Browsing the blog archives for June, 2010.

Why Denley Is Wrong About South March Highlands

South March Highlands

The Ottawa Citizen seems to consistently avoid publishing all the relevant facts about the environmental diaster unfolding in the South March Highlands.  Why?

Randall Denley’s commentary on “Wilkinson backs down in face of opposition” is off-the-mark and reflects two common misconceptions about the South March Highlands (SMH).

  1. The Kanata 40% Agreement was not a “generous” grant of land by developers that can be compared to a 5% allocation of open space elsewhere. 
     This misconception assumes that developers originally had any right to develop any of this land as they do elsewhere. 

    The reality is, since 1972, ALL of the SMH were protected from development.  The 40% Agreement was agreed to by Campeau in 1981 so that they could obtain the opportunity to develop 60% instead of 0%. 

    Many people believe that this was the worst planning decision made by the Regional Municipality during the 1980s.  This is hardly “one heck of a deal” as Mr. Denley asserts.

  2.  The SMH are not the same as any other property commonly slated for development.
     Studies done for Ottawa’s Greenspace Master Plan identifies these lands as having the same significance as Mer Bleu, Shirley’s Bay, and Stony Swamp.  It also specifically references the Trillium Wood subsection of the South March Highlands as particularly valuable to the City.

    This is confirmed by ecological surveys done by the National Capital Commission and by previous City studies.  

    Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources has rated these lands as having provincially significant Areas of Natural Scientific Interest for Life Sciences as well as provincially significant, Class 1, wetlands.

Contrary to the impression created by Denley’s commentary,  Ms. Wilkinson is responding to the overwhelming demand from over 5000 residents to protect these lands from development. 

This may be seen by some as a change in posture, but it is nonetheless a sign of democracy in action.  It is unclear why Mr. Denley believes this to be a bad thing.

In the popular movie, V for Vendetta, the hero’s tagline is that “government should fear its people”. 

Any politician that does not respect and respond to the democratic will of the people that they represent should indeed fear them.

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Species Loss in South March Highlands

South March Highlands

Species-at-Risk (SAR) are classified based on the risk of extinction due to declining population within geographic areas.  As populations decline and vanish, the species’ classification increases until the species is either recovered (saved) or ultimately goes extinct.

This is not a theoretical risk.  According to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), there are 13 species that once existed in Canada and are now extinct and a further 23 species that no longer exist in the wild in Canada (but exist elsewhere).

The loss of bio-diversity can readily be seen in the South March Highlands (SMH) as evidenced by the SMH Conservation Forest Natural Environment Assessment [Brunton 2008].

Click on the tabs below to see how real the risk is and why it the SMH should not be further developed.


The following 11 species are already believed to be extirpated (previously observed and no longer present in the SMH) as a result of development that has occured to-date in the SMH:

  1. Cathcart’s Woodsia
  2. Oregon Woodsia
  3. Spiny Coon-tail
  4. Adder’s-tongue Fern
  5. Back’s Sedge
  6. Large Duckweed
  7. Long-spurred Violet
  8. Showy Orchis
  9. Southern Arrow-wood
  10. Strawberry-blight
  11. Virginia Spring Beauty


The following 3 species have been observed in the SMH and are Endangered both provincially and nationally:

  1. American Ginseng (a plant known to exist in SMH and once thought to be extirpated, subsequently re-discovered in 2009 when surveying for Terry Fox Drive Extension and subsequently extirpated in 2010 to make way for the road)
  2. Butternut (the SMH is one of the few locations in North America with some healthy, disease resistant trees)
  3. Loggerhead Shrike (possibly extirpated as there are no recent observations of this bird)


The following 8 species have been observed in the SMH and are Threatened:

  1. Blanding’s Turtle (Ontario & Quebec)
  2. Whip-poor-will (All provinces east of Alberta)
  3. Golden Winged Warbler (Ontario & Quebec)
  4. Western Chorus Frog (this species is listed Federally for Ontario & Quebec but not yet listed under Ontario SARO)
  5. Eastern Musk Turtle (Ontario & Quebec and possibly extirpated in the SMH as there are no recent observations)
  6. Olive Sided Flycatcher (All Provinces)
  7. Chimney Swift (Ontario)
  8. Bobolink (Ontario)

Special Concern

The following 9 species have been observed in the SMH and are of Special Concern:

  1. Bridle Shiner (a small fish observed in Shirley’s Brook and Kizell Pond)
  2. Short Eared Owl
  3. Black Tern
  4. Common Nighthawk
  5. Snapping Turtle
  6. Eastern Milksnake
  7. Monarch Butterfly
  8. Bald Eagle
  9. Red Headed Woodpecker

SAR Candidates

These additional 18 species have been observed in the SMH and are on the COSEWIC Candidate List for Ontario:

  1. Evening Grosbeak (high-priority)
  2. Eastern Wood Peewee (high-priority)
  3. Wood Thrush (high-priority)
  4. Bank Swallow (high-priority)
  5. American Bullfrog (mid-priority)
  6. American Kestrel (mid-priority)
  7. Belted-Kingfisher (mid-priority)
  8. Eastern Red-Backed Salamander (mid-priority)
  9. Field Sparrow (mid-priority)
  10. Blue-Spotted Salamander (low priority)
  11. American Toad (low priority)
  12. Bluntnose Minnow (low priority)
  13. Boreal Chickadee (low priority)
  14. Killdeer (low priority)
  15. Midland Painted Turtle (low priority)
  16. Northern Two-Lined Salamander  (low priority)
  17. Green Frog  (low priority)
  18. Wood Frog  (low priority)
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Video on South March Highlands

South March Highlands

The Coalition to Protect South March Highlands released a 4-minute MUST SEE video.

Check it out at

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