March 15, 2018
Hon. Nathalie Des Rosiers
Whitney Block 6th Flr Rm 6630,
99 Wellesley St W, Toronto, ON M7A 1W3
Dear Minister Des Rosiers:
Because of recovery programs and statutes like the Ontario Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), populations of Piping Plovers, tiny birds on the endangered species list, are slowly recovering. Protection of plovers and their habitat at Sauble Beach, where the birds have been nesting for about the past 11 years, is a key component of the recovery plan.
A recent email campaign directed to you, and a March 6, 2018 letter to you from MPP Bill Walker encourage you to allow serious grooming of plover habitat at Sauble Beach, in effect encouraging you to reduce the protection.
The emails and the letter from Mr. Walker are the result of requests for support made by Town of South Bruce Peninsula (“TSBP”) mayor Janice Jackson, who is leading the drive to what I submit is damage or destruction of habitat.
I am of the belief that any backing off of recovery programs or dilution of the statutes or reduction in enforcement of the statues could result in the recovery faltering or even failing. The little birds are still in peril and need all the protection they can get from the MNRF and the ESA (and anyone else).
I urge you to say no to Ms. Jackson’s proposal to groom habitat in a way that is in my view and in the view of many others damaging.
My specific concerns about Ms. Jackson’s letter to MPP Bill Walker and about Mr. Walker’s March 6th letter to you and about Ms. Jackson’s facebook request that residents email you include:
1. Fraudulent portray of Ms. Jackson’s position as the town position
2. Ms. Jackson’s great deceit – the Jackson definition of plover “habitat”
3. Ms. Jackson’s second deceit – “scientific research”
4. Impact of plover protection on economy
5. The inappropriate political ultimatum
These I discuss in turn:
1. Fraudulent portrayal of Ms. Jackson’s position as the town position.
Ms. Jackson’s March 5th letter to Mr. Walker appears to be a position of the Town of South Bruce Peninsula. It is not. The Mayor has no authority to take a position on behalf of the town or the council or to present such position on town letterhead unless that specific position is formally authorized by by-law by council. The March 5th letter to Bill Walker was not approved by council. The publication on town letterhead is contrary to the towns bylaws. The letter to Mr. Walker is Ms. Jackson’s personal view, and sending it on town letterhead is fraudulent.
The town position, which is the council position, is in its beach Maintenance policy PW 12.1, adopted by by-law 62-2015, which very clearly does not allow raking, tilling, bulldozing or any other mechanical alteration of plover habitat, without the clear consent of the MNRF. Such consent has been requested every year since 2011, and has been consistently denied on the basis that the proposed alteration would in the view of MNRF staff be a contravention of the ESA.
2. the first great deceit – Janice Jackson’s definition of plover “habitat”
Habitat is defined by the ESA, abridged for context, as:
(a) …….., or
(b) with respect to any other species of animal, plant or other organism, an area on which the species depends, directly or indirectly, to carry on its life processes, including life processes such as reproduction, rearing, hibernation, migration or feeding, and includes places in the area described in clause (a) or (b), whichever is applicable, that are used by members of the species as dens, nests, hibernacula or other residences;
MNR staff have more specifically defined Piping Plover habitat at Sauble Beach as 500 meters north and south of any spot where there has been a nest in the last five years.
The ESA section 10 prohibits damage or destruction of habitat as so defined.
TSBP policy since 2012 is even tighter and prohibits mechanical grooming of habitat without consent, whether or not it is has been demonstrated or argued to be damaging.
Over the past several years someone has directed maintenance of plover habitat (as defined in the ESR) at the beach at Sauble, which has included raking, harrowing, and even bulldozing. It is clear that Ms. Jackson directed the grooming in 2017. In no case did the town or council alter, damage or destroy habitat or direct, coordinate or acquiesce to such activity. Ms. Jackson has vocally promised to groom what is clearly habitat again in 2018. The press has carried pictures of her on the beach observing (or even directing) the bulldozing.
Incredibly, Ms. Jackson keeps saying “we” have not raked habitat and “we” will not rake habitat.
But Ms. Jackson’s claim is a lie and a deliberate deceit.
Here’s how the deceit works.
Ms. Jackson conveniently uses a definition of plover “habitat” that is much narrower than the ESA definition. She implicitly claims that an area is habitat only while the birds are present and actually using a nest, and she uses a habitat criterion far lower than the 500 meter radius used by the MNRF.
When Ms. Jackson says “I have not raked, disked or groomed or bulldozed habitat” (or “we have not raked etc. habitat”), she mean that she has not altered habitat as she defines habitat. She is not saying that habitat as defined by the ESA and MNRF has not been altered.
Similarly when Ms. Jackson says she will not damage habitat, she means that she will not damage habitat as she defines habitat. She is not saying that she will not damage habitat as the ESA and MNRF define habitat.
Similarly, when Ms. Jackson says “I (or we) will not breach the TSBP Policy”, she means she will not breach policy according to her definition of “habitat”.
She has deceived many people into believing that she just wants to and only intends to rake, disc, and bulldoze those parts of the beach that are not plover habitat. And she encouraged those so deceived to write to you imploring you to support, condone, or permit her illegal grooming.
She also appears to have deceived MPP Bill Walker (see March 5, 2018 letter to Bill Walker) into believing that she only wanted to groom what is not habitat, and I understand that Mr. Walker has jumped on her bandwagon and has encouraged, (albeit inadvertently) a program and plan that would include grooming of and damage to habitat as defined by the ESA and MNRF.
Mr. Walker in his March 6, 2018 letter to you, indicated:
[The community’s] plan is to rake the weeds outside the piping plover habitat before the piping plovers return and establish nests for the season, as this would ensure. ]
As indicated above, it is Ms. Jackson’s plan that Mr. Walker is pushing, not the “community’s” plan.
More important, contrary to Mr. Walker, Ms. Jackson’s plan is not to rake outside the piping plover habitat, but is in contrast to rake (and harrow, and bulldoze) actual piping plover habitat.
Contrary to Mr. Walker, Ms. Jackson’s plan will not ensure that “the Town stays in compliance with the endangered Species act”, but will instead ensure that the ESA (and the town policy) is contravened.
The passage in Mr. Walker’s March 6, 2018 letter demonstrates how effectively Ms. Jackson has pulled off the habitat definition deception.
It is indeed a clever and interesting deceit that Ms. Jackson has visited upon everyone she could reach, but so that the recovery program at Sauble does not falter, the deceit must fail.
3. Janice Jackson’s 2nd great deceit – “scientific research”
In her letter of March 5, 2018 to Bill Walker, Ms. Jackson claimed:
“we believe our efforts are supported by scientific literature which supports our position that the piping plover prefer sand flats with little or no vegetation”
Ms. Jackson doesn’t say what the preference is referred to, but from her other documents I assume she means that her “scientific research” shows that the plovers prefer pristine sand flats with little or no vegetation over a natural beach.
Seven of the eight citations that Ms. Jackson uses to support her claim that Plovers prefer “sand flats with little or no vegetation” over natural beach are not even close to scientific research. They are fact sheets.
In my view none of the seven citations (the fact sheets) supports Ms. Jackson’s claim.
Ms. Jackson’s eighth reference is improperly cited, the citation website clearly unusable, but I believe it is Environment Canada’s 2012 published recovery strategy, or an excerpt from the same. If I am correct, it too is not actual scientific research, but it is a real review of actual scientific research, and as such is of value.
The Environment Canada report says:
Plovers rarely nest in areas of pure sand, but instead select sandy areas with sparse vegetation or sufficient gravel, pebble, cobble, shell fragments, wrack (dry algae normally deposited by storms or by tidal or wave action above the mean high tide mark), or other debris to provide camouflage for incubating birds and to enable nests to be hidden from predators (Flemming et al. 1992).
The cited paper (Flemming et al. 1992) is abstracted as:
We examined piping plover (Charadrius melodus) nest site selection in eastern New Brunswick (1988-89) and northern and southern Nova Scotia (1983, 1987) because little quantitative information on nest site selection was available. Nest site characteristics varied among the 3 study areas with respect to the number of shoots of beach grass (Ammophila breviligulata), pebbles, stones, and shells in the vicinity of nests (P = 0.001-0.003). Compared with randomly chosen sites, piping plover nest sites in eastern New Brunswick had more (P = 0.001-0.003) pebbles, stones, rocks, and shells; whereas, in northern Nova Scotia, nest sites had more (P = 0.054-0.001) shoots of beach grass, pebbles, stones, rocks, and sticks. Nests in southern Nova Scotia had a greater (P = 0.001) number of beach grass shoots than random sites. Despite these differences, all study areas had gravel, grass, and mixed gravel and grass nest types.. Management to improve or create nesting habitat must anticipate geographical variation in the choice of nest site characteristics and should be designed and implemented based on data from the population of birds under consideration.
I have not yet reviewed the Flemming paper, so I base my analysis on the abstract. The Flemming abstract does not support Ms. Jackson’s claim. In fact it could be argued that the Flemming et.al. statement: “Grass nesting in southern Nova Scotia may have been a response to increased avian predation on plover eggs” directly refutes Ms. Jackson’s claim.
Further, Flemming et.al. are clear that data and conclusions from their study may not be applicable in other areas.
Ms. Jackson’s so-called “scientific research” was conducted by someone with little or no competence to conduct scientific research or to conduct a review of actual scientific research. Ms. Jackson’s “research” is amateurish and shoddy. Ms. Jackson’s conclusions do not follow from her research. No weight should be given to Ms. Jackson’s “scientific research” or to her conclusions.
4. Impact of plover protection on economy
Mr. Walker’s March 6 letter to you incorporates Ms. Jackson’s comments to Mr. Walker in her March 5th letter, and also Ms. Jackson’s oral comments to Mr. Walker’s office, and also comments that have been made by Ms. Jackson in the press and on facebook.
I consider some of Ms. Jackson’s claims.
On facebook Ms. Jackson said the economy of Sauble is 100% tourism. That is simply false.
Ms. Jackson has indicated that the economy will suffer appreciably if the beached is not made flat and sterile except for “little or no vegetation”. This is false and unsupportable, and is fear mongering.
Ms. Jackson said (March 5th): “the local economy is 100% driven by the attraction of Sauble Beach as a recreational beach.” Even that is false. Much of the economy of Sauble Beach is not dependent on how extensively the beach is groomed. The fall, winter, and spring economies are almost entirely independent of how extensively the beach is groomed.
I note that Janice Jackson has no credentials or expertise in economics.
5. political threat
Mr. Walker, in his March 6th letter indicated:
I am aware that the note about 3000 cottage owners came from Ms. Jackson.
Contrary to Ms. Jackson (and Mr. Walker) there are not 3000 GTA residents owning properties at Sauble beach. I believe the number is less than a third of that, possible a lot less.
Furthermore, where Sauble cottage owners have their permanent residence is irrelevant to whether they support or should support beach grooming.
I must conclude, as have others, that by throwing around the 3000 GTA residents statistic Ms. Jackson is making a political ultimatum in the run up to both municipal (October 2018) and provincial (July 2018) elections. There is in my view no other plausible purpose in the “3000” comment.
Because Ms. Jackson is such a clever rewriter of the facts I do not fault those reportedly hundreds of people that failed to see through Ms. Janice’s slight-of-hand deceit, shoddy research, and unsupported claims.
Minister I plead for you to respond to the hundreds of deceived emailers and anyone who even inadvertently supports Ms. Jackson’s planned breach of the law and breach of the TSBP beach maintenance policy, indicating that:
1) whether they realize it or not, Mr. Walker and those hundreds who emailed you have been duped into proposing that plover habitat be damaged, contrary to the ESA, contrary to TSBP policy, and contrary to common sense;
2) Ms. Jackson is really proposing to damage plover habitat, contrary to the act and contrary to TSBP policy;
3) The MNRF is already investigating whether Ms. Jackson or someone has already damaged habitat;
4) any habitat damaging actions will not be tolerated.
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