Tag Archives: Fonthill Kame Moraine

The Devastating Effects of Hunting and Poaching In Short Hills Provincial Park

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George Catlin - National Museum of Wildlife Art

George Catlin – National Museum of Wildlife Art

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-Shorthills1seasoned 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.

Shorthills2While 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?

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A Park In Peril – Another Deer Hunt Scheduled for Short Hills

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Hunter snoozes and loses

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau,  with files from the Short Hills Wildlife Alliance

The parks of Canada are available to all Canadians for their benefit, education and enjoyment, and all parks should be maintained and made use of so as to leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of current and future generations. However, in about two weeks, the Ministry of Natural Resources will once again host the annual fishing derby at Marineland deer hunting at Short Hills Provincial Park, even though hunting is illegal at all other times. On the proposed dates of November 14, 15, 19, 20, 28, and the 29th, the Ministry will allow the Haudenosaunee Confederacy to break virtually all of the rules posted in the park for a ceremonial hunt.

Animal advocates, conservationists, and residents in area the do not believe that hunting is an appropriate activity for a provincial park. Hunting in the park is incompatible with the conservation goals of maintaining species as risk adjacent to areas such as the Golden Horseshoe, which are intensely developed. The Short Hills area contains some of the most extensive natural areas in the Golden Horseshoe, with the highest percentages of forest cover.

The park is part of an environmentally significant area known as the Fonthill Kame Moraine, home to shrubs and herbaceous species not found in other parts of Canada. The largest forest tracts and wetland areas also provide suitable habitat for breeding stock and locally rare birds, reptiles and amphibians. While the deer themselves are not an endangered species, the MNR seems to want the public at large to believe that the relatively small number of animals surveyed in the park are more damaging than climate change and need to be culled on an annual basis. Under the guise of “conservation,” the Ministry has made many unsubstantiated claims that these culls are beneficial to wildlife survival and the environment, which does not explain why there are rules for using the park under regular daily circumstances. According to the MNR themselves, more than 50 of the animals, plants, and lichens found Niagara parks are considered rare and are either threatened endangered. From a conservation biology standpoint, the wildlife in parks are not protected if it is permissible to shoot them.

One of the main objections to the hunt continues to be safety, since past experience has shown that periodically hunters do not adhere to the boundaries established by the MNR, or the Short Hills signboundaries are ambiguous. Prior meetings with the MNR along with Access-To-Information documents have made it abundantly clear that there has never been a signed or agreed-upon safety protocol. The MNR has not even made a quasi-legitimate attempt to limit the number of hunters in the park at any time. These same ATI requests clearly show that hunters breached the buffer zones outside the hunt area and that members of the public were in the park during the hunt.  Despite claims by the MNR that the hunters have never trespassed on private property adjacent to the park, the Ministry have resorted to paying a surveying company more than $3,000 to survey the boundary between private property and the park, another cost to be born by the taxpayers. The most serious accusation of lax security protocols involved unsecured firearms being transported outside of the immediate hunting area; these hunters mingled with hunt observers and crossed the road to their vehicles while their firearms were unencased. Haudenosaunee native Paul Williams, lawyer for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy has stated that:

“…the Haudenosaunee law will only allow a hunt if it’s safe,” something he believes is possible using traditional methods. Williams has said that the 1990 Supreme Court decision (The Sparrow Ruling) upheld these rights and hunting can only be limited by a provincial law that is purely aimed at safety. The Supreme Court Decision in R. v. Sparrow was the first Supreme Court of Canada decision which applied s. 35, of the Constitution Act,  which states  that “the existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.” In the foundational Sparrow ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that First Nations have an Aboriginal right, as defined in the Constitution, to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes and that right takes priority over all others, after conservation and safety. The court also ruled that an aboriginal right is not an absolute right and that governments may encroach upon this if they show a compelling and substantial legislative objective while respecting their fiduciary relationship towards the aboriginal people. The result of this decision is, on the one hand, that the aboriginal peoples have priority when it comes to hunting, fishing, trapping, or gathering for food purposes and on the other hand, that governments can regulate these activities for wildlife conservation or public safety reasons.

Liz White, Director of Animal Alliance of Canada, recently appeared before the Niagara Police Board to address the observations that some hunters carried unencased firearms outside the park in areas within the jurisdiction of the Niagara Regional Police.  Liz formally presented this information with the purpose of having any subsequent violations addressed by the NRP, since public safety is ostensibly the goal of all involved with the hunt. What’s surprising is that both the MNR and the Niagara Regional Police, despite photographing and videotaping all aspects of the protest and the hunters entering and departing the Pelham Rd. entrance of the park, no one seemed to notice this security breach, which is in contravention of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.

Read Liz White’s letter to Niagara Regional Police Services Board below:

Public interest measures have to take precedence over hunting rights, since the park is not the only location where hunting for aboriginal ceremonial purposes can take place. Already, a substantial number of hectares of public land in Ontario are available for hunting. Numerous other more remote areas, not boundaried by private property, were proposed and are, by most accounts, suitable alternatives to hunting semi-tame deer in a public park located in an ecologically sensitive area. Parks are seen as peaceful getaways to appreciate and value nature – not places for SUVs,  ATVs,  and certainly not unsecured firearms.

 

Call to Action:

Please write to:

Deb Morton, Executive Director

Regional Municipality of Niagara Police Services Board

68 Church Street, St. Catharines, ON L2R 3C6

Office: (905) 688-3911 x5170 / Mobile: 905-329-7814 / Fax: (905) 688-0036

Email: deb.morton@niagarapolice.ca