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 Post subject: Are we really so stupid?
PostPosted: November 20th, 2006, 9:44 am 
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Joined: June 20th, 2001, 7:00 pm
Posts: 7513
Location: Scarbados, Ontario Canada
That is meant as a real question regarding environmental decisions, and it pertains to us as a society, not some specific individuals.

Below is an article from the Globe that describes the City of Nanaimo in BC carving up a wetland in the name of protection. And there are plenty of similar examples all over the country: putting roads, parking lots and exhibition facilities on the grounds of a park instead of the edge of the area, selling ATV tours as ecotourism in spite of the damage that ATVs do to the nature that is being show-cased, advocating cutting old trees because we deem them to be "decadent", and the list goes on as you look around.

I understand that a proponent of some scheme puts a false environmental spin on his project to get it implemented. But why are we as a society so stupid that we "buy" that argument? Like in the case of the development in Nanaimo, the proposal to build a paved and fenced road across a marsh should have been laughed into embarrassment by city administration and council. Or at least the start of the project should have raised a storm of protest by the folks in the neighbourhood but it didn't. Somehow, we - as a society - are lacking knowledge and common sense.



Blacktop path hard on Nanaimo wildlife


VANCOUVER -- The Trans Canada Trail, an 18,000-kilometre network of pathways crossing every province and territory, is supposed to help Canadians celebrate the country's natural beauty. But close to where it starts, on Vancouver Island, the city of Nanaimo has made a dubious contribution to this great project.

Right through the middle of a sensitive ecosystem known as Jingle Pot Marsh, the city has slapped a strip of blacktop, three metres wide, flanked by a wire fence. The pavement is ideal for motorcycle riders, who've been seen speeding through the marsh, and the fence, which apparently was meant to keep hikers from wandering into the bog and getting their feet wet, has turned out to be a good device for killing Virginia rails, rare marsh birds that congregate there in the winter.

"They are low-flying birds. They don't see the wire. Whap. They break a wing and then they die," said Rory Rickwood, chair of a small environmental group in Nanaimo known as Friends of the Cat Stream.

"My heart just dropped when I saw that trail," he said. "I was shocked. You stare at it and can just imagine the impact it's going to have on the wildlife you have been trying so hard to protect. And you have to wonder what's coming next. Will they propose putting lights in now because it's unsafe for people to walk through there at night?"

The marsh is part of a larger wetland complex that covers about 26 hectares within Nanaimo's city limits. Over the past century, it has increasingly been hemmed in by development. Recently, the city used the lands along the marsh's edge for an aquatic centre, a hockey arena and five playing fields.

The city has also been planting trees in the area, turning the damp, transitional zone around the marsh into forest land, which might look better but doesn't do anything for swamp creatures such as the red leg frog or the Virginia rail.

All of this has been done despite a Nanaimo community plan that calls for the city to identify and protect significant natural features and to develop land "in ways that respect ecosystems."

Mayor Gary Korpan doesn't think there's anything to worry about.

"Thanks for e-mailing your concerns," he wrote to Mr. Rickwood. "The City of Nanaimo consulted many environmental professionals and set aside 63% of the entire site for natural protection.

The sports fields were designed to minimize impact on the adjacent areas. We believe we have acted responsibly in balancing many demands."

What the mayor didn't say was that while 63 per cent of the site may have been protected, wetlands account for only 1.6 per cent of the land in the Greater Nanaimo Regional District. Allowing nearly half of that last little bit of marsh to be destroyed is nothing to boast about.

And just whose needs were "balanced" by allowing the last remaining marsh to be split in half by a fenced, paved path?

Certainly it wasn't the needs of the Virginia rail.

In a letter to Mr. Rickwood in 2001, when the environmental group was trying to stop the sports developments from going in, the Canadian Wildlife Service noted that the marsh was a "rare and fragile ecosystem" and said that "any further development within [the marsh] is not condoned."

The baseball fields, hockey rink and swimming pool went in, anyway.

When plans for a pathway through the marsh first came out, they showed a narrow boardwalk. There was no pavement. No wire fencing.

What was proposed was a nature trail. What got built was a dirt-bike throughway.

It came as a surprise, said Mr. Rickwood, because the city inexplicably did not consult with his group.

"We were not informed of any intention of putting in an asphalt trail and only discussed a narrow wooden boardwalk to give a soft intrusion into the marsh area.

"Putting a trail of that size and two long rows of fencing through . . . is a monstrosity and goes to show that a city land-use development will trump our sensitive ecosystems every time."

Mr. Rickwood said the "monster trail" should be taken out, the fencing removed and a boardwalk installed.

If that isn't done, his group is going to launch a campaign urging people to boycott the Nanaimo section of the Trans Canada Trail.

"If this trail remains, the federal government's Trans Canada Trail would be an example of environmental abuse," he said.

And that would be a heck of a way to start a hike across the landscape of this great country.

PostPosted: November 20th, 2006, 12:26 pm 
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Joined: December 2nd, 2002, 7:00 pm
Posts: 3731
Location: Grand Haven, Michigan U.S.A.
Erhard wrote:
we - as a society - are lacking knowledge and common sense.


Yes!! We see it all the time... We have a similar situation here in Michigan, in the Metroparks outside of Detroit...The Metroparks are constructed along the Huron River, and heavily used by many differing users. Overall, the Metroparks offer a very nice natural experience. The Huron River is a State Natural and Scenic River with a management plan, that requires setbacks from the river for all development, and bans the construction of new bridges. But the group managing the metropark wants to build several spans across the river to construct a new trail. Now I'm generally in favor of low impact trail systems... but the Huron River is a couple hundred feet long, and will require an extensive abutment system and large very visible spans across the river. Cities, the state, and local managment authorities sell something as ecofriendly to the population, but in most cases not all the facts are presented, (because it's someones pet project and completion will be a feather in their cap) and generally the public is not as well educated as they probably should be, and finally, even worse they are apathetic about dealing with the issue.


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