Written by: Heather Clemenceau
In the hierarchy of public lands, parks are the most special places, where nature and all its associated diversions – quiet streams, the scents of the forest after a rain, and the occasional sightings of deer and other animals – are sacrosanct.
George Catlin, a painter of native American art, experienced the western Great Plains when it was untouched by extensive American development. While witnessing the beauty of this land, he wrote, “…what a beautiful and thrilling specimen….. to preserve and hold up to the view of her refined citizens and the world in future ages! A nation’s park, containing man and beast, in all the wild and freshness of their nature’s beauty.”
Hunting methods have changed a lot since Catlin painted his scenes of bison hunts. No longer are many parks primarily left relatively undisturbed to preserve and protect natural resources but now they must be the venue for a vast array of harmful activities.
The Short Hills Park in the Niagara Peninsula is being destroyed not only by the sanctioned Haudenosaunee native deer hunt each year, but also by illegal and off-seasoned hunting. Poaching and the fear and disruption it causes compromises animals’ normal eating habits, making it harder for them to store the fat and energy they need to survive the winter. The hunt has also devastated the entire community and left residents constantly on edge, long after the official hunt is over. Horses live on the outskirts of the park as well, making the park perimeter a dangerous place due to the continual presence of poachers.
Disinterested indentured public servants in the Ministry of Natural Resources have no apparent interest in overseeing the parks. With budgets for maintenance exhausted on the private exploitation of the park, Short Hills is essentially abandoned without oversight. When vegetation is destroyed by 4WD vehicles, plant vigor and regeneration is reduced, ground cover is deteriorated, and there can be a change in species composition. Inappropriate behaviours such as littering and other depreciative uses add to the degradation of the park.
While the MNR is busy circulating social memes to discourage the use of bird feeders by private citizens, they have no comment on the garbage accumulating in the park. If bird feeders can attract bears, why is nothing done about garbage in the environmentally significant Fonthill Kame Moraine? Not only that, gut piles and the remainders of deer carcasses can attract bears, and are disturbing reminders of this cruel hunt. Even if one is not in the park to poach deer, the condition of some trails and presence of trash do not inspire visitors to pack out all their garbage. Perhaps the MNR will have to find space in their budget now to promote the seven principles of the “Leave No Trace” program?
Hunt supporters’ critique of the anti-hunt protesters at Short Hills has often focused on what they claim is the “unacknowledged racism” of nearby “NIMBY do-gooders” as the motivating factors in our protests. Acrimonious counter-campaigns by hunt supporters seem to have at their core the presumption that protected public lands are there for individual use however they see fit and it is racist to suggest otherwise. The reality is that vigilant neighbours are good indicators of a great community. A population of people like the anti-hunt demonstrators is actually among the most valuable resources a neighbourhood can have.
And it’s always “someone’s backyard” isn’t it?