There is much buzz about who better understands the beach ecological processes, about who understand the biology, about who knows which is better – natural versus fully groomed – , etc. But it seems that we may have lost sight of a very important issue, namely what degree of grooming can we do and still comfortably comply with the Endangered Species Act?
The act prohibits damage to plover habitat. The act clearly defines habitat to include areas where the plovers are conducting or have conducted their life processes. An MNR document suggests that plover habitat is 500 meters along the shore in both directions from a nest and from the dunes to the water’s edge, and in some cases part of the dunes. That means a significant part of the Sauble sand beach and maybe part of the dunes is plover habitat. And the Act is clear that if it is habitat while they are here, it is still habitat after they leave and it is still habitat before they return in the spring.
TSBP staff have worked closely with the Ministry of Natural Resources over the past several years to come to a common understanding of what would be considered plover habit. That understanding is reflected in our beach maintenance policy.
In April 2017 the beach was extensively groomed. That grooming had to have included plover habitat.
In August 2017, starting about August 20th, after the plovers had left, the beach was groomed again, even more extensively, and dunes were bulldozed. That too had to have included plover habitat.
Both actions violated our policy. In my view both actions contravened the Act.
Council was not even made aware of the grooming actions. We found out by word of mouth. Council certainly did not authorize either of the grooming actions. But somebody did.
Over the summer Ms. Jackson has implicitly claimed that “we” (presumably meaning council) had ordered the April grooming. She also very explicitly indicated, in July and early August, that “we” were going to groom as soon as the plovers left. She even dared the MNR to try to stop “us”. The claims were false. Council was not involved. There was no “we” and there was no “us”.
Then recently on her facebook page Ms. Jackson changed and clarified her story.
“During one of my first interviews after the election, I listed many town projects I wanted to complete before my term was up. Bringing our beautiful beach back to its glory days was on that list. I am simply carrying out an election promise. Staying true to my word means everything to me.”
That’s a pretty clear admission (and a boast) that “she”, (not “we”) ordered the grooming.
In a way that’s a good clarification as it should transfer the focus of the MNR investigation or investigations to Ms. Jackson, and let the town and the taxpayers off the hook.
MNR got a complaint about the April grooming and is investigating.
I am told that there have already been further complaints to the MNR regarding the August grooming and bulldozing.
I trust that the MNR will confirm that it was not council that ordered the grooming and it was not the town that ordered the grooming. And I trust that the MNR will find out who did give the orders and proceed accordingly and not pursue the town or innocent staff members or council members.
We need to get back to following our policy and we need to conform to the law, (both of which allow some grooming).
A related matter is that Ms. Jackson has, on the taxpayers’ dime, and again without council approval, hired a lawyer, ostensibly to defend the town. But if the town lawyer is really defending Ms. Jackson, then she needs to pay her own expenses.