Mem­bers wary of de­bate

The Glengarry News - - Front Page - BY SCOTT CARMICHAEL News Staff

South Glen­garry town­ship will be hold­ing a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion meet­ing on its pro­posed tree canopy and nat­u­ral veg­e­ta­tion pol­icy.

And while coun­cil passed a mo­tion to do so at its most re­cent reg­u­lar meet­ing (June 3), it wasn’t with­out some ap­pre­hen­sion.

“What are we try­ing to do here?” asked Coun­cil­lor Martin Lang. “The need for a pol­icy was put in by the pre­vi­ous (pro­vin­cial) gov­ern­ment. The gov­ern­ment that’s in there now has said that they’re not look­ing for any­thing too sub­stan­tial. They’re not even go­ing to be check­ing to see if we have any­thing.”

He added that “we do sup­port tree canopy,” but that he had “no in­ten­tion of pass­ing any­thing that’s go­ing to tell peo­ple that they can or can­not cut trees on their prop­erty.”

He was also con­cerned that open­ing the mat­ter up to pub­lic dis­cus­sion could gen­er­ate “controvers­y.” Coun­cil­lor Sam Mc­Donell told his col­leagues that he “wasn’t against open­ing it up” for dis­cus­sion. How­ever, he agreed that the tree canopy and nat­u­ral veg­e­ta­tion is­sue may be too di­vi­sive for a pub­lic fo­rum. “We’re go­ing to have one ex­treme sitting in the crowd here, with the other ex­treme,” said Coun. Mc­Donell. “I don’t think it’s some­thing you want to open your­self up to.”

He also pointed out that “the heavy stake­hold­ers,” whom he de­scribed as the “group of de­vel­op­ers... who work very well with the town­ship and who have done a lot of work here,” should “be con­sulted first.”

Deputy-Mayor Lyle War­den con­curred with Coun. Lang, stat­ing that he didn’t want to put “any mora­to­ri­ums on any­body’s pri­vate prop­erty.”

But he was in favour of so­lic­it­ing the com­mu­nity’s in­put.

“I feel it would be good to en­gage the pub­lic and have a dis­cus­sion,” said the deputy-mayor.

“I think there are ways that we can pro­mote canopy growth while re­spect­ing the agricultur­al com­mu­nity... And I think there are some so­lu­tions out there that respect both sides, in a prag­matic way.”

Coun­cil­lor Stephanie Ja­worski felt pub­lic in­put would be a valu­able tool in help­ing to shape the pol­icy.

“As this process has been go­ing on, I’ve had more peo­ple reach out to me,” she said. “And there are a good num­ber of those peo­ple whom I respect. I think they’re fairly rea­son­able peo­ple and if they want to par­tic­i­pate, I think we should in­volve them.” Mr. War­den con­cluded the dis­cus­sion on the mat­ter by re­it­er­at­ing the im­por­tance of an in­clu­sive con­sul­ta­tion process.

“We’re all stake­hold­ers here. We’re all stew­ards of the land,” he said. “I think most landown­ers can also be part of the so­lu­tion, and can help find some­thing that’s good.”

There is noth­ing in this pol­icy that would restrict nor­mal farm prac­tices as defined by the Farm Prac­tices Pro­tec­tion Act.

Farm­ers account for most of the de­for­esta­tion in the area.

Ex­perts have de­ter­mined that a min­i­mum 30 per cent for­est cover is re­quired to main­tain a healthy, sus­tain­able ecosys­tem.

A for­est cover anal­y­sis com­pleted in 2014 con­firmed that Stor­mont-Dun­das-Glen­garry had a 29 per cent for­est cover. South Glen­garry’s for­est cover had de­creased from 30.6 per cent to 28.7 per cent be­tween 2008 and 2014.

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