Hamilton 350

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Fighting Urban Sprawl

As this campaign has multiple facets, we’ve broken it down into a few sub-sections.

Saving the Garner Marsh

The Garner Marsh is one of the most significant wetlands in the GTHA. It is situated at the headwaters of the Ancaster and Spencer Creeks, the highest point between Lakes Erie and Ontario. Its waters flow down the escarpment through Cootes Paradise and into Lake Ontario. It is the last originally located wetland in the headwaters, and as well as being a sanctuary for all types of birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects and bats, it acts as a regulator for the effects of climate change.

And yet ONE Properties Inc. and Urban Solutions have proposed on behalf of AIMco (the Alberta Investment Management Corporation) to pave it over with 1.3 million square feet of warehouses, loading bays and parking lots.

This scheme, along with multiple other warehouse proposals and a planned major highway expansion, is part of the City of Hamilton’s Airport Employment Growth District (AEGD) on wetlands, forests and prime agricultural land. Airfreight creates almost 50 times more greenhouse gases than lake shipping for every ton-mile. If warehouses are to be built, it would be more sensible to locate them in Hamilton’s derelict industrial portlands.

The Value of and Danger to Wetlands

Wetlands—ranging from ponds and swamps to marshes, bogs and fens—take thousands of years to develop naturally. Their value to society includes their ability to remove pollutants and pathogens from water, their ability to absorb and store carbon, their sponge-like ability to soak up flood water, and their provision of a habitat for a vast diversity of species.

This value of wetlands was recognized by the Ontario and Federal governments in the 1980s as they jointly established the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System (OWES), presided over by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) in conjunction with the various conservation authorities.

OWES is a science-based ranking system based on a scoring system that considers biological, social, hydrological and special features, resulting in a standardized approach to determining the relative value of wetlands and designating the key ones as Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSWs).

Identifying wetland complexes has been integral to this process, given that many wetlands are interconnected and have complementary functions that contribute to the health and significance of the overall system.

Wetlands can’t be paved over and arbitrarily substituted with other land. The economic cost of replacing the value of Ontario’s wetlands, if we were to attempt to do so artificially, is estimated to be in order of $2 billion.

Yet in its mind-boggling lack of wisdom and its short-sightedness, the Ford administration in Ontario started the process of gutting OWES and decimating Ontario’s wetlands the day after being re-elected in October 2022.

The purported rationale for this was to make land available for the provincial goal of building 1.5 million new houses over the next 10 years. However, many studies have shown that more than enough land is already available within city boundaries to meet this target without touching designated wetlands or the Greenbelt.

Some of the alarming changes proposed to OWES by the Ford administration include:

  • No longer recognizing or considering for designation the concept of wetland complexes.
  • Ignoring the presence of endangered or threatened species in the OWES process.
  • Removal of the MNRF from the OWES process, together with downloading the approval process to municipalities.

This last point is especially concerning given that:

  • Municipalities typically have very little expertise in this area.
  • Their reliance on their local conservation authority for consultation has been essentially removed through the proposed Bill 23 amendments, gutting conservation authorities.
  • The approval process will now be in the hands of (often developer-appointed) evaluators who have taken a short course and now have a piece of paper to hang in their offices.
  • The MNRF no longer has the jurisdiction to audit and overturn questionable evaluations.

Resources

Conservation Authority Watch

The Conservation Authorities (CA) group creates our monthly webinar series covering attacks on the climate and the environment and advocates for natural solutions to both damaging the climate and adapting to the changes.

Prompted by the Ford government’s decision to limit the power of Conservation Authorities and to move forward with destructive developments on protected lands, this subset of the Conservation Matters action group aims to create a new vision for a democratic, participatory, and community-oriented system where regular citizens can have a say in what happens in their local environments.

The CA team also works with and supports a variety of local organizations across the province who are resisting this destruction and follows local and provincial news.

Videos

Video 1: How to win: Knocking down a pipeline and a developer

Video 2: Money doesn’t talk, it screams. But we scream louder.

Video 3: Water is life.

Video 4: Save Ancaster Creek wetland.

Video 5: From $prawl to landback.

Video 6: Offsetting is upsetting to wildlife.

Video 7: The future of conservation.

Video 8: Money or nature?.

Video 9: Corporate assault on land, water and wetlands