As a consequence of halfway to boiling point temperatures, more than 300 wildfires are raging in British Columbia, poultry livestock are dying from heat exhaustion, cattle are being marketed in order to avoid dying of thirst and multiple municipalities in Manitoba have been declared agricultural disaster areas. And this is just in Canada!
Here in Chatham-Kent, we have already had severe weather anomalies with a drought and a recent deluge resulting in significant crop damage.
At the same time, based on recent media releases and appeals to councillors, we have those who claim to be agriculture leaders promoting climate change denial rhetoric. For the leadership of the Kent Federation of Agriculture and the Ontario Landowners Association to suggest they are in support of agricultural sustainability is bizarre. All you have to do is watch the news to conclude that pretending we are on another planet is irresponsible.
We must enact immediate collective measures to protect our agricultural industry and community. This is not complicated; one only needs to implement the directives from areas such as the provincial agriculture ministry and the University of Guelph.
These measures certainly do not include the failed “Natural Heritage Strategy” that has cost us hundreds of acres of mature woodlot within Chatham-Kent.
Although the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority lived up to its commitments in this initiative, the other two critical participants failed miserably. The municipality agreed to roughly 30 commitments, with few fulfilled.
It was common sense that without a bylaw some form of encouragement/enforcement would have to be in place so the blatant clear-cutters would at least be discouraged from destroying and burning their woodlot. Otherwise, the strategy would be useless.
A comment that is intended for the gullible is that Chatham-Kent already has many landowners who are good stewards of the land. This is correct, as I know many of them. This point has never been disputed. It is simply intended to be a distraction from the basic factual intent of the proposed bylaw – which is to prevent the uncontrolled clear cutting and the burning of woodlots by the irresponsible. This would be the same as found in the bylaws of neighbouring jurisdictions.
At the same time, responsible landowners would have absolutely no restrictions on their woodlots other than being required to follow “best management practices”, which is obviously in their own best interest. In addition to already not paying property tax on their woodlot, it is possible, and I believe reasonable, that a financial incentive can be negotiated for woodlot maintenance.
It obvious that the tide of climate change is fast approaching and the most susceptible area is agriculture. The best soil in the world is useless against adverse weather. Emotion and rhetoric is naive and no longer in the best interest of our community and sustainable agriculture.
It is also critical that the municipality commit to setting an example. How can we ask landowners to step up when the municipality has been so deficient in adhering to their own multiple strategic planning environmental commitments? The first step is to pass the “woodlot protection bylaw” with the inclusion of an incentive for woodlot owners.
We should also publicly recognize landowners who demonstrate exceptional stewardship. These citizens continue to demonstrate that any successful community is not built on selfish rights, but on common responsibilities.