We are writing to you today about the urgency of extending by-law 72-2021 to permanently prohibit the clear cutting of woodlots, woodlands and parts of woodlots/woodlands within your municipality.
As an Accredited Farm Organization (AFO), the National Farmers Union – Ontario (NFU-O) believes that Ontario agriculture should be economically, socially and environmentally sustainable and lead to enriched soils, biodiverse ecosystems, financially-viable farms, healthy and safe food and thriving rural communities, for both present and future generations. We collaborate locally, nationally and internationally to research, educate and share effective solutions that lead to a better world for farm families and their communities. Members of the NFU-O, including our Chatham-Kent Local, are deeply concerned about our changing climate and how it impacts our ability as farmers to continue to produce food.
The Ontario Woodlot Association (OWA), through its network of Chapters across the Province, brings people together to share ideas and learn about forest management. To ensure the viability of non-Crown. Land forests for future generations, the OWA promotes sustainable forestry management and advocates on behalf of woodlot owners. The OWA, including our Elgin-Middlesex Chapter, are concerned about the loss of woodlots within Chatham-Kent and support the creation of a clear-cutting by-law that will promote good land stewardship, biodiversity, wildlife habitat and diverse ecosystems that are a vital part of the land base across Ontario.
The Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO) supports farmers to build resilient ecological farms and grow a strong knowledge-sharing community. EFAO envisions an Ontario where thriving ecological farms are the foundation of our food system, and where agriculture protects our resources, increases biodiversity, mitigates climate change, and fosters healthy, vibrant communities.
This generally accepted concern about the state of our climate has not been lost on Chatham-Kent Council, who in 2019, declared a climate emergency within its own county borders. Building on this acknowledgement of a problem, C-K Council passed By-law 72-2021 on April 26, 2021 to temporarily prohibit the clear cutting of woodlots, woodlands and parts of woodlots/ woodlands within its borders, concluding with a Council vote on a permanent bylaw after the 120-day temporary restriction ends on Aug. 24, 2021.
Critics of the C-K temporary clear-cutting bylaw contend that the County’s Natural Heritage Implementation Strategy promotes conservation through education in order to preserve woodlots and suggest that it has worked well. Yet the images of woodlot/woodland destruction is clearly visible to it’s residents, residents of adjoining counties and Hwy. 401 travellers.
Advertisements for excavation service companies in the county and actual amount of woodlot/woodland acres destroyed should easily prove that the Natural Heritage Implementation Strategy has not worked from the start to protect woodlands, even if critics of the temporary bylaw claim repeatedly that they are good stewards of the land and can police themselves with that voluntary strategy. The lack of commitment in that approach is evident.
Chatham-Kent Council has made it known that environmental sustainability is a key component of its vision statement. The World Health Organization suggests that communities have at least 12% tree cover while some conservation groups suggest that real sustainability can only be achieved with 30% tree cover. But, regardless of which accepted norm is used, Chatham-Kent’s 3%, or possibly less, tree cover is not sustainable.
The environmental furnace created by the destruction of Chatham-Kent’s long-time woodlots has given its residents a new climate regime with late spring frosts, scalding hot summer temperatures, variable winters, droughts, winds, erosion, crop failures and floods. Though C-K Council is consulting only its residents on the merits of a permanent clearcutting bylaw and not those outside of C-K affected by the destruction of C-K woodlots/woodlands, everything in the natural world is connected, or was connected.
As a farmer in Rodney, farming in the Municipality of West Elgin, immediately east of Chatham-Kent, with some of the highest tree cover percentages in Elgin County and a host to a recognized beneficial micro-climate in the recent past, we have seen a disturbing trend towards extreme weather events, with less moderate ones taking place. Producers in West Elgin are looking at weather events in Chatham- Kent and its barren landscape with real concern for their own future.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Report on the State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture describes a worrying decline in biodiversity, as seen in Chatham-Kent, that both support agriculture and provides essential ecological services. The report outlines issues such as loss and degradation of forest and aquatic ecosystems of being a special concern.
The time has come for Chatham-Kent Council to recommit itself to the environmental sustainability goals of its vision statement, and act on it’s declaration of a climate emergency by permanently banning the clear cutting of woodlots and woodlands, for the benefit of present and future C-K residents and their neighbours in adjoining counties. Acting in the best interests of the residents of the county and not those of a few special interests is key. Numerous examples of successful county bylaws can be found across the province.
President, National Farmers Union – Ontario
Director, NFU-O Chatham-Kent Local
Executive Director, Ontario Woodlot Association
Elgin Middlesex Woodlot Association
President, Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario