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Friday, April 26, 2019

Plovers Are Back And Town Heads To Court

Sauble Beach | by Claire McCormack  

South Bruce Peninsula Mayor says the Town looks forward to closure on beach raking charges.

As Piping Plover birds are now being spotted making their annual return to Sauble Beach, a court appearance nears for the Town of South Bruce Peninsula over the issue of beach raking and the endangered bird.

The Town is scheduled to answer to two charges in late May (30-31) and the first week of June.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, barred the Town from raking the beach, and in 2018, charged the town for doing work on the beach back in 2017.

"We're quite anxious to defend our position and look for some closure on this." says Mayor Janice Jackson, noting 'We do feel we have a very strong case."

Jackson says the town has a legal team in Toronto that has been working on the case for a year and a half.

Meanwhile, the Ford Government is in the process of updating the Endangered Species Act.

A statement early this year from Rod Phillips, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks said the update is being done to "Ensure a balanced approach between a healthy environment and a healthy economy."

But Jackson says she's not overly concerned about the changes to the Act as it pertains to the beach.

She feels if the plovers were removed from the list, it would make life easier for the Town but stresses, "We are committed to protecting the plovers and we're very proud to be the summer home of many."

Jackson views recent struggles over plovers and maintenance as ironic, noting after beach rehabilitation was done in 2017, "That following spring and summer we had the largest plover recovery in all of Ontario," says Jackson.   

Plover protection efforts began when the birds returned to the beach in 2007 after being absent for about 30 years.

This year, Jackson says the Town has hired a biologist to work with the Ministry of Environment, Parks and Conservation (now in charge of the issue) to create a beach maintenance plan both sides can agree on.

"The new provincial government seems to be far more interested in resolving this issue with us," says Jackson who has had a couple of meetings with Ministry officials.

Jackson notes town officials recently took a Ministry rep and a biologist hired by the Town on a tour of the beach.

"In reality, that's all we've been asking for over the years is to work in harmony and come up with a comprehensive beach management plan that we can all adhere to and live by quite comfortably."
Meanwhile, plovers have begun to arrive on Sauble Beach in the past week and more are expected.

Jackson says this year, beach maintenance is not as big an issue for the Town, "We had such high water levels that the beach is actually very clean right now. We were quite surprised to see how little debris was left on the beach from the winter."

She says they're looking at straightening the water courses that run onto the beach, but it doesn't appear to need much work this year.

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