CORRECTION: This story stated that the CMC was organizing a protest on July 19. The protest is being organized by community members and not the CMC. The CMC Board had no part in planning the protest, does not endorse the protest, and have no intention of attending the protest. Seaway News regrets the error and any confusion it may have caused.
SOUTH GLENGARRY, Ontario – The Raisin Region Conservation Authority (RRCA) announced that it was terminating its relationship with the Cooper Marsh Conservators (CMC).
The CMC are a volunteer organization that has assisted in the operation of the Cooper Marsh Conservation area, which is owned and operated by the RRCA.
At issue, is the CMC’s advocacy against a proposed development of land adjacent to Cooper Marsh. Run Guo Investments Canada Ltd./Fotenn Planning + Design petitioned the Township of South Glengarry to rezone land that they own just east of Cooper Marsh to allow for the development of 25 camping sites.
South Glengarry Township Council approved the rezoning at their meeting on July 5. The rezoning petition was reviewed by the RRCA, and the RRCA did not object to the proposal.
The CMC however has raised concerns that such a development so close to the Marsh would disrupt the habitat of several species that call the area home, in particular the Least Bittern, a species of bird, and the Blandings Turtle.
The RRCA states that the CMC’s lobbying against the proposed development constitutes political activity, which is something that the RRCA is prohibited from being affiliated with, even indirectly, by the provincial Conservation Authorities Act which governs conservation authority activities.
“Over the last several months, CMC has been involved in political activities which are inconsistent with the RRCA’s statutory mandate,” reads a statement from the RRCA. “In general, no conservation authority in Ontario may, directly or indirectly, engage in political activities regarding development projects. The RRCA’s role in development projects that fall within its jurisdiction is circumscribed by the Conservation Authorities Act. Any departure from this clearly defined statutory role exposes the RRCA to legal jeopardy and negatively impacts its ability to deliver programs and services that further the conservation, restoration, development, and management of natural resources in watersheds in Ontario.”
In their statement to the media, the RRCA explained that they had been working with the CMC over the past several months to explain that they cannot be associated with a group that engages in what it feels is political activism.
Seaway News reached out Robin Poole, the Chair of the CMC for comment, but Poole stated that the CMC would not be commenting on the matter at this time.
The break between the CMC and the RRCA is effective immediately. The RRCA states that it will continue to manage and maintain Cooper Marsh.