Petitioning Prime Minister of Canada/Premier ministre du Canada Justin Trudeau and 17 others

Protect Thundering Waters Forest / Stop Riverfront Community


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Official Plan Amendment File No. AM-2017-015
Dorchester Road and Chippawa Pkwy
Proposed Riverfront Community

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Did you know that one of Canada’s most unique habitats is at risk of destruction? The Thundering Waters Slough Forest in Niagara Falls, Ontario is a 484 acre old growth Carolinian forest located within the UNESCO Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve, only an hour south of Toronto, and is under threat of extensive development.

Even though Carolinian Canada is quite small compared with other Canadian vegetation zones, making up only 1% of Canada's total land area, it boasts a greater number of both flora and fauna species than any other ecosystem in Canada. Thundering Waters contains a high diversity of native species and a variety of habitats including globally endangered savannah, vernal pools, and wetlands.The role of vernal pools and swamp lands is to assist with the natural regulation, and cleansing of, our watershed. Despite recent flooding in the Great Lakes basin and the Niagara watershed, there are currently no plans to mitigate the effects of the loss of this important floodplain.

Thundering Waters Slough Forest boasts an extensive list of species found to be at risk/threatened per Species at Risk Act (S.C. 2002, c. 29) and the Endangered Species Act, 2007, S.O. 2007, c. 6. These include, though are not limited to:

  • SAR bats (the Little Brown Myotis, the Northern Myotis, the Tri-Coloured Bat),
  • SAR birds (the Barn Swallow, the Acadian Flycatcher, and the Chimney Swift),
  • Common Snapping Turtle,
  • Monarch butterfly,
  • Nine lined beetle. 

Thundering Waters slough forest and wetlands areas are also home to many amphibians, reptiles, and turtles while the tall grass savannah provides habitat for a huge number of wildlife species, including many that are officially designated as rare at the global, national or provincial level. Further, this eco-gem lies directly in the migratory path of pollinators returning north. Trees range from Black gum trees, oaks, maples, and tulip trees to plum trees transplanted by Indigenous peoples.  

220 acres of the 484 acre site are Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSW), and protected through Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), however these protections are not ironclad. Currently, plans are underway to develop the buffering acres and the results could be disastrous. The ecosystem within Thundering Waters is symbiotic; we can not separate, and destroy, one without devastating effects on the other; nor can we replicate this unique site anywhere else in the world.


Despite federal, Species at Risk Act (S.C. 2002, c. 29), and provincial, Endangered Species Act, 2007, S.O. 2007, c. 6, legislation protecting species at risk, requests for enforcement of said Acts have been ignored;

According to Ian Thornton, Resource Operations Supervisor with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), in a letter to the Region of Niagara Planning and Development Services , dated August 19th, 2016, the Dougan & Associates Environmental Impact Study (EIS), would not be able to fully inform the development of a land use plan and future development in its current form.  Reasons include a lack of evaluation of contiguous wetland areas adjacent to the subject area;

According to Leah Lefler, an ecologist with North-South Environment Inc., who were retained to do a peer review of the EIS, the EIS, is incomplete and “does not provide a sufficient policy review nor an adequate assessment of ecological features and functions”. Despite this peer review having been completed in July 2016, it has only been released through a Freedom of Information request to the Province. Further, none of the recommendations have been implemented despite being in line with Ian Thornton (MNRF) findings;

In September 2017, Savanta released their version of the EIS using existing data with some additional studies (EIS 2017 for clarity). The EIS 2017 still does not address many of the deficiencies listed in Ian Thornton’s MNRF letter to the Region of Niagara Planning and Development Services of 2016. Further, the Niagara Planning Group’s Planning Justification Report, released in September 2017 in conjunction with the EIS 2017, establishes a framework to eventually eradicate the impressive ecologically diverse natural habitat around the Niagara Falls Slough Forest provincially significant wetland. It is clearly the long term objective of the Niagara Planning Group to eradicate these natural habitats by creating conditions that will lead to their eventual ecological degradation and eventual removal as protected areas. This is expressed in policies in the EIS 2017, which support buffers below the normal standards of 30 meters and the lack of provisions to link an isolated PSW, which is a Willow Deciduous Swamp, to other natural habitats.  

According to Dr John Bacher’s review of the EIS 2017:

  • (page 7 states) field surveys are provided in Table 1 of Appendix B. Turning to this appendix however; it does not list any actual field surveys of bats….The failure to conduct adequate bat studies is quite disturbing in view of the great guidance provided in a May 6, 2017 letter by Kyle Hunt of MNRF. The advice that, "It is recommended that all information be collected in June 2017 to avoid the need to for further bat survey work in June 2018 was clearly not followed."  The MNRF comments also indicate that the 15 hectares of what the EIS describes as "cultural savannah" may be quite important for the Endangered Tri-Coloured Bat.  MNRF notes that this species "may prefer roost trees in more open woodlands, as opposed to deep woods."   The same negative comments regarding the inadequacy of bat studies made in earlier criticism by the Peer Reviewer Leaf Lefler on behalf of North/South apply to the current study by Savanta.   
  • Reptile Emergence Surveys (page 8) Here again the EIS reveals that the reptile emergence surveys are not completed. This means that the EIS should not have been submitted at this stage, and there is a possibility that some of the 49 hectares proposed for development should be designated as an Environmental Protection Area.  The comments here reveal, for the first time, that in addition to the Snapping Turtle, (a Species at Risk), the Midland Painted Turtle is found within the Thundering Waters Secondary Plan area.
  • Wrong Dismissal of Actual Savannah as Mere "Savannah Like."  (page 14) The thrust of the argument to justify the destruction of the natural habitats in the proposed Riverfront Community is that it is not actual savannah, but simply "savannah like."  Such arguments ignore the real important contribution of Indigenous people to savannah environments in Ontario and their beneficial use by pollinator insects. Further, given the soils and climate of the Carolinian zone, most savannahs in Ontario are of cultural origins.
  • Another dubious contention (on pages 14 and 15) is that Green Ash trees devastated by ash borer will be replaced by a shrub, the European Buckthorn. In areas of Essex County that have been quite devastated by the Ash Borer, Pin Oak, benefitting from similar moist soils, has been the replacement tree. Pin oak trees can be found throughout the protected wetlands area of the site and would provide a native tree alternative, why?

The Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force (HETF), in a letter dated March 8, 2017, reminded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that, according to our treaties, the land in question is held in stewardship. Any development of Thundering Waters Forest ignores the history, and cultural resources, it contains. The current studies still indicate no Indigenous consultations have been sought;

According to the Province of Ontario’s Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe,2017, natural areas support biodiversity, provide drinking water for the region's inhabitants, sustain its many resource-based industries, support recreational activities that benefit public health and overall quality of life, and help moderate the impacts of climate change.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Watersheds Reports rates the threat to the Great Lakes and the Niagara Peninsula as “very high”  (World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada);

According to the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA), their mandate is to improve the quality of lands and waters, contribute to public safety from flooding and erosion, and enhance the quality of life in its watershed. Yet, the NPCA has consistently looked at ways to protect developers by approving development on lands significant to the watershed and Great Lakes basin including actively lobbying the province to approve biodiversity offsetting at the Thundering Waters site. We believe this contradicts with the NPCA’s official mandate and fear it a conflict of interest that the board comprises the same politicians pushing for the development in their role as councillors (or mayors).

THEREFORE, we ask that:

The Environment Commissioner of Ontario:

- complete and submit a report on the proposed development of this site.

The City of Niagara Falls:

- Stop the development of pristine lands;
- Deny Official Plan Amendment File No. AM-2017-015 and any future attempts to build around remaining wetlands;
- Schedule the public consultation, as required by law, for this site.

We ask Premier Kathleen Wynne, the Province of Ontario and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) that:

- The PSW area be extended to include the entire 484 acre slough forest;
- Meaningful enforcement of Endangered Species Act, 2007, S.O. 2007, c. 6;

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal Government of Canada listen to the warnings of the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force (HETF) and honour our obligations under the The Two Row Wampum Treaty with permanent protection of this sacred land.

In order to protect our environment and the cultural heritage of the Haudenosaunee people,we recommend:

- the creation, implementation, and meaningful enforcement of, a Charter Right to a Healthy Environment;
- meaningful enforcement of the following legislation, and commitments, particularly as they pertain to the Niagara Peninsula:
Species at Risk Act (S.C. 2002, c. 29);
Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (S.C. 1999, c. 33);
Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993, S.O. 1993, c. 28;
International Joint Commission (IJC) commitment to the viability of our shared waterways.

This petition will be delivered to:
  • Prime Minister of Canada/Premier ministre du Canada
    Justin Trudeau
  • Premier of Ontario
    Kathleen Wynne
  • Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
    Kathryn McGarry
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada
    The Honourable Catherine McKenna
  • Mayor, City of Niagara Falls
    Jim Diodati
  • Chair, Niagara Region
    Alan Caslin
  • Chair of the Board of Directors, The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority
    Sandy Annuziata
  • City of Niagara Falls
    Director of Planning, Building & Development
  • Councillor, City of Niagara Falls
    Wayne Campbell
  • Councillor, City of Niagara Falls
    Kim Craitor
  • Councillor, City of Niagara Falls
    Carolynn Ioannoni
  • Councillor, City of Niagara Falls
    Vince Kerrio
  • Councillor, City of Niagara Falls
    Joyce Morocco
  • Councillor, City of Niagara Falls
    Victor Pietrangelo
  • Councillor, City of Niagara Falls
    Mike Strange
  • Councillor, City of Niagara Falls
    Wayne Thomson
  • Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
    Dr. Dianne Saxe
  • Chairwoman & CEO, GR (CAN) Investment Co. Ltd.
    Helen Chang

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