Driftwood, Dunes, and Little Birds in Peril – Let’s Conform to the Endangered Species Act

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.

She said:

“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.


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12 Responses to Driftwood, Dunes, and Little Birds in Peril – Let’s Conform to the Endangered Species Act

  1. twofxy says:

    Hey Craig I guess Janice was listening to her constituents – something maybe you should try. By the amount of support she has had on her facebook page, I think the majority of Sauble residents wanted the beach clean. It was disgusting. My kids and grandkids wanted to go to the Native side because they could play in the sand not the weeds. I live here. I want it clean without grass, weeds and debris. I want sand That is what a beach is. As far as I am concerned the dunes look disgusting. Weeds, grass, bushes, shrubs,trees – I feel sorry for the people along Lakeshore who have to look at the mess. They can’t even see the beach even though they are paying major taxes for waterfront property. The plovers will come back for the bird lovers and the dunes were not affected for the tree huggers. I know you hate it but she is doing a great job. Gail Mason

    • cgammie says:

      Gail: I am listening to all constituents. But you and I obviously have different interpretations of “listening”. I do not take a position just because someone shouts louder. I do not accept arguments just because someone says it is a majority position. I only accept arguments if I find they have merit. And you have not even made an argument.

      How do you feel about the point of the post. Should we ignore our policy? Should we just ignore the law?

  2. wind4se says:

    Hi Craig,
    I for one am very happy that the beach is finally being cleaned up. It was disgusting and quite frankly unsafe for people. I was getting pretty fed up at having to remove splinters from my little grandson’s feet and hands from tripping over the wood and debris that was all over the beach. Also the vegetation and grasses allowed to grow on the beach attracted foxes and rodents, but worse the dreaded Canada geese. At times there were hundreds of them all over the beach and you couldn’t take a step without stepping on poop. I can just imagine the E.coli levels along the shore. How can this be good for the children and people visiting the area? And guess what, I haven’t seen one goose since the beach has been raked. It appears that the MNR and the town are more concerned about the safety of the birds than they are of our children.
    I understand that you are only quoting your interpretation of the law and to point out that that Ms. Jackson acted on her own and not with the approval of council. My question to you is “why isn’t all of council supporting this clean up”?? Are you not supposed to be looking after the best interest of the town? Can’t you guys see that this town is dead without a clean safe beach? The beach is the only reason people come here. It’s the reason that I live here and I’m pretty sure the reason many other residents are here. All of council should be working together for a change and stand up to the MNR and come up with a viable solution instead of just caving into them. If you can’t manage to work together then just let the First Nations have the beach and they will fix it for you.

    • cgammie says:

      Pat: I was not quoting my “interpretation” of the law. I was quoting the law. I am opposing the raking, which I do not see as a clean-up, because I feel that it is illegal. My question to you is “why would anyone deliberately break the law?” And why would anyone expose the taxpayers to up to 3 million in fines? What to you mean by “the town will die”?


      • wind4se says:

        What do you see as a clean up? When residents and tourists can’t safely use the beach because of debris and weeds why would they want to be here? If no one wants to be here how will the businesses survive, who will pay the taxes. If no one will be here the town will die. I don’t want to be here with the beach the way it was. I think most people don’t want to be here if the beach isn’t useable the way it used to be. It’s called Sauble Beach not Sauble bird sanctuary.


        • cgammie says:

          Pat: the issue is whether we should obey the law. Are you really supporting defiance? Do you realize that defiance could cost the taxpayers 3 million? If you want to damage habitat and you are willing to pay the fines, that’s one thing. But by saying the town should damage habit you are putting the fines on everyone else and that is cowardly and wrong.

          The businesses do not pay business taxes. And the property taxes they pay are tiny and would still be paid if they all sold out and left. If all the current residents left, taxes woulds still have to be paid. Even if all the plover haters left, the town would not die. Taxes would still have to be paid.

          The law does not require that the whole beach be a sancturay. Only habitat is protected. That leaves a lot to groom as we wish.


        • wind4se says:

          I’m not sure any law is being broken, but I do feel strongly you/we need to challenge the ministry on this issue. I resent being called a coward for wanting a clean safe beach that I can enjoy. That is why I’m here and all the people I’ve spoken with on this issue want the same. The beach was a disgrace, an embarrassment this year. Something had to be done. If there was a lot that could have been groomed why wasn’t it done? What had been done the last seven years certainly did not work.
          I’m not sure what your vision of a clean safe beach that residents and visitors can enjoy is, but I have to tell you what we saw this year certainly wasn’t my vision. And I can assure you that it was not the vision of most people that visited.


        • cgammie says:

          Feel free to challenge the ministry. Just don’t do it with taxpayers’ money. And it would be fraudulent for you or anyone else to claim that you represent the residents of TSBP.


      • Jeff Whitehouse says:

        ” I was not quoting my “interpretation” of the law” and yet you then go on to say ” because I FEEL that it is illegal.” Do you not see how obtuse your statements are becoming Craig?

  3. John Azulay says:

    THE PLOVERS – Part 1

    All this hype / nonsense seems to be over a few plovers that happened to start nesting here a few years ago. It is not like it is their long time natural habitat. I have been enjoying the beach since the early 50’s. This year is the worst for beach appearance until Janice (Mayor Janice) had it cleaned up. I think the plover issue keeps getting run up the flagpole much more than it needs to be and it is hampering the potential use of the beach and tourism.

    Many animal species have become extinct over many millions of years. New species have evolved to fill the space in nature’s package. Let nature take its course. Humans may be next. (seems likely).

    Nature takes care of the planet. Humans are part of nature whether you like it or not. I doubt if humans are the culprit in the expected ultimate extinction of the plovers. Nevertheless, all animals including humans are also part of nature whether we accept it or not.

    The Sauble Plover situation seems very insignificant in the grand scheme. It seems a waste of energy that could be used for much better purposes.

    Just because there is “plovers” in the endangered species act, does not necessarily mean it is right. There are many “laws” that have been proven wrong, ridiculous, or outdated.


    I think it is time for you to re-think your position.
    We have a beautiful beach that should be available to be enjoyed by both residents and tourists.
    People want a nice beach – not a messy weedy bird sanctuary.
    The day of “no tourists on the beach” is gone forever. It is time to embrace that situation, capitalize on it, or move on.

    Possibly you could channel your energy to something more useful like helping the poor, increasing business for Sauble, searching for new businesses to occupy empty Sauble stores, helping aboriginals who have their water polluted by big business, oil companies who damage and pollute the land, rethink the “sewers for Sauble” situation, etc. There are a myriad causes out there much more important than a few (as I understand – less than 10) visiting plovers.

  4. John Azulay says:

    THE PLOVERS – Part 2
    On the lighter side:
    If you have a sense of humour:
    A potential solution for the problem is below:

    Martha Stewartís Baked Honey Mustard Plover
    6 skinless, boneless snowy (or piping) plover breasts; salt and pepper; 1/2 cup honey; 1/2 cup mustard; 1 teaspoon dried basil; 1 teaspoon paprika; 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley. Sprinkle plover breasts with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine honey, mustard, basil, paprika and parsley. Mix well. Pour half of mixture over the plover. Bake. Turn pieces over and brush with the other half of the mixture. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until plover is no longer pink and juices run clear.
    Since there are only a few plovers each year we may have to supplement the menu (secretly of course) with some other similar, but more plentiful birds – or chipmunks – possibly.

    LOL – intended.

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