I am writing to alert activists to the threat of developers to an important endangered ecosystem, the Thundering Waters Forest-Savannah, near Niagara Falls, ON. Recommended to be protected as an Environmentally Sensitive Area in 1980, this ecosystem of around 500 acres is part of a bigger tract of Carolinian habitat between the power canal of Ontario Power Generation and the Niagara River Gorge of about 1,500 acres. Development here would tear the heart of what is an important functioning wildlife sanctuary, which has emerged in part because the lands have not been subjected to agriculture and its pesticides since the Second World War.
Residential, commercial and institutional development, all part of a supposed $1 billion investment, is proposed for a large section of the Thundering Waters Forest.
Illegal tree cutting here in 1992 knocked down thirty-five acres of old growth forest. This damage was later expanded by the Thundering Waters Golf Course. A subdivision saw another seven acres of forest destroyed adjacent to a threatened vine, the Round-leaved Greenbrier.
Despite the assaults around the edges, most of the Thundering Waters Forest-Savannah is still intact. About the third of the site is protected wetlands, but the developer intends to scar these wetlands in two places through the construction of an arterial road. There are more significant wetlands near those that are protected, including additional areas of old growth forest. The developer's draft Environmental Impact Statement proposes that individual old growth trees here be retained, while development would proceed around them.
The site is a treasure house of threatned species. There are two provincially rare trees here, the Black Gum, and the wild Honey Locust. Although the developer's studies have claimed that Snapping Turtles are confined to the protected wetland area, in reality they have been found throughout the site. Field work by opponents have confirmed the Milk Snake, considered a Species At Risk, lives in this habitat, though the snake's presence is denied by the developer. Another threatened species found here is the Wood Thrush, which is a poster child for how neotropical migrants are threatend by deforestation.
There is likely no other place in Canada where 300 acres of forest is threatened by an urban development scheme. Please join with environmentalists and native people around the Niagara Region and support the protection of the Thundering Waters Forest!