Winter Kill in the South March Highlands

Green Reality, Legislative Gaps, South March Highlands

There are laws to protect nesting birds in Ontario, but incredibly no law protects nesting mammals!  This post uses tabs, so be sure to click on each one to see the entire article.

Protecting Birds

The Federal Migratory Bird Convention Act was passed as long ago as 1917 as a result of an agreement between Canada and the United States (the U.S. passed an identical act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, in 1918).  This law enables the Migratory Birds Regulations that further prohibit the destruction of nests for a wide variety of birds anywhere in Canada.  Penalties for violating the Act are stiff – up to $500 K for corporations and up to $100 K for individuals.

This effectively prevents the clearing of trees between April and the end of July in Ontario since it can be difficult to ensure that no breeding birds are nesting within a forested area.

In Ottawa, the City has published Standard Mitigation Measures that clearly sets out that no clearing of trees and vegetation is permitted between April 15 and July 31 unless a qualified biologist has conducted a pre-clearing survey within 5 days prior to the removal of trees.

Mammal Dens

In winter, most mammals either hibernate or den in a torpor-like state.  They will find dens (i.e. nests) for that purpose in trees, caves, fallen logs, or or create suitable dens in trees and other protected areas such as abandoned buildings.

Porcupine Den in South March Highlands

Hibernating mammals include bats, some species of ground squirrels, mice and several species of rodents,  some species of rabbit, skunks, chipmunks, woodchucks, ground hogs, etc.  Mammals that truly hibernate will slow their heart and breathing rates to conserve energy and allow their body temperatures to drop to near zero.  Many of these mammals will hibernate while pregnant so that they are ready to give birth by spring.

Many mammals that don’t truly hibernate will conserve energy by limiting movement by sleeping deeply and for long periods of time, but will wake up during warmer periods to find food.  Examples of these denning mammals include bears, raccoons, porcupine, some species of ground squirrels, shrews, mink, otter, fox, weasels, beaver, etc.

Some denning species will also slow their heart rates during sleep (but not as much as hibernating species), making them appear slow and lethargic when awake during winter.  Bears and raccoons are examples of species that do not truly  hibernate but come close to it.  Females of these mammals are also likely to be gestating over the winter so that they are ready to give birth when spring arrives.

Porcupine in Den

Vulnerable

Denning and hibernating mammals are as vulnerable as nesting birds.  If their dens are threatened, hibernating animals cannot be awakened to flee, and denning animals have no where to go during winter.

Many mammals have a limited range due to the territorial needs of others in its species.  For example a porcupine generally stays within a 100 m radius in winter and within 1.5 km in summer .  Most mammals will fight to defend their territory from invaders of their own kind.

Within it’s range, a replacement den may not be available and raw materials that could otherwise be used to construct a den (such as twigs, logs) are usually frozen or covered with snow.  This means that a displaced mammal is exposed to the elements.

Exposed Porcupine That Lost It's Den

The photo above was taken in Beaver Pond Forest shortly after tree clearing had begun in extremely cold temperatures.  Despite it’s protective fur, every non-hibernating mammal is vulnerable to cold during the dead of winter and can freeze to death without shelter.

Winter Clearing

The operator of heavy equipment, such as the one shown below employed by KNL to clear-cut the Beaver Pond Forest in winter, is not able to see if mammals are hibernating or denning and in any case is certainly not likely to exit the warm cab in winter to examine every tree prior to cutting it down.

Heavy Tree Clearing Equipment

The City of Ottawa’s mitigation guidelines state “Avoid the use of heavy equipment in wetlands and watercourses during the winter, when fish, amphibians and reptiles may be hibernating.” but is silent on the protection of mammals in winter when they are most vulnerable.

The City’s only mention of mammal protection is  “Avoid vegetation clearing during sensitive times of the year for local wildlife, such as spring and early summer (when many animals bear their young).” which ignores the winter-long gestation period for mammals.

Winter Kill

The result of winter tree clearing is inevitably death.  Either via direct injury caused by crushing the animal when the tree is felled by heavy equipment, or by freezing to death from exposure as a result of being homeless in winter.

Female Porcupine Frozen To Death

Based on the acreage  of the Beaver Pond Forest (30 hectares), and the average number of Porcupines within a given area (12 porcupines / km 2), it is possible to estimate the size of the porcupine population prior to tree clearing in Beaver Pond Forest to be approximately 4 porcupines.  A field study conducted immediately after tree clearing completed, located 3 of those porcupines and found 2 of them dead – both females who were likely pregnant and less likely to survive without shelter.

In other words, the winter tree clearing approved by the City and conducted by KNL killed at least half of the population of porcupines and possibly 2/3 of them (allowing for the possibility that there were only 3 at the outset).  Other mammals were undoubtedly killed too, however, porcupines are more readily found as they are less likely to be consumed by carnivorous birds and other mammals because of their quills.

So why do we have laws that protect nesting birds and not nesting mammals?

  • Why has Ontario not passed effective wildlife protection laws?
  • Why has the Canadian Wildlife Federation not pressed for protection of mammals?
  • Why does the SPCA not object to the winter slaughter of animals?
  • Why does the City of Ottawa authorize the winter slaughter of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians?
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No Bottom Line for the South March Highlands

Legislative Gaps, South March Highlands

The City of Ottawa is slowly moving towards a sustainability mindset. According to its Director for Community Sustainability, the City is considering wider application of so-called “Triple Bottom Line” decision-making.

Sustainability

Classical decision-making in the previous century viewed the economy in isolation of the rest of society and in a context that ignored the environment. As illustrated below, interrelationships between these 3 dimensions were rarely considered.  Limited consideration was given to overlaps between 2 of these dimensions and even more rare was a sustainability mindset in which all 3 were included.

Sustainability thinking is based on traditional North American Indian philosophy that situates the person within the environment and views the ecosystem around the person as a great circle encompassing both animal life as well as the different communities of man.  This philosophy is traditionally symbolized by a Medicine Wheel as illustrated below.

<<Note that this article uses tabs, click on each tab above to see all of it.>>

TBL

The Triple Bottom Line (TBL) is a term coined by John Elkington in his 1998 book Cannibals with Forks: the Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business. TBL is a concept that similarly situates economic decision making within a societal context, which in turn is situated within an environmental context.

A sustainable mindset acknowledges that our society exists within the environment and not independent from it. Similarly, our business decisions exist within the society that defines the economics for them.

Consequently we need to consider intangible value as well as tangible value in making sustainable decisions.  This is illustrated below:

Considering the intangible helps avoid the trap of McNamara’s Fallacy, however, it is still possible for businesses and governments to fall into the fallacy by relying only on measurable indicators when performing a TBL analysis.

An example of falling into the trap can be seen in the Australian Government’s TBL analysis of 135 sectors of the Australian economy.  Notice the reliance of only measurable indicators when assessing intangible factors — a classic symptom of falling prey to McNamara’s Fallacy.

Ottawa’s 4BL

With the caveat to be wary of McNamara’s Fallacy, TBL is certainly a step in the right direction towards sustainable decision-making.

Curiously the use of TBL in a municipal setting involves consideration of 4 (not 3) dimensions (4BL):

  1. Economic
  2. Environmental
  3. Social
  4. Cultural

The addition of a cultural dimension extends the influence of social factors.  The rationale for this is tenuous and appears to have originated in New Zealand.  In Canada, the concept seems to be gaining favour among various municipalities, including Ottawa.

According to the authors of the 4BL model, it was attractive to incorporate the 4 directions of the traditional medicine wheel as an aspect of their sustainability framework.  Evidently, there is much to be learned about sustainability from First Nations – even when it comes to creating a model for thinking about it in a holistic way.

Unfortunately, in the 4BL case this has been done in a way that hi-jacks traditional values and re-casts them in a way that inserts “money” at the expense of wildlife.  This recurring type of hi-jacking and revision of native symbols and philosophy is one of the causes of cultural genocide – and in this case is being done in the name of promoting culture!

Rather than re-invent a tried-and-true concept that has served First Nations well for thousands of years, perhaps it would have been better to centre the concept entirely on traditional concepts of stewardship and respect for Mother Earth.

As an example, a direct application of traditional values by the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation results in a rather sensible Principles of Development.

NBL for SMH

Unfortunately the City is not even close to applying TBL or 4BL criteria to the South March Highlands:

  • Neither Council or Staff took the opportunity to explore the economic benefits of green infrastructure and the Stewardship plan that was prepared as an alternative – even though it would have generated $25 M /annum in economic benefits to the city;
  • Continued development in the SMH is an environmental disaster that no one denies – yet no one at city hall does anything to prevent. Compounded by the continued wilful blindness to environmental problems caused by SWM piecemealing, water diversion, fragmentation of habitat, and extirpation of 20 species-at-risk.
  • At a social level, every community association in Ottawa endorsed protection for the SMH – yet the infrastructure staff plows forward in the face of opposition from 15,000 people.
  • The complete disrespect for the cultural heritage of first nations in the SMH is shameful. The refusal to accommodate even a reasonable request for an unbiased archaeological study is indefensible and a violation of the Canadian constitution.

Clearly there is no bottom line thinking (NBL) in the City at all when it comes to the South March Highlands.

Although Ottawa is starting to move in the right direction with sustainability thinking, it will take much more than the creation of a quad-focal “lens” and the self-congratulation that will no doubt accompany the City’s self-assessment process to implement a sustainability mindset in Ottawa.

Growing Gaps

Completely missing from the City’s implementation approach is ensuring that there is an opportunity for public participation in ALL key decisions affecting Environment, Social, and Economic dimensions.

Instead of closing this gap, the lack of acceptance of public review as an integral part of sustainable decision-making appears to be growing.  Some recent examples of a growing gap include:

  • Refusal by the City to make public review a part of any future lifting of holding conditions for lands formerly zoned as environmentally significant in the SMH;
  • Failure by City staff to bring final EAs and EA Addendum to City committees for public review and Council approval prior to issuing of Notices of Completion.  This has occurred recently for Kanata West and for the Glen Cairn Flood Investigation.
  • Issuing key technical documents less than 3 days prior to a City committee vote on the subject so as to curtail any opportunity for public review.  This occurred recently on the decision to allow a municipal drain to be constructed in the provincially significant Poole Creek Wetlands in Stittsville.

Talk and intentions are cheap and meaningless without changing how the City operates.  Not only is the current non-sustainable mindset entrenched, it appears to be  incorrigible.

As a case in point, the infrastructure approvals staff actually declared that they considered it necessary to raze Beaver Pond Forest in Kanata, just so that they could understand where the watershed boundary was!  Evidently it was not possible for them to see the watershed for the trees.

Changing how the City operates will require deep changes to management within the infrastructure approvals division.   Otherwise using the words sustainability and development in the same sentence in Ottawa will continue to be an oxymoron.

Time to walk the talk by doing the right thing!

So far Mayor Watson has done nothing to improve the situation and in fact has made matters worse by not promoting public participation as a fundamental pre-condition for sustainable development in Ottawa.

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Is This Quality Decision-Making?

South March Highlands

Open Message to Mayor Watson and City Council,

Attached is a copy of a letter hand-delivered to Minister Chan as well as to the press gallery at Queen’s Park.  The provincial leader of the NDP rose in the Ontario Legislature to call attention to it.

As you read this letter, ask yourself whether this is indicative of the quality of decision making that the people of Ottawa expect from all of you.  On what expert authority is the decision to ignore important archaeological potential being based?

  • It isn’t the expertise of licensed archaeologists – the city has NONE on staff and none were contracted by the city to review the situation.  The two licensed experts who did review the new evidence have called for a new study.
  • It isn’t the Ministry of Tourism and Culture who have clearly stated that they only review reports presented to them and that they have downloaded the approval authority to the city when it comes to requiring new studies.  Only the City as the approval authority, or the Minister of Culture acting on an emergency basis, can order that a new study be done.
  • It isn’t the City Council’s advisory committee on Arts and Heritage that has unanimously recommended that a new study be done.
  • It isn’t the people whose direct heritage is being ignored.  ALL the Algonquin First Nations on both sides of the Ottawa River have expressed their concern and requested that a new review be done.  Furthermore the City Council’s new advisory subcommittee on Aboriginal Affairs has also unanimously recommended that a new study be done.

The answer according to the Mayor is that the decision has been made by a non-professional archaeologist (J. Moser) based on a legal opinion city counsel (T. Marc) – neither of whom have any training or expertise in archaeology.  This is the same legal counsel who recently stood against public interest groups at an OMB hearing and challenged the affidavits presented by the public because they were submitted by non-professionals in the subjects being reviewed!

Is this the quality of decision making that City Council wants to rely on?  Decisions made by those apparently blind to their consequences because they are untrained to evaluate the information required to make the right decision?

The legal opinion only confirms that it is apparently legal in Ontario to embarrass the City and its leadership by relying on an out-dated study when it comes to development approvals.  Doesn’t say much for the quality of legislation used to protect cultural heritage.  It is equally legal to require that a new study be done at any time prior to registration of subdivision.

The City Council of Ottawa does not have to rely on a decision-making process that is blind to the facts.  Nor should Council allow the City to be embarrassed by decisions made by staff in such a flawed manner. 

With Fortitude,

Paul Renaud

South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc.

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Sacred Fire at Queen’s Park

South March Highlands

We are gathered here in unity of common purpose and with a spirit that has a common Voice:

  • We speak on behalf of the Great Forest that cannot speak for herself.
  • We speak for the Life in that Forest and for all the Lives that are touched by it.
  • We speak for the South March Highlands and all the Forests like her across Ontario and across Canada.

When people form coalitions so that they can speak louder it is a sign that their government isn’t listening.

When people take their government to court it is a sign that their right to fair government was violated.

When people take to the streets in protest it is a sign that their government is failing them.

  • We have done all of these things and yet still the Forest cries in pain because the government does nothing.
  • How is it possible for any responsible government to knowingly allow the destruction of the most bio-diverse area in their city and in their National Capital?

The true measure of a Leader is how they react to something that is so obviously wrong.

  • Do they hide behind the mistakes of others, or do they assume responsibility?
  • Do they pass the buck, or do they work to resolve the wrong?
  • Do they have the vision to work towards a better outcome?

These are the questions that we ask the Government of Ontario today.

But we must also challenge ourselves too because our governments are just a reflection of ourselves.

The true measure of a Person is taken when they are confronted with something that is so obviously wrong.

The wrong that is being perpetuated in the South March Highlands causes us to question our very relationship with the Land.

  • Do we care about Mother Earth and our relationship with the environment?
  • Do we ignore what is going on, or do we speak out against it?
  • Do we allow the destruction to occur, or do we work to prevent it?

We speak not only for this Great Forest, but also for the new Voice of Canada.

  • A voice that says that the protection and preservation of native heritage is important because the First Canadians can teach us many things about this Land.
  • A voice that says that we too are an integral part of this natural ecosystem.  We do not walk on it, we exist within it and we are only alive because of it.
  • A voice that says that our society must return to a “sustainable relationship” with all living beings – regardless of colour, creed, and culture, and with respect for all species of life.
  • A voice that says that greed is no substitute for responsibility.
  • A voice that says Leadership means taking responsibility to resolve problems through meaningful consultation with ALL stakeholders.
  • A voice that cries out for Leadership to protect our wild heritage because it is that very heritage that defines us as Canadians.
  • A voice that says that we have lost too many great Forests and that it is now time to draw the line.

If we cannot save the South March Highlands,

  • a land with over 20 species-at-risk in it,
  • a land that contains immense cultural heritage,
  • a land that is integral to the ecology of our National Capital,
  • a land that is Sacred to the descendants of the Anishinabe people,

what Hope is there for any other forest or natural place?

The time to act is NOW!

It’s NOT TOO LATE to DO THE RIGHT THING and we ask our Premier do the right thing!

Paul Renaud

Feb 13, 2011

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The Power of Goodwill

South March Highlands

Feb 1, 2011

Ms. Jarvis,

It is unfortunate that the decision to proceed with clear cutting, along with the remarks made by Mr. Sachs in the media, provoked a response by Algonquins and others.  Now that the situation is even more entrenched than before, we suggest that it is important to realize that greater sensitivity by Urbandale to the widespread community interest in this area is key to effective communication.  This includes greater sensitivity to the legitimate concerns of both native and non-native communities.

The Ottawa Citizen reported that Mr. Sachs wants to know why the Algonquin consider this land to be Sacred.  Prior to commenting on aboriginal religious beliefs in the media, don’t you think it would be more productive for him to first seek to understand those beliefs?

We believe that if Mr. Sachs truly wants an answer to this question he may wish to meet with the person who declared that the land is Sacred to all indigenous people of the Ottawa River watershed.  In his message to Ottawa City Council, Grandfather William Commanda, the principal Algonquin spiritual Elder of both Ontario and Quebec and beyond, Ancestral Carrier of the three Sacred Wampum Belts that pre-date the arrival of Europeans to this area, clearly sets out that the South March Highlands is a place of Manitou (Spirit).

We suggest that it would be very productive, and a gesture of significant goodwill, for Mr. Sachs to meet with Grandfather Commanda.  We would be willing to facilitate such a meeting should you wish to pursue one.

In the meantime, we strongly urge that KNL ceases  all tree clearing in the South March Highlands to improve the willingness of everyone to communicate instead of confronting one another.  We do not subscribe to the belief that it is possible to operate heavy equipment without disturbing underlying cultural resources, nor do we condone the mass killing of wildlife that winter time tree clearing inevitably causes.

By stopping tree clearing in favour of an independent archaeological review to be done on undisturbed land, you can enable us to work with you in asking the NCC to conduct such a review at no cost to KNL.    We already have a positive working relationship with the NCC and believe that a joint application will be successful because of the fact that it will come from both sides in this entrenched situation.

It is not too late to do the right thing and we would like to emphasize that our original letter is still on the table.

Sincerely,

Paul Renaud

South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc.

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Respect

South March Highlands

January 13, 2011

Ms. Jarvis,

Further to our New Year’s letter of offer below, we were disappointed that you did not convey firsthand your reply to us when we met with Kitchi Makwa/Big Bear to discuss the stone circle.  At our meeting, I remained silent about our offer to you in deference to Kitchi Makwa’s desire to focus discussion on the fate of the medicine wheel.  Although we do not consider it helpful to have read your response, “While they’re protesting, we’ll be cutting”, subsequently in the press, we will respect your preference to communicate via the media instead of directly.

In the event that you may not be aware of recent developments, we wish to advise you that the Chiefs of 5 Algonquin First Nations as well as the spiritual Elder have recently written to all levels of government requesting that KNL’s proposed tree clearing be halted pending the completion of meaningful consultations with all stakeholders.

Please appreciate the fact that these native leaders believe they have an un-extinguished right to, and therefore a legal interest in, all property within the South March Highlands because of the fact that it lies within unceded, unconquered, and unsurrendered Algonquin territory. 

We have been informed that they consider your planned destruction of the forest to be a violation of traditional Algonquin Law and, especially when viewed in that context, we think their request for meaningful consultation prior to further destruction of the forest is both reasonable and appropriate.

We would like to believe that Urbandale conducts its affairs responsibly, so we ask that you respect their request and voluntarily agree to suspend your plans so that you can participate in consultations also.  

Not only will proceeding unilaterally against their objections be viewed as disrespectful by the 14,500 members of public who support us,  it may unnecessarily escalate or inflame public opinion among both the native and non-native community who normally think that communication is preferable to confrontation.  We wish to observe that your moral, legal, and community posture can only be diminished by refusing to respect their request.

 Sincerely,

 Paul Renaud

South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc.

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Misinformation in the South March Highlands

South March Highlands

Misinformation #1 ? This Area is not an Old Growth Forest

Urbandale says that this forest was studied by IFS Forestry who determined that the trees in this area are roughly 60 – 80 years old and definitely not old growth.  Further confirmation of the age of the trees is found in the 1861 Agricultural Census indicating that the Graham family was active in farming this property at that time.

The MNR defines old growth as older than 120 years old.  There are many examples of old growth in the SMH, as an example the 250-year old Black Sugar Maple that was destroyed to make way for Terry Fox Drive Extension.

These trees survived the great fire of 1870 that destroyed much of the Ottawa River Valley which is why the vast majority of trees in Ottawa are younger.  However, because the South March Highlands is a mountain wetland, it provided a firebreak for the town of March and thus many old growth trees are found. 

It is well known that many farms in the area failed because of the thin soil layer that covers the Canadian Shield in the South March Highlands and although several homesteads existed, very little of the land was cleared and used for farming.

 Misinfo #2 ? KNL Isn’t Clear-Cuting Environmentally Significant Forest

 KNL’s development agreement with the City was designed to protect environmentally sensitive areas including Beaver Pond, Kizell Pond, and Trillium Woods. As required by the 40% Agreement, KNL will be giving approximately 265 acres of the most ecologically sensitive land to the City.

However, KNL will destroy the majority of the remaining forest for its subdivision.

The City already owns an additional 1000 acres of forested area in the neighbouring South March Highlands.  This is the same so-called “Conservation Forest” that the City recently built a 4-lane highway through.

According to the City’s Environmental Assessment for Terry Fox Drive Extension filed in 2010 to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the entire area of the Beaver Pond Forest is designated as Natural Environment Area – the highest level of land use protection.

 Misinfo #3 ? KNL Is Trying to Rush This Development to Avoid Debate or Find Alternate Solutions to Preserving the Forest

The City has zoned these lands for development since the 1981 40% Agreement was approved in spite of objections from environmental groups who have opposed development for 30 years.  This opposition included 2 OMB appeals that took years to resolve.

KNL has completed and submitted to the city multiple studies looking at the environmental impact of this development including fish habitat, tree species and age, site archaeology, agriculture potential and more. These been reviewed and approved by City Planning Officials, City Council and the OMB even though these plans will result in the removal of endangered species, such as Butternut, and the destruction of critical habitat for an estimated 20 species at risk.

KNL has never met with the community despite being obligated by their conditions of subdivision approval to implement a communications plan and recently declined offers from the community and the city to buy them out at a profit based on a fair-market evaluation for their property.

Misinfo #4 ? There are no Significant Aboriginal Findings on the Site

As part of the approval process, KNL was required to conduct complete Stage 1 and Stage 2 Archaeological Resources Impact Statements of the site to the approval of the Ministry of Culture and Communications.  This study attempted to find evidence of aboriginal habitation and not surprisingly found nothing of archaeological interest on this site.  Most grade school children are aware of the fact that the ancestors of the First Nations of Canada were nomadic and therefore few had permanent residences.

Recently KNL’s consultant was called back to study a group of stones forming a circle which appears to be a possible indication of a burial ground or Medicine Wheel. 

According to KNL, the same consultant who found no evidence of aboriginal residences is also of the opinion that it is not a medicine wheel because finding such an artefact would be provincially significant as none others are known by him to exist in the province of Ontario.

KNL has stated that the site will be protected pending his confirmation that this is not of archaeological significance – which appears to be a foregone conclusion by him.  Many people feel that this diminishes the credibility of the consultant and that an independent assessment performed by the NCC is the right thing to do.

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You Can’t Eat Money

South March Highlands

Urbandale Protest Demonstration

On January 8, 2011 a public demonstration was held in support of Grandfather William Commanda’s letter of protest to the City of Ottawa.  The 97 year old spiritual Elder for the Algonquin First Nation attended the rally and delivered prayers in 3 languages despite the snowstorm that surrounded us.

Grandfather Albert Dumont opened the proceedings with a prayer for peace and I then spoke the following to the 100+ people in attendence:

Message from South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc.

When people form coalitions so that they can speak louder, it is a sign that their government isn’t listening.

When people take their government to court, it is a sign that their right to fair government was violated.

When people take to the streets in protest, it is a sign that their government is failing them.

We are here to tell our governments that their failure to protect the South March Highlands is irresponsible government!

How is it possible for any responsible government to knowingly allow the destruction of the most bio-diverse area in their city and in their national capital?

We have documented 675 species of life in the South March Highlands and are still discovering more because there are well over 1,000 to be found.

  • Of these no fewer than 20 species are officially designated as species-at-risk of extinction.

So what does our government do?

  • It builds a road that they acknowledge will sever the eco-connectivity of this area, choking off the natural function of wildlife.
  • Just take a look at the Berlin Wall on Terry Fox Drive and you will understand why we needed to appeal our court case.
  • And like a robot, our government continues to allow the ongoing destruction of this great forest with one subdivision after another.

The place where you are standing [Holy Trinity High School in Kanata] was once a natural part of the South March Highlands.  Yet, in spite of 20 years of protest and overwhelming evidence to the contrary, our government has allowed this destruction to proceed because they lack the political will to stop it.

This place wasn’t always called the South March Highlands.

A long time ago, the Anishinabe people saw an island that looked like a great turtle rising from the sea and from that point forward they understood that the turtle was an integral symbol of creation.

10,000 years ago, when the waters of the Champlain Sea receded, this highland area was also a freshwater island surrounded by a salt water sea.

  • There are no fewer than 3 species of turtle among the 20 species at risk in this area.
  • Do you think that this is symbolic of how our modern society has become so disconnected from creation?

We have found evidence that the Anishnabek, who are the ancestors of all the First Nations in eastern Canada and USA, lived here 500 generations ago:

  1. The archaeological survey done by the City for Terry Fox Drive called for a follow-up study that according to the Ministry of Culture was never done.
  2. Just down the street from here on Richardson Ridge, the archaeological survey done by the developer found conclusive evidence of a tool-making site that was estimated to be 10,000 years old.
  3. This study was confirmed by world experts but rejected by the developer who is now in court for not having paid the archaeologist. Meanwhile the area has been clear-cut and blasted to the extent that they had to close Kanata Avenue last fall.

  4. On Huntmar Ridge, last July we reported the finding of another tool-making site that was similar to the one on Richardson Side road.
  5. But the City has yet to find $25 K to hire an archaeologist to investigate because they are too busy wasting millions on Landsdowne Park.

  6. According to Dr. McGhee, former president of the Canadian Archaeological Society, the archaeological survey done for Urbandale’s subdivision was fatally flawed because it failed to adequately consider native use of the area prior to the arrival of Europeans.
  7. Recently we reported finding a site that may be a medicine wheel in the Beaver Pond Forest. As a result of a meeting with native people and Urbandale measures may be taken to safeguard it.

What else has been missed and why has the city not required Urbandale to do a proper study in view of all this overwhelming evidence that this entire area is possibly a national historic site?

The great spiritual elder of the Algonquin, Grandfather William Commanda, reminds us that beyond its archaeological history, the South March Highlands are, and I quote,

[a] living temple, a place of Manitou, a special place of nature
and that this precious reality also demands immediate protection and reverence
.

We have much to learn from the native people to lived here long before us.

I’d like to read some of the words spoken by the Medicine Man Kitchi Makwa / Great Bear to Urbandale this week:

We the Anishnabek Peoples of this Land are very close to Nature, in fact we ARE part of nature.

This vision enables us to live harmoniously with Nature!

We are One with Nature and can only live in Peace when our actions are based on love and compassion for ALL living beings, including Nature!

When we live in this harmony with Nature, we become aware of past and present echoes of the forest.

My heart cries that future generations may not have this opportunity to know this forest.

Sadly, like us, many indigenous people have been recently removed from the energy and heritage of the forest. For many years our society has erased their history, art, and culture to the extent that they are almost invisible within our capital city.

But we represent the new voice of Canada.

  • A voice that says that the protection and preservation of native heritage is important because it strengthens us all and teaches us many things.
  • A voice that says that our society must return to what Grandfather Commanda calls a “sustainable relationship” with all living beings – regardless of colour, creed, and culture, and with respect for all species of life.
  • A voice that says that we too are an integral part of this natural ecosystem. We do not walk on it, we exist within it, and we are only alive because of it.

Today we carry our voices to Urbandale to remind them that we have offered them a responsible way forward in this situation. A way forward that preserves the forest and compensates them fairly. We will remind them that greed is no substitute for responsibility.

I hope that all of you will also individually carry your voices to our government representatives and ask them to join us in this new 21st century of reconciliation with nature. Also to request that native culture and rights be respected and that this forest be protected.

As the native people of this area say:

When the last forest is gone, people will learn that you can’t eat money.

IT’s NOT TOO LATE TO DO THE RIGHT THING!

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Offer to Purchase Sent to Urbandale

South March Highlands

December 30, 2010

Mr. Sachs & Ms. Jarvis,

Since it is now evident that Ottawa City Council is currently unwilling to add any value in protecting the South March Highlands, we are extending this offer to work directly with you in this regard. The South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc. is the legal entity that represents the interests of over 6,000 individuals who are committed to being stewards of Ottawa’s Great Forest – the South March Highlands.

We suspect that you may not have been fully aware of the environmental significance of this area when you originally purchased the lands north of Kizell Wetland and Beaver Pond from Genstar in Sept 2000. We are confident that by working together, we can create a win-win solution to this situation.

By now you are no doubt aware that the South March Highlands is an old-growth forest, home to 20 documented Species-at-Risk, has the highest floristic diversity and densest bio-diversity in Ottawa, and contains several archaeological sites that are twice the age of the Egyptian pyramids. You are also aware that there is substantial community resistance to your development plans and that Algonquin spiritual leaders consider this area to be ancient, unique, and a very special sacred space.

According to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, unlike the tax provisions for donating land directly to a municipality, an individual or corporation that donates land to a charitable land trust may obtain a tax credit equal to 100% of the market value of that land.

We are willing to establish a charity for that purpose if you are willing to donate all remaining undeveloped land that you own in the South March Highlands. At the point when you are ready to wind up the corporate operation of KNL, any remaining tax credit may be fully monetized by selling the corporation to a third party, such as an income trust looking to shelter earnings as they roll-over into a corporate entity.

Furthermore, we propose to name the resulting park, the “Urbandale Conservation Forest” (or a similar name of your choosing) so that you may leverage significant, positive, and very green, branding benefits in recognition of your generosity. Our marketing experts will work with you on signage and branding opportunities accordingly. We will also support you in a media campaign to ensure that branding benefits are maximized. When leveraged into our existing Stewardship Plan for the area, which emphasizes eco-tourism involving an audience measured in millions of people, we believe that this will be of significant branding value to you.

Should you wish to monetize some of your current investment now, we are also prepared to optionally enter into a long-term purchase agreement for “Phase 9.” This would enable you to obtain a tax credit for donating land west of Goulborne Forced Road (GFR) as described above, as well as receive annual payments for the land east of GFR and north of Beaver Pond.

In this scenario, we would establish the charity so that it can receive community donations, and pursuant to the 40% Agreement which runs on title with the land, purchase the 60% of developable land at fair market value and the 40% at no cost (as you did when you purchased the lands). You would facilitate this purchase via a vendor-take-back mortgage at 6% over 30 years.

Since some lead time would be necessary to establish the cash flow for the charity, depending on the agreed purchase price, the first couple of annual payments may need to be balloon payments. Nonetheless, since city records show the assessed value of the land for tax purposes is only $6 million, it is evident that KNL paid less than that for that land and you would receive more than double your investment plus the 6% payout.

If you wish to explore this option, we can provide further details of how we will raise the funds for purchase and we can discuss the methodology for fair market valuation.

We believe that the above represents a fair outcome for you in what otherwise is an increasingly difficult situation. We hope that in considering this offer, you reflect on the merits of taking a long-term view of the benefits from enhancing your eco-stature and brand over a status quo course of action that appears likely to significantly damage it. We believe that you will conclude that it is better business to work with a community than to continue to fight against it and we trust that, together, we can both start the new year on a positive note.

Sincerely,

Paul Renaud
South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc.

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Everything You Need to Know About SWM

Legislative Gaps, South March Highlands

This is a tabbed article, click on each tab in turn to read the whole thing.

Storm Water

Storm water is created when land development alters the natural water balance:

  1. A large portion of the rainfall is naturally absorbed by the trees, vegetation and ground surface and this significantly reduces the amount of water which will flow offsite.
  2. Forests perform a vital function to the city as “green infrastructure” that soaks up storm water, as well as combating air pollution and carbon emissions.
  3. Wetlands perform a vital function to the city as “green infrastructure” that helps store storm water to prevent flooding elsewhere.

When natural vegetation/trees and soil is replaced with roads, buildings, parking lots, less rainfall infiltrates into the ground, less gets taken up by vegetation/trees, and more becomes surface runoff:

  1. Infiltration is 14 – 35% higher for forests as compared to urban lawns for the same soil type. Looking at it the other way, runoff is up to 35% higher when forests are replaced by subdivisions [MOE SWM Design Manual 2003 ch 3 Table 3.1].
  2. Runoff is 37 -88% greater when forest vegetation is replaced by urban lawns for the same soil type.   [MOE SWM Design Manual 2003 ch 3 Table 3.1]
  3. Water holding capacity is 4 – 5x greater for forests than for urban lawns for the same underlying soil type  [MOE SWM Design Manual 2003 ch 3 Table 3.1]

Surface water flow is affected by land slope – the higher the land, the faster it flows:

  1. It is difficult, if not impossible, to control storm water flowing down hilly lands or an escarpment.
  2. The City of Hamilton knows this and was involved in a court case when the homes at the bottom of the escarpment flooded.

Surface water is affected by imperviousness of the soil and infiltration – bedrock is impervious and most of the South March Highlands have bedrock less than 1 m below the surface.

Storm water is dangerous – a well-recognized risk to human life and to property. 

SWM Basics

Storm water management (SWM) is supposed to manage:

  1. Volume of water to prevent flooding.
  2. Timing of water flow to prevent flooding and erosion.
  3. Pollution since runoff is often contaminated by oil, grit, etc. from city streets.
  4. Temperature since runoff is typically warmer than the streams that the water flows into and this can damage fish habitat.

Storm water management also handles heavy spring water flow caused by snow melt – in addition to water flow caused by storms.

Cutting trees without storm water management controls in place will cause storm water to:

  1. Flow uncontrolled offsite.
  2. Flow in much greater quantity.
  3. Flow at a faster rate than previously.
  4. Erode land, creating risk of mudslides on steep slopes.
  5. Erode stream and river banks, damaging property and changing the path of stream/river meander patterns.

While surface water runoff may not cause problems when a few trees are cut on flat lands, this is not true for highly forested and rocky areas, escarpments, or lands near floodplains and Urban Natural Features or wetlands – especially in Provincially Significant Wetlands.

In the absence of adequate SWM control:

  1. Urbanization usually dramatically increases surface runoff volumes and rates.
  2. Urbanization would convert a 100-year discharge to a 2-year discharge [Walesh 1989 pg 65].
  3. Peak flows after development are seen to be over 5 times peak flows before development [Walesh 1989 pg 58].

Servicing studies identify two systems to handle storm water runoff:

  1. The Minor System (the storm sewers) handle the runoff up to a 5 year storm.
  2. The Major System (roads, land, ditches) handle the overland flow as understood by a 100 year storm.
  3. Both of these systems are designed to flow to a stream or river, often via a SWM pond so the that flow is moderated over time.
  4. The regulatory flood level is the expected crest of the water during a 100 year storm.

Storm water management ponds are built to store storm water temporarily so it doesn’t flow downstream too fast and cause flooding:

  1. SWM without quantity control only handle the minor system flow and are prone to flooding (e.g. 351 homes in Stittsville in 2008).
  2. SWM without quality control do not deal with pollution or temperature impacts.

Watershed and subwatershed plans are required by the province to set the storm water management criteria and establish catchment areas:

  1. Water flows downhill.
  2. Loss of water retention resulting in increased runoff in highlands due to new development can flood lowlands with pre-existing developments.
  3. All development in a watershed or subwatershed is supposed to account for the cumulative effect of storm water as it flows downhill.
  4. Flow is not supposed to be diverted between watersheds and subwatersheds – a Schedule C Environmental Assessment (EA)is required if this is to be done as a last resort.

To learn more about SWM, read the Ontario Understanding SWM booklet produced by the MoE.

Ottawa SWM

The City’s storm water management program does not adequately take cumulative effect into account:

  1. An environmental management plan is required for managing cumulative effects yet none exist.
  2. A storm water policy is required for the escarpment and hilly lands, yet no policy exists.
  3. Ottawa is the only major city in Ontario without a site-alteration by-law that prevents tree removal prior to adequate SWM facilities or plans in place.

The City should require developers to use computer models to determine the impact of tree-cutting for and demonstrate in SWM plans that controls do not need to be in place prior to any removal of trees.  Otherwise, developers should be required to implement SMW controls prior to tree removal to protect public safety.

The City routinely appears to make decisions to develop lands and build roads based on incorrect models which will increase flooding in the West Urban Community:

  1. The current Carp River flood model is so incorrect that it shows water flowing upstream during a storm!
  2. No increase – not even 1 cm – should ever be permitted in a regulatory flood level because no one can predict all the engineering decisions that were made based on that flood level when prior developments were planned. 
  3. Yet the Carp River regulatory flood level has been allowed to increase by nearly 1 meter.  If it increases much more, or if the models are wrong, the Carp could actually overflow into Kizell and down Watt’s Creek.
  4. An increase in a regulator flood level increases flood risk both upstream as well as downstream.
  5. Further development along the Carp River without adequate flood plain compensation and improved SWM controls is a risk to residents in Carp, Kanata North, Kanata South and in Stittsville.

Flood Risk

The South March Highlands are the aquifer for Kanata North and for parts of West Carleton: 

  1. That means that development in this area has pervasive effects on both land and water downhill from it.
  2. For example, construction in Morgan’s Grant caused wells to go dry in March Rural.
  3. Loss of water retention in the highlands will substantially increase flood retention in the low lands were existing subdivisions are.

Flooding has been a chronic problem in North Kanata since the 1970s.  Beaver Pond was built as a dam to control flooding in the 1980s – especially to protect the MDS Nordion nuclear facility and NCC lands.

The Shirley’s Brook /Watt’s Creek Subwatershed study shows the drainage in this area is split 3 ways into SB3, KD1 and KD2 catchment areas.  Tree cutting will increase flow to all 3 of these drainage areas if no storm water management controls are in place.

KNL SWM

The Beaver Pond and lands immediately north are in the KD1 catchment area:

  1. Pathways around Beaver Pond flooded on 24 July 2009 and flood routinely every spring due to snow melt.
  2. Increasing flow into Beaver Pond without mitigation will cause increased flooding and backup into the Kizell Wetlands.

Part of KNL Phase 9 lands are also in the KD2 catchment area: 

  1. Flooding occurred downstream in this catchment area on 24 July 2009 at several of the 9 culverts which cross the Kizell Drain. 
  2. Adding additional flow may increase risk of flooding downstream and diversion to Shirley’s Brook may be the only alternative – a violation of the subwatershed plan.

Part of KNL Phase 9 lands are in the SB3 catchment area:

  1. These lands need to be coordinated in the Shirley’s Brook Diversion EA but are not in scope.
  2. City staff says only impacts KNL’s Phase 7 and 8 but are unable to produce documentation to back this up after 6 months of community questioning.

KNL’s 2006 Servicing Study ignores the Shirley’s Brook Watershed/Subwatershed Study recommendations:

  1. KNL’s Servicing Study requires a diversion – a violation of the subwatershed study.
  2. The subwatershed study does not allow for the removal of any water from Shirley’s Brook or the addition of any water to Kizell/Watt’s Creek.
  3. Condition 59 of KNL subdivision approval requires compliance with the subwatershed study.
  4. City staff say that KNL has somehow met all conditions of subdivision approval but are unable to explain how the servicing is in compliance with the subwatershed study.
  5. KNL’s Phase 5 appears to have diverted storm water from the Carp River Watershed to the KD1 catchment area without an EA being done.
  6. KNL  plans to apparently divert storm water from KD2 and SB3 to the Beaver Pond in KD1 without an EA being done.

Open Issues

KNL apparently plans to cut trees with no storm water controls in place. It is difficult to understand how this does not increase flood risk.

The Richardson Ridge tree-cutting is also proceeding on the Hazeldean Escarpment adjacent to the Compensation Lands and First Line Road which drain to the Kizell Wetlands.  This tree-cutting will result in increased runoff to the Kizell Wetlands and thus to the Beaver Pond, as well as to the Carp River.

The entire area needs to be studied at the same time – which is why the provincial policy requires an Environmental Management Plan – which has never been done despite the fact that this policy has been in place for almost 10 years.

The city’s West End Flood Investigation report identified a lot of culvert crossing problems further south in the KD3 portion – if these are fixed, then more flow would go downstream to the Watts Creek junction, and could impact the KD1/Beaver Pond drainage as well as flooding the NCC’s land.

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Turning a Good Swap Into a Bad One

South March Highlands

The original swap proposed by Marianne Wilkinson was workable only because it traded land that was in immediate threat of development for land that was not and did so on an equal basis.  More importantly, it was part and parcel of a larger deal which protected an environmentally significant forest.

However the Peter Hume deal that Councillor Wilkinson settled for on Dec 15, is worse than completely meaningless – it results in a net loss of greenspace at an opportunity cost of $1.46 M!

According to city staff’s ever moving estimate, the 74 acres of Beaver Pond Forest has a fair market value of $18 M or $243 K / acre.

The Hume-Wilkinson deal approved by council surrenders 12 acres elsewhere in the South March Highlands to obtain a 6 acre corridor that has no possible ecological function.  The net loss of trading 12 acres to get 6 at a rate of $243 K / acre means that the city just paid Urbandale the equivalent of $1.46 M for Marianne’s precious corridor.

This corridor is to be an 80m wide pathway through the middle of a subdivision that is supposed to start at Beaver Pond, cross a road, and terminate at Shirley’s Brook.  There is no ecological value to it, while the land that was surrendered is adjacent to a larger protected area.

What was she thinking?

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Understanding The Terry Fox Drive Decisions

South March Highlands

On Dec 14, 2010 the Ontario Divisional Court gave judgement  in a judicial review of the Terry Fox Drive Extension environmental assessment process.  This decision, for which leave to appeal may be sought, appears to be precedent-setting and has significant implications in Ontario.

1. Despite the City’s attempt to challenge the standing of the South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc.(SMHCRC), the court ruled that the SMHCRC:

(a) has a genuine interest in the matter;

(b) that there is a serious issue to be tried; and

(c) there is no other reasonable and effective manner for the issue to be resolved.

This appears to be an important precedent that will assist other public interest groups assure their standing before the courts.

2. Despite the City’s assertion that the Minister of the Environment as well as the City of Ottawa should have been a party to the case, the court ruled that the City on its own exercised a statutory power of decision that was subject to judicial review.

This aspect of the decision appears to indicate that municipalities will be held accountable for the effect of their own decisions, notwithstanding the involvement of other authorities.

3. Despite the City’s assertion to the contrary, the City’s decision to proceed with construction of the road is a statutory power of decision and thus subject to review.  Furthermore, the City’s decision to proceed without filing an Addendum that was available for public review has broad public interest implications because of the lack of opportunity for public review.

This appears to indicate that municipalities who decide to proceed with projects without filing an Addendum that was available for public review are subject to judicial review by the courts.

4. Despite the City’s assertion that the situation was moot because the road was near completion, the court agreed that it is not too late to address items such as whether the environmental mitigation is appropriate.

This means that it is not too late to do the right thing.

5. With regard to whether the City of Ottawa was required to file an Environmental Assessment (EA) Addendum the court determined that it could not conclude that the City’s decision to proceed without filing an Addendum was unreasonable.

This aspect of the decision appears to raise a number of questions which require careful consideration by members of a broad community of interest. 

In summary the SMHCRC successfully defended itself on several legal challenges made by the City of Ottawa on questions of legal standing, applicability, mootness, and the extent to which the City was subject to judicial review. 

The SMHCRC now has 15 days to consider whether it should request leave to appeal on the remaining aspects of the decision.

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The Citizen vs. The Big Picture

South March Highlands

To Randall Denley,

For someone who claims that it is important to look at the big picture, I’m astonished that you managed to miss it entirely in your article in today’s Citizen.

It is no secret that the Coalition to Protect the South March Highlands have been working within the Greenbelt Master Plan process to engineer an outcome whereby the NCC acquires the balance of the property from Urbandale.  This process is ongoing and will take a few more months to conclude.  The NCC has previously acknowledged to the Greenbelt Coalition that preserving the SMH will be among the options that they will recommend for funding.

Meanwhile Urbandale’s subdivision is nowhere near ready for development.  There are several missing EAs, serious questions about storm water management in the aquifer that feeds north Kanata, and the archaeological situation screams for justice. 

Don’t you find it farcical that Urbandale suggests (as reported in the accompanying article in today’s Citizen) that their archaeologist walks across a snow covered forest again just to double check?  Is he equipped with x-ray vision to see through the snow? 

Given that this is the same archaeologist who was discredited for his first attempt to survey the area by one of the foremost archaeologists in Canada, don’t you think Urbandale or the city should hire a better one to do a proper field study in the spring?

Expecting that the Ottawa Citizen should report the whole story when it is contrary to the interests of the development community that advertizes so much in your paper is the only false hope in this story.

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Open Letter to Mayor Watson

South March Highlands

Dear Mayor Watson,

 According to the City of Ottawa Official Plan, the city is obligated to protect and acquire lands having significant natural heritage.  I am glad that city council is finally addressing its fiduciary obligation in this respect by referring to committee the problem of financing such acquisitions.  This is an important problem for you to solve.

A closely related problem is the urgent need to protect the South March Highlands.  The recent clear-cutting by Regional Group in the South March Highlands is a regrettable  environmental disaster in an area that has 20 documented species-at-risk.  Don’t allow another one by allowing the Beaver Pond Forest to be similarly destroyed.

Under the terms of the 1988 amendment to the 40% Agreement, the responsibilities assumed by Campeau flow on title to any new landowner such as KNL/Urbandale.  There is no violation of the agreement when the land is purchased, the responsibilities simply flow to the purchaser of whatever portion is sold.  Thus the city can and should acquire the Beaver Pond Forest without violating the agreement.  This also applies to a forced sale via expropriation – an option that I urge you to consider.

In recognition of the need to be fiscally prudent, the community has put forward an innovative development proposal which will generate significant economic benefits to all parts of the city.  Known as the Stewardship Plan, this proposal keeps the forest intact and delivers in perpetuity a much higher return to the city than Urbandale’s current development plan.  I urge you to fully explore the opportunities enabled by this proposal and to allow the community the opportunity to work with the city and council committees. 

It is evident that the Urbandale project is not ready for subdivision development – several environmental assessments are not done, the archaeological assessment has been discredited and serious concerns over flooding in Kanata have not been resolved (you should be aware that the South March Highlands is the aquifer for north Kanata and there is a long history of flooding caused by water management in Beaver Pond dating back to the 1960s).  In fact Urbandale’s recycled Campeau development plan may not even be sustainable by modern standards.  It would be irresponsible for the city to allow this bad plan to rush forward.

It’s never too late to do the right thing.  You have a well-earned reputation for doing the right thing.  Now is your chance.

If you support this letter, please copy/paste it and send it to jim.watson@ottawa.ca with your own name and address.

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Where are the Leaders?

South March Highlands

Shame

South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc. (SMHCRC) – the formal entity that is otherwise known as the Coalition to Protect the South March Highlands has done what no federal, provincial, or municipal politician has managed to do – propose a fair and concrete plan for an alternative outcome.

One might think that the politicians might now rush in with great relief to join the Public-Public Partnership that the SMHCRC is proposing.  They all recognize privately that the situation is a mess because of bad planning decisions in the past; decisions made in ignorance of the significance of the area.  They all admit that these decisions would not be made today and no one wants to try to change past to solve the problem. 

Fortunately they don’t have to.  The SMHCRC’s proposal deals with the current reality and does not try to change the mistakes of the past.  It’s an agenda for moving forward, not backward, and towards an alternative development outcome that preserves and leverages the value of green infrastructure.

But yet our elected politicians feel no accountability or responsibility and appear to be devoid of moral imperative.  

Under Ottawa’s Official Plan, the city is responsible for acquiring land as important as the South March Highlands whenever the opportunity arises.  Yet there are no funds allocated for that purpose.  Shame.

In 2010, the City spent $5 B on capital projects.  This includes $1.7 B for road infrastructure and $ 183M for economic development projects.  Only $179 M of capital spending in the $1.7 B is offset by the federal Infrastructure Stimulus fund (which in combination with the province funds 2/3 of that total). 

Yet there are zero dollars available for acquiring green infrastructure and few of our politicians see the need for allocating any!  Shame.

Meanwhile the provincial politicians stand by while environmental standards are ignored and precious cultural heritage is destroyed.  Shame.

Federal politicians such as Gordon O’Connor, who managed to extend spending on $48 Billion of black infrastructure funding, cannot see how the $20 M SMHCRC proposal for green infrastructure qualifies for funding – even though it will meet the objective of the funding program by creating jobs and improving air and water quality. 

Evidently you have to pour concrete to qualify for green infrastructure funding. Shame.

Public Service?

Tim Marc, a city lawyer, represented the public at the OMB meeting organized by Urbandale on Nov 23.  This is the same Tim Marc who told Community Association Presidents and the SMHCRC in July that “The trees are coming down – no matter what”. 

Is it surprising that the result of the meeting was that OMB told Urbandale they cut down trees equal to 2 years supply of housing inventory?  One can only guess how vigorously Mr. Marc represented the public interest at that meeting. 

It is worth observing that the city’s legal department has had a very close relationship with developers over the years.  Not surprising since they work with developers on a daily basis – on both sides of the legal table. 

What is surprising is that the former city lawyer for the Regional Municipality of Ottawa Carleton now works for a developer, presumably to supplement his meagre city pension.  What does this say about the lack of conditions for accepting a public pension?  Why should we hold Cesaers wife to a higher standard of ethics than our public servants?

City staff originally estimated that fair market value of unserviced developable land inside the urban boundary is $210 K / acre which would put the acquisition of the Beaver Pond Forest at approximately $13 M.  Subsequently staff hired a consultant to arrive at a 3rd party valuation based on similar recent transactions.  That valuation is not far off of the staff estimate.

Yet staff are inexplicably refusing to release the 3rd party market evaluation they contracted for in October – not even to city council.  It is difficult to see this behaviour as consistent with public service.  Perhaps like the City police, they appear to have forgotten that they work for the public.

Win-Lose

Why does Urbandale appear to lack any moral responsibility for not developing the most ecologically sensitive lands in Ottawa?  A charitable view might be that they were unaware of the significance of the area when they purchased it.  This establishes a case for paying them fair market value for leaving it undisturbed.  However, Urbandale’s recent behaviour raises questions in the minds of some about their sincerity as a responsible developer.

According to Marianne Wilkinson, Urbandale recently decided to unilaterally reduce the 12 acre swap to 10 acres and to also dictate which 10 acres would be preserved in such a manner as to optimize their subdivision north of the Beaver Pond.  Then Urbandale pulled the land swap off of the table so that they can be paid more during an expropriation.

Many responsible businesses would attempt to reach a win-win situation in a situation like this.  Does Urbandale believe that win-lose deals with the community are best for maintaining a healthy public image?

Worse, Urbandale appears to have no interest in negotiating in good faith on selling the land to the City/Community and are now alledgedly asking for $40 M in compensation – a price increase that includes being paid for 40% land that they paid nothing for because they cannot develop it.   Is this more evidence of a win-lose mindset at Urbandale?

This is the same developer who is paying property taxes on a $6 M appraisal (which is presumably close to what they bought the land for in Sept 2000).  Do they see no shame in this? 

Meanwhile the public and other buisnesses are expected to pay urban property taxes at close to fair market value.  The city could easily find the funds for acquiring natural heritage land if developers paid their fair share of taxes!

Urbandale has also hired a lobbyist who has met with most city councillors, except Marianne Wilkinson, to ensure that they understand the developer’s position.  Some of the new councillors, even experienced ones such as Peter Clark, have declined to meet with representatives of the SMHCRC as a result.  So much for the city’s public participation policy. 

It does not appear that Jim Watson’s administration is off to the fresh start that everyone who voted for him hoped for.  Developers evidently still think that they run City Hall and that the public purse exists for their benefit.

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