For Immediate Release:  February 8, 2011
Globally Significant Fern Colony Threatened by Quarry: World Renowned University of Michigan Professor Testifies at OMB
Collingwood, ON – In the latest twist to the ongoing Walker Aggregates quarry application, world renowned botanist Dr. Tony Reznicek last week told the joint hearing of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) and Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) that one of the world’s largest colonies of the rare Hart’s Tongue Fern will likely be destroyed if the proposed quarry expansion is approved.
Dr. Reznicek, a professor at the University of Michigan, contends that the proposed 50-metre buffer for the colony is unproven and contrary to the plant’s lifecycle needs as an interior forest species.  The Ministry of Natural Resources normally requires a 100-metre buffer for such species, but has inexplicably approved the proposed 50-metre buffer.   Dr. Reznick was born, raised and educated in Ontario, and is an expert witness called by the Clearview Community Coalition, the citizens group opposed to the quarry. The Coalition is currently presenting its case, and opposition to the quarry is mounting.
“Ontario is home to 95% of the world’s American Hart’s Tongue Fern populations and virtually all of the viable remaining populations, which makes us this plant’s last and only stewards,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence.  Given the precedent setting issues at play, Environmental Defence is supporting the Clearview Community Coalition (CCC) in the case.  CCC is represented by David Donnelly of Donnelly Law.
“How perverse would it be if this quarry’s expansion contributed to the snuffing out of this species?” Smith added.   Destroying the colony of the rare fern at the site of the proposed quarry could vault the plant into a higher risk category on the global list of threatened species.
   
The Hart’s Tongue Fern is globally rare with very few plants scattered in disparate sites in New York, Michigan, Tennessee, Alabama, and Ontario.   The plant is listed as a federally Threatened species in United States and is a species of Special Concern in Ontario. Ontario has the bulk of North America’s population, and is considered an important refuge, Reznicek says. Most of Ontario’s 58 viable sites of the rare plant are on the Niagara Escarpment, which, despite being a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is not protected from quarrying.
“Due to the significance of this rare, large and healthy colony, I would recommend absolute protection,” Dr. Reznicek says.
“The American Hart’s Tongue Fern is an indicator species.  We are determined to save it and it’s important and beautiful habitat,” said Ruth Grier, a CCC supporter and former Ontario Minister of the Environment.
 
The proposed quarry site is home to Significant Wildlife Habitat, Significant Woodland, Provincially Significant Woodlands, vernal pools and the habitat of endangered butternut trees.  The site was also home to potentially significant Bobolink habitat.  Just days before the species was uplisted to “Threatened,” a Walker employee ordered the destruction of the habitat.
 
The case, which has been ongoing for ten months, is expected to close in April.   The Clearview Community Coalition is also expected to call Ontario Environment Commissioner Gordon Miller to testify in March.
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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Stephanie Kohls, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 ext. 232, 647-280-9521 (cell)
Ruth Grier, Clearview Community Coalition supporter, 416-259-1722, ruth.grier@bell.net
Dr. Reznicek, reznicek@umich.edu