Habitat Legislation, Rural Catastrophe

I can't help but shake my head in disbelief when I hear an urban tree-hugger going on about the sad state of affairs with our flora and fauna. These people have got to get out a little more.

I moved to Glengarry County from Winnipeg in 1975 and I can tell you one thing: there is a lot more bush and critters now than there was 32 years ago. And that has happened not because of government intervention or good work by David Suzuki…it's the death of the family farm that has caused it.

Deer (a rare sight thirty years ago) eat more Glengarry grain and corn than Glengarry cattle do. Why are there so many deer? It's because there are very few small family dairy farms left in the county - and whatever land isn't planted in beans and corn (good grub for Bambi) has grown over with ideal habitat for deer.

And it's not just deer that moved back. Here is a list of things that just didn't exist in Glengarry fifty years ago: Canada Geese, Beavers, Coyotes, Eastern Wolves, Turkeys, Turkey Vultures, Snow Geese, Fishers, Porcupines, Flying Squirrels, Ravens, Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, and Ospreys. And there's probably a lot more. All these animals did not have the benefit of this new legislation and have come back quite nicely. Do we need this legislation, clearly no. Landowners have always respected wildlife because we live with it. It is city dwellers and environmentalists that don't understand the impact their interference will have on nature and the environment.

There is a downside of course. I haven't seen a bluebird in thirty years and I can't remember the last time I saw a meadowlark or a bob-o-link. But they're not around anymore for the very same reason that all these other things are here: the farming landscape has changed. But you can't have it both ways. You can have deer in your fields or meadowlarks, but not both.

If we take a look at the national/continental scene over the last thirty years, the same thing holds true. There has been a miraculous comeback of many species that were almost extinct. Take for instance the Whooping Crane: 40 years ago there were only 23 birds, today they number 450. The Bald Eagle and the Peregrine Falcon were at one time on the endangered species list, now we regularly see them here in North Glengarry and throughout rural Ontario. And all this happened long before our politicians, in their sad quest for city votes, started to let the environmentalists pull the puppet strings. You can see McGuinty and Baird doing the environmental polka.

I've gone through bird-books that date back fifty years. We are in the extreme northern area where the Loggerhead Shrike might be seen. There is this sudden urgency to “save” a bird that has never been anything other than a rare visitor to these latitudes. A few years back, an off-track Pink Flamingo touched down in Ottawa. A rare appearance? Absolutely. Should we protect habitat for it? I don't think so. A Whooping Crane landed in Ottawa this spring, no doubts as to it being an endangered species, have they taken any steps to designate Ottawa as Whooping Crane habitat? Why not? Here we have a truly rare bird on sight and nobody is designating land for habitat for this bird. Environmentalists want to designate our lands as habitat for Loggerhead Shrike and they aren't even here. Double standard!!! You bet.

The thrust of the legislation is entirely aimed at rural Ontario. How much land has Toronto destroyed for suburbs and shopping malls that would have made suitable habitat for endangered species? How many rare birds have died flying into high rise apartments? But our urban environmentalists do a much better job of looking in our fields and forests than in their own backyards. Practical conservation to them involves a pay-cheque; practical conservation to a farmer is lifting the disc to save a killdeer's nest.

It makes me laugh, and confirms my suspicions, when environmentalists demand that Landowners be arrested and charged for clearing land, just because it might be habitat for a bird or a moss. This overreaction just proves a couple of things: there is no chance of arriving at a reasonable agreement with the environmental crowd, and, the same group views the provincial and federal parties as their flunkies.

One final “food for thought” item. I've gone over the Endangered Species Act (ESA) paying particular attention to definitions. Over the last few years there have been many sightings of cougars in this area. Cougars have a habitat of perhaps one hundred square miles and deer are their preferred food. If the MNR decided that Glengarry did in fact have a cougar population, the ESA could (technically) afford protection to cougars which could mean protecting their main source of food – deer, and the food source for deer, corn and bean fields. Where do we draw the line?

We are not sadistic anti-environmentalists. We know that we can co¬exist with nature - we have been doing it for a century or so and we don't need fanatical urban environmentalists telling us what life should be like in rural Ontario. They should be spending their time salvaging what little good is left in their cities - Rural Ontario doesn't need their saving.

Ken Turnbull,

Director, Glengarry Landowners' Association

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