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Detroit River land registry urged - Canadian wildlife refuge efforts lag

By Beatrice Fantoni, The Windsor Star December 22, 2011

WINDSOR, Ont. -- A local conservation group is calling on the Canadian government to establish a land registry and finally start showing that it’s serious about playing a role in the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.

“It was easier to let the U.S. do all the heavy lifting,” said Derek Coronado, co-ordinator of the Citizens’ Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario. “It’s international in name only. Canada takes the credit without doing much to contribute to it.”

In 2000, Canada signed a document with the U.S. defining an international conservation region in the lower Detroit River ecosystem, which spans southwestern Ontario and southeast Michigan.

While the U.S. went on to pass a law establishing the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge on December 21, 2001, Canada’s federal and provincial governments have not done anything to show they plan on making it a reality on the Canadian side, Coronado said.

On the Michigan side, there are 5,700 acres of land dedicated to the refuge, as well as educational facilities and a trail complex.

Not following through on its commitment to the refuge gives Canada a bad reputation and will make it more difficult to negotiate future environmental agreements, Coronado said.

Coronado said the alliance is considering starting a petition to the House of Commons in Ottawa and the legislature at Queen’s Park in Toronto to get support for a land registry.

“Moving forward on this would be a sign that Canada is once again serious about Great Lakes protection,” Coronado said.

Mark Johnson, a spokesman for Environment Canada, said that the government shares the goals of the refuge but that there is no mechanism for declaring a specific geographic area for it.

“Initial discussions with the U.S. after the refuge was established stated that Canada would meet the intent of the refuge through existing program activities such as wetland acquisitions through the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.”

Johnson added that Canada is following through on the “next steps” set out in the agreement by supporting activities under the Detroit River Remedial Action Plan.

Upgrades to municipal waste water treatment plants in Amherstburg and Windsor and completing large-scale shoreline restoration and protection projects are some examples, Johnson said.

Matthew Child, director of watershed restoration at the Essex Region Conservation Authority, said he agrees that senior levels of government should step in and establish an umbrella framework to oversee existing conservation efforts.

Much is done at the local level along the Detroit River, Child said, but making the region part of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge would help brand the area better and bring more environmental, social and ecotourism benefits.

ERCA already spends more than a million dollars annually working with landowners on conservation projects and groups such as Friends of Turkey Creek are also active in these areas, Child said.

Coronado said the federal government should start by establishing a land registry where interested landowners could register their land and have it assessed for inclusion in the refuge.

The U.S. side of the refuge uses a combination of public and privately owned land, he said, so a model already exists that Canada could follow.

Some binational conservation work is already being done, Coronado said.

Canadian groups have worked with the U.S. to help build a spawning habitat for the dwindling lake sturgeon population at Fighting Island and hawks and ospreys can now be spotted again in the area after work was been done to conserve bird habitats.

Read more: http://www.windsorstar.com/technology/Detroit+River+land+registry+urged/5901228/story.html#ixzz1hKALQycp

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