands are not being preserved or protected either. Again, they appear to be treated as resources for current, proposed and future development.
So, I submit that it appears the Township has no intention to preserve or protect or enhance natural heritage features, EPA’s or agricultural lands. There are no plans describing how natural heritage features will be protected or enhanced, except some references to plans for trails in the natural heritage features.
I moved here in 1985, when there truly appeared to be extensive and accessible natural heritage features and productive, well managed agricultural areas in Springwater Township. Since that time, I have observed an alarming deterioration of these natural heritage features and farmland, now mostly developed, under development, approved for development or protected for future development. When I first saw the then proposed Midhurst Secondary Plan (MSP) at the PIC at Forest Hill Public School, I was shocked that the agricultural lands were proposed for development, but I was falsely lead to believe that the EPA I and EPA II areas and some of the agricultural areas behind the EPA area on my property were protected from development because they were shown as wildlife corridors. It appeared there was nothing an individual citizen could do at that point except to hope the protected areas would, in fact be protected. I was not aware that they were being protected for development, not from development.
Later, the Province intervened at the OMB and it appeared that logic was prevailing and the proposed MSP development would not occur and the Township of Springwater’s Official Plan (OP) appeared to be reasonably robust from an ignorant citizen’s perspective, so it looked like the destruction of the natural heritage features would end and I and the other citizens and creatures of Springwater could live happily ever after.
The Hine’s Emerald revealed itself to me on June 20th, 2007 and I, together with others, spent all of my spare time from then until 2012 and beyond, studying it, documenting observations, writing reports about it and trying to find it in other places. Finally in January 2012 Hine’s Emerald was listed in Ontario as Endangered, and by 2015 the government produced the Habitat Regulation, better late than never. I hoped this effort would actually protect and recover the Hine’s Emerald. Alas, the Hine’s Emerald cannot tolerate human development, and all the legislation and policies of Ontario are focused on ensuring population growth and development. I was both naive and ignorant in planning jargon, Provincial policies, Regulations and politics. I thought the Planning Act, the Provincial Policy Statement, the Endangered Species Act, Places to Grow Act and the Environmental Protection Act and all their regulations were all designed to ensure that development could not occur unless it was not going to harm the environment. I was wrong. The MSP now enjoys full approval and is proceeding despite the Endangered status of the Hine’s Emerald dragonfly which will become extinct as a result of the MSP and the Township of Springwater’s OP and, it would appear, the OPR.
Many of us thought that all of these aforementioned regulations and acts and policies would be able to stop the MSP from proceeding to destroy our community, our environment, the natural heritage systems and all of the life and wonder and biodiversity within them. We didn’t realize that regulatory capture 1 was the rule, not the exception and that all of those Acts and policies are designed to ensure that development can and will take place, but in a way that will appear to the general public as safe for the environment and for endangered species.
What has this got to do with the Township of Springwater Official Plan Review (OPR)? I was hoping the OPR would consider the current state of the world, including, but not limited to, the current global crises:
● Systemic racism and discrimination (particularly against our Indigenous Peoples)
● Climate Change
● Loss of Biodiversity
● finite water resources insufficient for global demand
● COVID-19 Pandemic
● population health crisis – i.e. our global way of life is unhealthy
● world hunger and food security
● global economic instability and reliance upon fossil fuels
But none of these studies nor any of the OPR literature I have seen appears to address any of these issues, yet the OP has a local, huge, direct negative impact on all of these crises. All of these crises, especially COVID-19, have demonstrated clearly that the current paradigm of our growth economy, the sacred warrior of our destructive way of life, is actually a recipe for the extinction of the human population, and of most life on this planet. This is what the science which has enabled our way of life is declaring, yet we are not listening, or, at least, we are not acting.
The OPR presents an opportunity to begin the paradigm shift required to save this planet here and now. We need to plan intelligently NOW :
● to change our world view to respect Nature and to fully engage in Truth and Reconciliation with our Indigenous Peoples
● to remediate: ○ our communities and infrastructure to be green and balanced, and ○ Nature’s natural heritage systems to be green and balanced, and ○ our agricultural systems to be green and balanced
● to encourage our population to decline naturally, rather than to grow unnaturally, through ○ education and ○ empowerment ○ changing our systems to be egalitarian, non-discriminatory and non-racist ○ changing our world view and systems to be inclusive and supportive for all instead of exclusive, competitive, discriminatory and closed systems
● to stop destructive growth and prepare to thrive in a green, stable, resilient, fair, cooperative economy
● conserve sacred and finite water resources instead of consuming and depleting them at an ever increasing rate
● work fervently towards the elimination of fossil fuels
● work fervently towards local self sufficiency in food production and food security
● rebuild our communities as green, egalitarian, cooperative, sustainable communities
● to rebuild our communities to be healthy and robust and resilient to pandemics like COVID-19
We are all connected to everything, and need to work together to make this massive, positive change. The OPR can’t achieve this on its own, but it can start and support the process, rather than persist in the destructive processes that we are trapped in now. The OP is our plan for the future, and it is a very flawed and destructive plan. We don’t need to build new cities that don’t work. We need to rebuild our cities and communities so that they do work. Growth is not sustainable. That is an immutable law of Nature. The only thing which can grow without limit is Love. We need to begin to love each other and all things. We need to love the developers and all of their employees and their support industries and help them to change with us. We need their skills and expertise to rebuild our communities to mitigate the ongoing negative environmental impacts and dysfunctions of our communities.
COVID-19 has shown our current growth economy is extremely fragile and vulnerable to pandemics. In general, our current communities and way of life are unhealthy. Globally, we are suffering from mass anxiety, cancers and innumerable other social diseases related to our way of life.
To paraphrase Albert Schweitzer , “Until we extend our circle of compassion to include all living things, we will not find peace.”
Concluding comments and remarks
In 2014 I supplied some of the Springwater Township Staff with the Ontario Nature “Best Practices Guide to Natural Heritage Systems Planning”. It is available as a pdf at this link Greenway Guide: Best Practices Guide to Natural Heritage Systems Planning This document explains the importance of access to Nature for the health of people and communities, and how to plan for and provide this critical component.
My key request to the Planning Department for the OPR and the current OP is that you expend concerted effort to use the OPR to ensure that all of my foregoing comments and suggestions are considered and used to create a plan which is green, sustainable, maintained and provides secure, permanently protected, high quality, natural heritage systems with access for all, for zero impact activities. This is a very tall order, because as it now stands, as COVID-19 demonstrates as I write this, this does not exist currently in the Township. There are not sufficient or high enough quality natural spaces available to the people. The majority of publicly owned natural spaces which are currently available are being overused by Springwater residents and non-local residents because there aren’t sufficient natural spaces. An aggravating factor is that many potentially suitable natural areas like county forests, now allow destructive and incompatible uses by special interest groups like ATV, off road motorcycle and snowmobile groups. These groups have been so brainwashed by advertising and the industries that they do not understand that they need to be in harmony with Nature, not battling against it with machines and trying to conquer it. If we provide peaceful natural places and change our worldview to be one of harmony and balance with Nature, there will be no desire or need for machines which destroy, compete with and disrespect Nature.
There is more valuable information on related topics at Ontario Nature Greenway Program: Nature Conservation in Ontario.
I will close with an excerpt from Anne Wilson Schaef’s book “Native Wisdom for White Minds” 1995
“We” overrides “me”. – Hawaiian Proverb
Tribal peoples know how to be a community. In Western culture, we have tried to make the nuclear family the building block of culture and have seen again and again that this small unit cannot possibly meet the needs of its individual members.
Recently, I heard a lawyer and a tax consultant discussing the fact that tax laws, and other laws of our land, actually militate against trust and community. Much of what we have set up in our system serves to isolate and alienate.
We are afraid of intimacy. We are afraid of having and needing one another. We are afraid of getting too close. We are afraid of asking for help. Often, we don’t even know that community is what we need.
We are community. We are one. Why do we fight it so?
With deep respect and gratitude for your crucial service to our community,
1 From Charles Seife’s chapter entitled “Capture”, in What Should We Be Worried About?, John Brockman ed., 2013, Edge Foundation Inc. In the 1970s, economists, led by future Nobel laureate George Stigler, began to realize that [regulatory capture] was the rule, not the exception. Over time, regulatory agencies are systematically drained of their ability to check the power of industry. Even more striking, they’re gradually drawn into the orbit of the businesses they’re charged with regulating. Instead of acting in the public interest, the regulators wind up as tools of the industry they’re supposed to keep watch over. This process, known as “regulatory capture,” turns regulators from watchdogs into lapdogs.