Monday, March 28, 2011

Opposed to Provincial Changes to the Kame

I want to give you an update about the “Area of Natural and Scientific Interest” (ANSI) on the Fonthill Kame and a recent unanimous decision by Pelham Council.

What is the Fonthill-Kame? In simple terms, think about it as the “hill” in both Fonthill and Shorthills and even the “ridge” in Ridgeville.

Scientifically, the Fonthill Kame-Delta is our rare, 75-metre-tall landmark that that was formed by retreating glaciers 13,000 years ago. It’s 6 km long and 3 km wide – nearly 1000 hectares – and boasts the highest point in the Niagara Region and the headwaters of the Twelve Mile Creek.

Microclimatic and soil conditions create an ideal atmosphere for tender fruit production on “the Kame” including peaches, sweet and sour cherries, apples and pears.

The Fonthill Kame was originally identified in 1980 as a provincially significant area and became an “Area of Natural and Scientific Interest” (ANSI) in 1983. This ANSI designation restricts development for reasons of heritage, science or education.

In May 2009, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) recommended making changes to the ANSI, significantly reducing its area.

At that time, the Town of Pelham Council, Niagara Regional Council, the Niagara Escarpment Commission, the Niagara Peninsular Conservation, scientific experts, more than a dozen Pelham citizens, and Tim Hudak, MPP, have publicly recommended that the current ANSI be maintained and enhanced. (Minister Jim Bradley also indicated to me that was supportive of maintaining the ANSI boundaries.) In early 2010, Pelham received a letter from the Natural Resources Minister in which she stated “Please let me assure you that it is our intention to maintain and, where feasible, enhance the current ANSI boundary.”

Now, the MNR has put forward another proposal to redefine the ANSI boundaries. (Please clikc here to see their cover letter, the map, the fact sheet, and the summary documents.) And, while it makes small improvement over the 2009 proposal, it fails to protect large portions of the feature. In fact, last year in his annual report, Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner warned the MNR about using this type of “swiss-cheese” approach. (Please see section 3.3 in that report.)

It’s also clear that the MNR’s proposal will open up some of the most significant areas of the Kame to development pressures, like aggregate resource extraction.

At our March 21 meeting, Pelham Council unanimously opposed the ANSI boundary changes. The Region will also consider MNR’s proposal at an April 6 committee meeting. (For a copy of the Region's report, please click here.)