South Bruce Peninsula has been ordered to pay $100,000 to Birds Canada to help restore the habitat of the endangered piping plover bird that nests on Sauble Beach.
Mayor Janice Jackson says on Thursday (Dec 12), a justice of the peace accepted a joint sentencing submission that was agreed upon and submitted by the Town and the Crown Attorney, as the follow up to a guilty verdict back on October 3rd.
By October 7th, the Town had filed an eight-point appeal of the guilty verdict. Jackson says key parts of that appeal dispute what is considered to be plover habitat and which of that applies to the town. It also disputes a claim that any human activity damages plover habitat.
This week, the justice of the peace gave South Bruce Peninsula 180 days to pay the fine, and also to allow the appeal process to continue.
The issue arises out of the argument that beach raking could destroy the habitat of the endangered Piping Plover which returned to Sauble Beach as a nesting ground in 2007 after a 30 year absence.
After a while, the Town of South Bruce Peninsula's beach maintenance plan came under criticism and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry barred the Town from raking the beach.
In 2018, the Ministry charged the town for doing work on the beach on two separate occasions back in 2017. Each charge has now been given a $50,000 fine, making the total $100,00.
Jackson says, while they hope to win the appeal and keep that money for the taxpayer, she notes, if the Town has to pay the fine, it will come out of a $180,000 surplus from parking revenue that has been set aside and can be used for the beach maintenance court battle.
"If we fail at our appeal and we do have to pay the fine, then I am happy that it is going to Birds Canada." says Jackson, noting Birds Canada has been overseeing Sauble Beach's recovery program for two or thee years now, as directed by the Ministry.
"They're very active in protecting and maintaining plover habitat across the country," says Jackson, adding "We've had a very good working relationship with Birds Canada."
In the meantime, the town has been working with biologists and the Province's Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks to create a beach maintenance plan.
Jackson says the town sent its most recent completed draft maintenance plan to the Ministry in November and is waiting on a response.
"They have a team of biologists that are going over the beach management plan and they've made suggestions and we've made alterations and sent it back and it's gone back and forth probably four or five times and we've met with the ministry in Toronto several times," says Jackson.
She says she's been trying to get the Province to agree to a plan for years, "If there's any silver lining in this whole ordeal it's at least prompted the Ministry to in fact sit down with the Town and hammer out something that would be amenable to both sides."
Jackson expects the appeal to be heard sometime next spring, maybe March or April.