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Chris Knight

Facts and Fiction

Chris Knight : August 12, 2013 11:50 pm :

The rapid increase in the rate of clear cutting that has occurred in Chatham-Kent over the last couple of years has many farmers and citizens concerned.  Chatham-Kent remains as one of only two municipalities in Southern Ontario that does not have a Forest Conservation Bylaw regulating the harvest of trees.  A motion was brought forth by Council to place a moratorium on clear cutting in the municipality.  That motion was referred to staff to prepare a research report and hold private stakeholder as well as public consultation meetings.  What resulted from those consultations and dialogue were constructive meetings between both sides of the issue.

Both of those reports are now available for public review and can be found below.  Public engagement on this issue was at near record levels.  This might be the most important aspect of this issue.  People care.  People care that their water and air is clean. They care about the image of the community in which they own a business. They care about their rights as property owners.

As members of this community, you should take an hour and read Mr. Beaton’s report titled “Trees Forests and Woodlots A Review of the Literature”. Why? Because your tax dollars paid for it. Because it provides concrete evidence instead of coffee shop rhetoric.  The report is easy to read, written in plain English and well sourced.  If you want to find out more about a particular topic, there are 13 pages of works cited that give you a starting point.

Bryan Boyle of Boyle and Associates was hired on as a consultant to facilitate stakeholder meetings and summarize statistics about public engagement on this issue.  Again, his report “Sustainable Forest Cover in Chatham-Kent” is also well written and shows in detail, starting on page 54, the public’s response and engagement at open house meetings held in July 2013.

These reports will form the foundation of how forest cover and its interrelated topics of air and water quality, public health and community perception will be handled in Chatham-Kent.  They help to separate fact from fiction.

Chris Knight

Embracing Change and Challenge

Chris Knight : August 12, 2013 11:42 pm :

We as a community and as individuals face change and challenge every day both in our personal and professional lives.  Those who are successful are the ones who meet those challenges head on with an open mind and a willingness to learn from others.  The Great Lakes area and especially Chatham-Kent is facing many challenges.  With high unemployment, incredibly poor health statistics, and lack of corporate investment, indeed our challenges are great.  So what can we do? The answers are not easy but we can start by identifying our assets and then creating opportunities for people, businesses and communities.

Our key asset that we must begin to identify and appreciate is our local environment.  This local environment, of which we are part of, must be used but not exploited.  It must create opportunity for farmers and fisherman, businesses and families.  These are not mutually exclusive goals.  So where do we start? Are there examples of other communities able to strike a balance? The answer is an overwhelming “Yes!” Throughout North America and around the world, there are examples of communities who have risen to the occasion.

The classic example is New York City and its municipal water supply.  Municipal officials were faced with the realization that a new water treatment plant was needed.  The initial cost was going to be in the neighborhood of $8 billion.  This sum of money is a staggering amount even for the Big Apple.  So, with some ingenious thinking on behalf of city officials they decided to invest in green instead of grey infrastructure.  Rather than treat water once it got to the city, they decided to clean it at the source; in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York.  By preserving and enhancing stream and watershed quality at the source, the City was able to avoid a new water treatment plant and enhance the environment at a fraction of the cost.  A willingness to learn and appreciate the value of goods and services that nature provides was a key step in their discovery and solution to a major problem.

That’s okay but what about our neck of the woods?  Has anyone done anything like that in Ontario? Again, the answer is “yes”.  Rural Ontario is becoming increasingly aware of climate change and its effects on both farmers and communities.  In fact, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture in a recent statement launched a new program called Food and Water First.   Farmers realize that food production cannot occur without clean and reliable sources of water for crops, livestock and people.  On a municipal level, counties such as Norfolk and Huron when faced with deteriorating soil conditions and the loss of key crops such as a the tobacco quota did not shy away from change.  Rather, they stepped up to the plate and passed bylaws that protected forest cover, and enhanced the community in which they live.  Now Norfolk and Huron county are shining examples of diversity economically, agriculturally and biologically.  They are thriving communities and have a countryside with farmers of 50 acres and those who farm 5000 acres working together and with nature to improve their businesses, environment and their collective future.

The Great Lakes watershed area and Chatham-Kent can learn a great deal from these and other examples of investing in our natural capital.

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