A longtime rural resident, I use my 60 plus years of life learning to opinionate here and elsewhere on the “interweb” on everything from politics to environmental issues. A believer in reasonable discourse rather than unhelpful attacks I try to give positive input to the blogesphere, so feel free to comment upon rural issues or anything else posted here. But don’t be surprised if you comments get zapped if you are not polite in your replys.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Environmental Extremes

By now any one who is not totally brain dead knows that climate change is a reality, how much of that is due to human activity is open to debate but we most certainly have a major part in in it. Given the extremes of weather and threats to our rivers, forests, flora and fauna by both the changing conditions and the threats from industrial activity one would think that governments at all levels would all be pulling in the same direction to protect our environment.

We all know of course that this is not true, our Federal Government who should be leading the charge is in fact opening up our natural world to further destruction by reducing both the regulations and the staff that enforce them as well as our scientific experts that study what, why and how these things are happening and what to do about it.

On the other hand the Ontario Provincial Government seems to be going to the opposite extreme. Although they have all but suspended environmental assessments for industrial wind farm installations in their rush to say that they are supporting 'green' initiatives they are going overboard to protect 'wetlands' and other 'habitat'. It seems that now a farmers field that occasionally floods and sees a flock of geese drop in for a rest could be designated a protected wetland.

What follow then are extracts from a couple of articles describing opposite extremes of government actions, somewhere between these two their must be a reasonable level of environmental protection whist still allowing controlled development where necessary. Its a tough balancing act, I will let you decide where that balance lays, for there will be no consensus on this one, nor will we have any meaningful say in trying to find same.

DFO Program & Staff Cuts.
Today all DFO (Department of Fisheries & Oceans - who are / were also responsible for fish habitat in rivers & streams) habitat protection and management staff in Canada are receiving letters that they are now "red-circled" - i.e. they are being affected by Bill C-38 with it's budget and habitat legislation and
program cuts (i.e. DFO downsizing) and many will soon not have a job. Staff were directed to not discuss this with anyone and only DFO Ottawa was allowed to comment on the issue. 132 habitat staff across Canada will be fired (laid off) in the next few months in that many will have to compete for remaining jobs. In the Pacific Region, they now have 92 staff and that is to be reduced to 60 - an approximate 33% cut in staff. Also, all habitat office locations in Pacific Region are to be closed down, with the exception of Whitehorse, Prince Rupert, Kamloops, Vancouver and Nanaimo.
Ottawa has given all DFO habitat staff directions to remove the "Habitat Management Program" title from their organization and from their offices, etc. in that they are now to be called the "Fisheries Protection Program".

All DFO habitat protection offices from Quebec to the BC-Alberta border, i.e. Central and Arctic Region, will also be drastically cut and all offices will be shut down except in Ottawa, Burlington, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Yellowknife. It is indicated that of 63 DFO offices in Canada with habitat staff (now "fisheries protection" staff), most will be closed and the number of offices having habitat-type program staff will be reduced to 14 for a giant geographic area - i.e. Canada.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources says the changes are just extra criteria to fill gaps in existing wildlife protection rules. They would apply to new developments such as subdivisions, commercial construction or wind turbines, not to smaller projects such as renovating a house.
The scope is broader than anything Ontario has seen before. The draft rules would protect butterflies, toads, salamanders, deer, red spruce, white oak, alvars, sand dunes, bogs, owls, farm fields that flood in the spring, geese, springs, bears, lichens, gulls, turtles, sandpipers, mink, wolves, ospreys, and “dancing grounds” of the sharp-tailed grouse.
These include urban species such as ring-billed gulls (familiar wherever French fries are sold), merlins (a small hawk common in Ottawa) and “nuisance” geese.
More specifically, the following would be designated as Significant Wildlife Habitat:
• Any wetland with 20 or more frogs or tadpoles;
• Large buffer areas around nests of Cooper’s hawks, ring-billed gulls, Canada geese or most ducks, all of which are found in urban Ottawa;
• Farm fields that flood in spring if they are stopovers for 100 or more migrating geese or ducks;
• A single snapping turtle nest, or a pond where five painted turtles spend the winter;
• Any hawk or owl nest in a forest;
• A cliff and the “talus” (fallen rocks) at its base;
• Any stand of trees where 10 per cent or more of the trees are white oak;
• “Corridors” where toads, deer, or salamanders move from spot to spot;
• Any spring or “seep” where groundwater comes to the surface.
In all, the draft outlines habitats of hundreds of types of plants and animals, ranging from forests to beaches to farms and suburbs.
The draft document on Significant Wildlife Habitat was posted on a provincial website in the spring, but attracted little notice. It is on the Environmental Registry website, reference number 011-5740. The period for comments is closed.
And there you have it, the two extremes from two different levels of government, and both of them IMHO as troubling as the other.

No comments: