This post about damage to Piping Plover Habitat was circulated 1 April 2012, but was not published.
The Piping Plover is listed in schedule 2 of the Species At Risk In Ontario List (regulation 230/08) as an endangered species. There are no geographical constraints applied, which means that the Endangered Species Act (the Act”) protects Piping Plovers and their habitat everywhere in Ontario.
Section 10 of the Act prohibits habitat damage:
10. (1) No person shall damage or destroy the habitat of,
(a) a species that is listed on the Species at Risk in Ontario List as an endangered or threatened species; or
(b) a species that is listed on the Species at Risk in Ontario List as an extirpated species, if the species is prescribed by the regulations for the purpose of this clause. 2007, c. 6, s. 10 (1).
A 2011 June 20 letter from Mark Shoreman, Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), to TSBP indicated:
“As provided in previous correspondence and communication to the Town of South Bruce Peninsula, the habitat Piping Plover requires and uses at Sauble Beach is protected under section 10 of the Endangered Species Act. This Ministry advises that beach raking and the removal of the woody debris north of sixth street to the north end of the beach (ending at the Sauble River) at this time would be detrimental to the species and would damage or destroy the habitat required for nest, feeding, and raising young.”
The June 21, 2011 TSBP Committee Of The Whole meeting minutes include:
Councillor Jackson explained that we passed a resolution to clean the beach. The entire beach wasn’t cleaned because it rained and the south end only was cleaned. She feels that the uncleaned beach is ugly and is hazardous to people. She does not want to destroy the Plover habitat. Mayor Close read a letter from the MNR indicating that the Town would be charged if we chose to clean the beach from Sixth Street North to the Sauble River. He indicated that we cannot direct staff to perform an illegal action. Councillor Jackson did not agree and felt that the letter said that the beach maintenance is the responsibility of the municipality. Mayor Close is ruling the recommendation from Councillor Jackson out of order and does not want it to go forward the way it reads. He indicated that Council can overrule the Mayor’s decision with 2/3 majority. Committee discussed the fact that we are not to disturb the habitat. They asked to have a representative from Wasaga Beach come to speak to Council as he grooms around the Plover nests each day.
Recommendation to Council: THAT the notice of motion by Councillor Jackson is ruled out of order until such time as Mark Shoreman from Wasaga Beach can attend as a delegation with regard to grooming around the Plover nests.
In a 2011 July 19 council meeting MNR’s Mark Shoreman and Suzanne Robinson repeatedly stated that between Sixth Street and the Sauble River the “woody debris” was “protected habitat”, and that removing the debris would be a violation of section 10 of the Act.
Yet in spite of all this clear and consistent direction from the MNR, in late March the plover habitat between Sixth Street and the river was completely destroyed, the beach raked absolutely clean, the “woody debris” removed.
This was and is an absolutely clear contravention of section 10 of the Act.
The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is investigating. I understand that as of Friday March 30th, the MNR has issued an order to rehabilitate the habitat.
In addition to the order to rehabilitate, the MNR may charge the town. The fine upon conviction could be as high as a million dollars. This would be an unacceptable burden on the taxpayers.
Council must initiate an investigation to find out who was responsible for the habitat destruction, and make that known to the public and to the MNR. And unless it is found that the person or persons responsible honestly and reasonably believed in the existence of facts that, if true, would render that person’s conduct innocent, then the responsible person or persons should be immediately dismissed and held accountable for all costs.