Monthly Archives: March 2008

Environmental Stewardship: Niagara’s Missing 4th Pillar

Recently Pelham’s Niagara Regional Councillor, Brian Baty, laid out on the pages of our local newspapers in his own words, “some of the ways in which Niagara demonstrates environmental stewardship.”

Accordingly, I think it is only fair to provide an account of some of the ways in which Niagara demonstrates an emphatic lack of environmental stewardship.

To begin with, contrary to what Councillor Baty seems to think, the recent construction of a large, so-called “Conservation Centre” at Ball’s Falls Conservation Area is not a truimph of sound environmental stewardship.

Rather, it represents an astonishing disregard for the ecological and historical integrity of this unique site.

UNESCO designated the Niagara Escarpment a World Biosphere Reserve in 1990; putting it in the company of such natural wonders as the Galapagos Islands, the Florida Everglades, and Africa’s Serengeti.

But here in Niagara, that doesn’t prevent a “Conservation” Authority from constructing a 12,000 sqaure-foot toursit complex directly on the Escarpment.

To call a spade a spade, the construction of a 12,000 square-foot, 3.2 million dollar complex on a heritage and conservation site situated within a World Biosphere Reserve is a disgrace.

Claims that the new building has been constructed under stringent environmental guidelines are absolutely irrelevant: the point is, any large-scale construction on a conservation site is not an improvement.

Moreover, the expenditure of millions on this building that could and should have been used for actual conservation projects (such as the acquisition of more conservation sites) constitutes unacceptable mismangement.

Meanwhile, the disfigurement of the countryside and disappearance of Niagara’s forests through a lack of genuine smart growth strategies remains unchecked.

Urban sprawl in the peninsula has raised the spectre that rural Wainfleet will become the “next Binbrook.”

Despite widespread opposition from local residents in Wainfleet to the construction of a municipal water and sewage pipeline, (which in turn would lead to housing subdivisions), both the municipal and regional councils are apparently blind to the wishes of their constituents and the health of natural environments.

The further urbanization of Niagara will steamroll ahead if the proposed Niagara-to-GTA transportation corridor (i.e. the proposed new mega-highway), is built across the rural south of Niagara.

Of course, one could question the economic wisdom of constructing any new mega highways in an era of skyrocketing gas prices, but that would be expecting too much from our chronically myopic politicians.

If the Region is actually serious about strong environmental stewardship, it would seem reasonable for the council to come out against this proposed highway and make that clear to the provincial government.

Instead, they continue to lobby for its construction.

This is only a very brief overview of Niagara’s shortcomings in environmental stewardship; a more exhaustive examination could fill endless pages. But I’ll save the trees and end things here.

In short, while Niagara may compare favourably to some other jurisdictions, if I were to issue the Region of Niagara a report card on environmental stewardship, I think an F is what it deserves.