Niagara Escarpment Commission Wants Protection of Mount Nemo

     Here’s some interesting news about Mount Nemo, the area of the Niagara Escarpment that songwriter and musician Sarah Harmer has been helping to work to protect for years. Harmer’s community group Protecting Escarpment Rural Land (PERL) sent us this report.

Niagara Escarpment Commission votes 13 to 1 to send Nelson Quarry re-designation request to Provincial Cabinet

     Commissioners of the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) voted nearly unanimously on Feb. 18 to support “the protection of the Mount Nemo Plateau,” an environmentally-sensitive area located on the Niagara Escarpment in Burlington, Ontario.  Speaking in favour of the motion were PERL, Burlington Mayor Cam Jackson, and Burlington Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor.
     Mayor Jackson had previously moved a Halton Region amendment calling on the McGuinty government to stop a proposed Joint Board hearing and put the rightful designations on this ecological area.  That motion carried 18 to1, and was approved by all four of Halton’s Mayors (Burlington, Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills). The Joint Board hearing, so called because it includes both the Ontario Municipal Board and the Environmental Review Tribunal, is scheduled to start in September 2010.
     “For over 100 years, Mount Nemo has served as a primary source of aggregate for the Greater Toronto Area; it’s time to let Mother Nature heal herself,” said Mayor Jackson, speaking to the NEC.
     “This decision from the Commission is the latest in a long line of support to protect Mount Nemo from future quarries. Now, the Ontario Cabinet should follow suit,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence.
     Mount Nemo is under threat from a proposed quarry. The Nelson Aggregates quarry license application falls squarely within one of the most sensitive parts of the Greenbelt, in a headwaters area that contains Provincially Significant Wetlands, Regionally Significant Woodlands and the habitat of the provincially and nationally threatened Jefferson salamander. There are only 27 known locations of this critical indicator species left in all of Canada.
     In supporting the motion, Councillor Taylor recited the NEC Staff Report that states, “some lands on the Mount Nemo Plateau do contain Escarpment slopes and related landforms, either existing or proposed to be designated as environmentally sensitive by the municipalities in their official plans which may, after further review, fit the Escarpment Natural Area or Escarpment Protection area designations in the Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP).” Both the “Natural” and “Protection” area designations prohibit quarries.
     PERL legal counsel David Donnelly presented the case for re-designation to the Commissioners.
     “Nelson pleaded guilty to the serious offence of altering a watercourse without permit on November 26, 2007 thereby waiving any expectation it may have had to have its new quarry application assessed against a decades old land use designation,” Donnelly told the Commission. “There is precedence for Cabinet to re-designate the proposed quarry site, for example the Milton Outlier, and other areas like North Leslie, Boyd Park and the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve.  Mount Nemo should be added to this protected list.”
     Conservation Halton, Region of Halton, the City of Burlington and the Niagara Escarpment Commission have all voted against the quarry application, citing serious concerns relating to the loss of provincially significant wetlands and significant woodlands, species at risk (the Jefferson salamander and the Butternut), and changes in flow contribution to downstream watercourses.
     “The serious fear is that the millions of dollars that are needed to restore Mount Nemo will be spent on a hearing that should not take place,” said Sarah Harmer, Co-Founder of PERL.  “After Mount Nemo’s 100 years of service to the aggregate industry, Premier McGuinty and the Ontario Cabinet must stand with PERL, Burlington, Halton, the Niagara Escarpment Commission, the Conservation Authority, and dozens of local and national environmental groups to act, so that nature can reclaim this exceptional area.”

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