Developer Plans Destruction of Habitat for Endangered Butternut Trees

A couple of weeks ago I received word through the Ontario Environmental Registry that a developer was seeking an application to “harm or kill an endangered species.” The Peterborough Examiner reached out for comments from the developer and their official statement was that roads and campsites would ideally be constructed around the trees. Wrapping the roads and campsites around the trees will do nothing but stress the trees and decrease the success of any saplings.

If we are to take the estimate of 10,000 remaining trees in Ontario as a reasonable number, the proposed removal or harm to 93 trees is just shy of 1% of the total population estimate. I would like to encourage everyone to submit a comment to the environmental registry before the April 8th deadline.

When it comes to endangered species management it is important to consider the removal of trees as a last resort after all other options have been considered. In Canada we have no known cure for the butternut canker disease that has decimated their populations and we have not located any disease resistant trees at this time. It is therefore critical that we ensure that every known piece of genetic resource of this species is preserved until we have developed a solution to prevent the eradication of this beautiful tree.

Should Peterborough Profit from Environmental Degradation?

In any democracy, as administrations change so do their priorities. In the case of environmental management, it often is the case that a single administration is capable of undoing decades of work to protect natural spaces. In Peterborough, the last several years have been marked with conflict around how our administration has approved countless measures to degrade the wetlands, creeks, and forests that are valued by humans and wildlife alike. With work commencing on the policy portion of the official plan, now is our chance to shape policy that will discourage environmentally destructive behavior by our city.

Harper Creek regulated to the side of the road by urban development. (2018)

There are many proponents of environmental degradation, one of the more obvious ones are real estate developers. Many real estate developers across the province have realized that it is not in their best interest to destroy the things that make these places desirable to live. Others in Peterborough have yet to catch up. Based on the sheer scale that they operate it is possible for them to have an outsized environmental impact on our city’s natural spaces. The approach thus far to prevent development within sensitive environmental areas has been to set a limit or buffer around each sensitive area and declare that no development should take place within these areas. Unfortunately, this has not been enough for the city to stop granting approvals that violate this policy.

One of the major drivers of development approvals for municipalities is development charges. Approvals for construction often come with a fee that is paid to the city. Therefore, the more development that a city approves, the greater access they have to funds. As an example, a recent apartment complex approved with a 20m setback from a provincially significant wetland (PSW) in Peterborough (100m beyond Otonabee Region Conservation Authority policies.) The development charges for the property are $12,910 per unit, totaling $555,130.00 raised for the city. When cash strapped city councils approve development, it is no wonder that when the environment comes into question a nice half a million dollar payout wins out.

The “conservation community” currently under construction at the edge of Peterborough.

I would propose that as part of the natural heritage system the following policy should be put in place:

“The city shall not collect development charges for site plans approved within 120m from provincially significant wetlands, 30m from permanent water bodies, or within areas identified as part of the natural heritage system”

This removes the cash incentive for approving development within environmentally sensitive areas. The other option that may be more appealing to some would be to offer developers a discount on development charges if properties that they are developing contain environmentally sensitive features providing a discount based on the area that is occupied. It by no means prevents developments from happening in this area, but it at least removes the dollar sign distraction from clouding the vision of our city council.

Left Hand for Bikes – Mini Urban Interventions

The desire pathway north of the Park and Murray Intersection (City of Peterborough 2016)

Have you ever been around the city and noticed where a small change could make a huge difference? When the city installed stop signs on the corner of Hunter and Bethune, that small change made such an incredible difference for traffic in the area. I’ve been thinking over the past several months, what small changes would make a huge difference in our city?

For years when I lived on Murray St. I would often bike to Reid St. and turn left into the hatched area jump the curb and connect to the bike trail to travel downtown. I’m not the only one that does this, I would argue that it is one of the strongest desire pathways in the city. You can actually see it from google maps!

Strictly speaking this isn’t a legal turn. Traffic flows in the opposite direction along the one way street. However, there is more than enough room for this maneuver to be just as safe as any other left hand turn. The nearby traffic lights create large gaps in traffic which creates more than enough time to cross over all three lanes. There are a huge number of people who live in the nearby apartment buildings who turn off of Murray in this way every day.

Perhaps it is time we looked at a way of making this turn recognized with the proper infrastructure? I would argue that this whole area needs serious work to provide proper crossing for bikes, but this may be a great first step. Check out the map below and let me know what you think!

A left hand turning lane for bikes only and a protected bike lane within the painted hatched area follows the pathway that hundreds use every day.

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