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E-M:/ Lake Erie Basin groups call for protection of globally significant Marcy's Woods

MEC has helped organize this as part of an effort to unite Lake Erie Basin groups around a recovery strategy for the lake.
June 30, 2004

Dan McDermott, Sierra Club of Canada, Ontario Chapter, 416 960-6075
Bert Mills, Friends of Marcy's Woods, 905 834-0589
Margaret Wooster, Lake Erie network consultant 716-833-5892

(Letter to Ministers attached)


Twenty organizations from Ontario and the four U.S. states surrounding Lake Erie have requested the Ontario government to use its authority to help secure permanent protection of a privately owned coastal forest on Lake Erie known as Marcy's Woods. A virtual island of native flora and fauna, Marcy's Woods provides critical habitat for a diverse community of plant and animals, including several nationally and provincially rare plant and animal species, that can be found in few other places in the world.

In recognition of the unique and fragile nature of the site, a provincial zoning order prohibited development of Marcy's Woods for one year in order for protections to be put in place. However, the zoning order expires August 29, 2004 and no further protections have been imposed on the 300-acre site, part of the provincially-designated Point Abino "Area of Natural and Scientific Interest." The groups have asked the Ministers of Municipal Affairs, Environment, Natural Resources, and Tourism to convene the appropriate federal, provincial and local governments, property owners, conservation organizations and representatives of the wider environmental community to explore options for protecting the land in perpetuity.

"With all the government lip service paid to protecting and restoring the Great Lakes, it is incredible that places like Marcy's Woods could still be lost to the public trust and to future generations," said Margaret Wooster, consultant to a network of Lake Erie groups headed up by Michigan Environmental Council.  "International, national, provincial and state plans for Lake Erie such as the US-Canada Lakewide Management Plan, all call for the few remaining intact habitats on Lake Erie to be preserved. Shouldn't this include one of the premiere Lake Erie heritage sites in Ontario?"

Marcy's Woods is recognized as an area of biodiversity significance by the Province of Ontario, the Regional Municipality of Niagara, the Town of Fort Erie and by national conservation groups like the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Carolinian Canada.  It was owned by the late Dr. Marcy who, knowing the natural heritage value of the site, sought but failed to get permanent protections in place before he passed away. In 2003, after a legal battle among the children who inherited the estate, Marcy's Woods was sold to a private owner, who is reported to have stated that he has no plans to develop the site.

"Everyone recognizes the natural heritage value of Marcy's Woods," said Dan McDermott, Director of Sierra Club Canada's Ontario Chapter. "Someone needs to take the lead in negotiating a plan for its permanent protection. We think that should be the Minister of Municipal Affairs who at the very least has the authority to extend the zoning order prohibiting development until a solution acceptable to all can be developed."

According to Bert Mills speaking for the Friends of Marcy's Woods, "there is a positive and encouraging aspect to the whole situation. There's a sense that the current owner has the same basic outlook in regard to conservation of the site as did Dr. Marcy and the rest of the network trying to preserve it now. All that separates us is the issue of ensuring we have in place legally binding assurances that the protections we all agree to will be permanent." 

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