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South Niagara chapter organizes protest against ‘biodiversity offsetting’ proposal

More than 200 people filled the Niagara regional council chambers last night to oppose ‘biodiversity offsetting’. Photo by Jane Hanlon.

The Council of Canadians South Niagara chapter held a protest yesterday against a ‘biodiversity offsetting’ plan being considered by Niagara Regional Council.

The concern is that regional council could permit 13 acres of provincially-significant wetland in the city of Niagara Falls to be destroyed to accommodate a $1 billion “Paradise” development project, which includes a hotel, entertainment facilities, apartment housing, and a private school. A group of Chinese investors led by CITIC Asset Management is behind this plan.

A final decision on the project by Niagara regional council was expected to be made at their meeting last night (Thursday April 7).

The St. Catharines Standard reports, “With more than 100 protesters in attendance, a controversial motion to support biodiversity offsetting on a Niagara Falls property slated for a $1-billion development ate up an entire regional council meeting Thursday night — but no decisions were made. …At issue was a motion by Grimsby Coun. Tony Quirk, a member of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority [NPCA] board, that the Region ask the province to allow a pilot project for biodiversity offsetting on a property near Thundering Waters Golf Club in Niagara Falls.”

The newspaper then highlights, “About 100 people against biodiversity offsetting protested in front of regional headquarters before filling council chambers. Dozens stood on their feet while others were encouraged to go to the lobby and an overflow room where TV monitors broadcast the meeting. ‘I would say this turnout is really quite amazing’, said Daniel Nardone of St. Catharines, who set up a Facebook page to organize the protest. Nardone, a member of the Council of Canadians of South Niagara chapter, said among his concerns is a 580-year old gum tree on the property.”

The article adds, “The province introduced biodiversity offsetting as a potential policy direction in a discussion paper on wetland conservation last year. For every acre of wetland decommissioned, one acre would be restored elsewhere. NPCA has recommended to the province that three acres be restored for every one acre developed and it not apply to old-growth marshes and slough forests. …[But]  St. Catharines resident Ed Smith spoke to councillors against the proposal, telling them biodiversity is ecosystems, species and genetics that can’t be reproduced. He said when people say it’s no problem to move it, the science behind that does not exist.”

The issue is expected to be discussed by Niagara regional council again on April 21 or April 28.