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LETTER: With Bradford bypass, politicians only 'pretending to care' about wildlife, says reader

'Those keen for this highway have no real interest in protecting the ecological health of the area. It is not their priority,' says Oro-Medonte resident
2021-05-29 Rural hughway
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BarrieToday welcomes letters to the editor at news@barrietoday.com. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is in response to a story titled 'Innisfil council split on Bradford bypass project' published May 27. 
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There is a highway plan for Bradford that cuts across the Holland Marsh, through the Greenbelt. The rationale for this highway is to support ‘population growth’ and the ‘convenient’ movement of human bodies back and forth in gas-guzzling cars.

The only environmental assessment for this highway was completed in 1997 (approved, with conditions, in 2002). So this data was relevant when CDs were popular and The Spice Girls were still together.

Some of the public’s modern-day concerns about building through an important watershed, about impacts to water, air, climate change, local species, farming, and human well-being in general, are supposed to be addressed by a list of future studies, to be conducted while building occurs rather than before building starts.

Many political leaders, provincial and municipal, seem content to approve the highway with just this ‘list’ of studies at hand, not caring to wait for what the data will actually say.

If this important data is collected when the status and substance of this highway is already a fait accompli, this data cannot adequately inform the process or the outcome.

Which means this is Theatrical Environmentalism: leaders pretending to care, when they don’t.

This is also happening with the bobolink.

Curious about the local species of the area, I discovered that the bobolink, a medium-sized songbird, lives there (a different project nearby, York Sewage Solutions, mentions them in a 2013 report).

The bobolink is listed on the Ontario government ‘species-at-risk’ web page as a ‘threatened species’ and, according to the website: “threatened species and their general habitat are automatically protected." A ‘review of progress’ in 2020 stated that “progress has been made toward implementing all of the government recovery objectives."

There’s a long list of intentions, one of which is to “contribute to Ontario’s climate change targets of longer-term reductions."

They also proudly state conservation efforts, such as the 48 projects of which 13 are for the bobolink and eastern meadowlark exclusively! And over a million bucks was spent on multi-species projects, $500,000 specifically for the bobolink and eastern meadowlark!

Yet, when it comes time to examine the impact of this highway on this important bird’s habitat, governmental enthusiasm seems to disappear.

The province does not have current impact data for the bobolink as regards this highway.

They cannot say, with any true authenticity, that this highway will not hurt bobolink habitat.

And, if they do get updated data, they have no intent to review it before building, but rather, after, when it is too late to do anything to stop the harm.

So, the bobolink now gets the cold shoulder.

If political leaders want to brag about protecting this bird, then they need to consistently make decisions that actually protect the bird. Otherwise, it’s just more theatrics. Again. Pretending to care, when they don’t.

So, let’s be honest. Those keen for this highway have no real interest in protecting the ecological health of the area. It is not their priority.

Yet we know by now that human health is highly dependent upon robust biodiversity and a strong environment. So... ignoring ecological health undermines our own health.

Everyone, please examine this highway more critically before it gets built. There are other ways to manage growth, options that can support human needs and those of other species, like the bobolink.

This isn’t 1997 anymore. We can do better than this.

Julie Johnson
Oro-Medonte Township

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