The official justification for the annual deer hunt in Dundas Valley Conservation Area (DVCA) has been eliminated and compromised. The alleged deer overpopulation no longer exists and the so called “Nanfan Treaty” turned out to be a historical and legal hoax. But the hunt continues. Unacceptable changes are happening all around us – in the protection of our conservation areas and wildlife, in public access and use of recreational areas, and in the city.
In one of his old interviews for the Hamilton’s The Spec, Chris Firth-Eagland, the former CAO of the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA), stated that the deer overpopulation was, in part, a result of the “fragmentation of deer habitat”. Yet, during the last 10 years, we have observed an alarming increase in the development of private mansions in the wooded areas of Dundas Valley, that used to be protected as an integral part of the Valley’s natural ecosystem. These developments close the remaining deer crossings, increase the fragmentation of habitat, reduce the deer feeding areas or access to those areas, and are often approved by various authorities in quite suspicious circumstances. The invasion and intrusion of development into the unique Dundas Valley ecosystem and wildlife habitat continues. Perhaps this is why the deer hunt was needed in the first place. In my opinion, there is no better explanation of this phenomenon than a corruption of the officials and political donations to corrupted political parties. Poor people don’t build these mansions.
The deer hunt is conducted by the native hunters from Brant County. There was a limit of 80 deer that could be taken every year by the hunters but nobody was controlling the hunters and enforcing the limit. I asked one of the DVCA superintendents for explanation. He replied, “The more they take, the better.” And this was an official of the so called “conservation” authority. This attitude was also evident in the HCA policies granting hunting rights in our conservation area on the basis of a fraudulent and non-existing Indian treaty – (the so called “Nanfan Treaty”).
Several years ago, one of the now retired DVCA superintendents told me that the HCA was importing coyotes in order to reduce the deer population. The coyote population has grown, while the deer population was decreasing due to the annual hunt. Now, we have an overpopulation of hungry coyotes that are searching for food in both rural and residential areas of the city. They are becoming increasingly bold. During the night hours, I regularly see large coyotes roaming the grounds of McMaster University and frequenting the streets and parks of the city. They are not shy. Sometimes, they stop in close proximity and look at passing people, as if they were considering an attack. This is happening in public places where dogs, by law, have to be kept on leashes. It is intimidating and is becoming a serious safety concern but the people responsible for creating the problem in the first place are not facing any consequences.
There also exists a legitimate public concern with the maintenance, public access and use of the different parts of the conservation areas maintained by the HCA. Access fees are growing exponentially, some areas (for example, the Spencer Gorge/Webster’s Falls Conservation Area) are closed for annual membership holders on the weekends, parking in adjacent streets is being eliminated and prohibited without any traffic related justification. Conservation areas or their parts are increasingly fenced off and closed to the public. They are being used for commercial shows and other corporate activities that destroy once protected green spaces and further limit public access. Facilities, once built with taxpayers’ money and used freely by the public, are now closed or privatized. Trees are being cut and sold for profit (Christie Lake Conservation Area). Horses now have the right of way on trails over hikers and bikers… There once was a regulation which allowed horseback riders to use only some trails but this measure no longer exists. Horses are destroying and polluting the trails. To limit the destruction of vulnerable hard pack trails, the HCA covered them with crushed rocks or pavements. Crushed rocks destroyed the natural beauty of the trails and made it difficult to walk or ride bikes on them, or use them in a wheelchair. They kept turning into a cement dust which stuck to shoes, bicycle chains and gears but this was not important. Why? Because the HCA was making more money on the horseback access fees than on the general public access.
All these measures, I was told by another superintendent, are in place because, as he has put it, “We have to pay our bills”. He did not mentioned the shrinking tax base that forces all these changes. He did not mention the off-shoring of industries and services or the corrupted officials who reduce regulations and allow corporations to avoid paying fair taxes. Here is what I think:
If “paying the bills” causes such destruction and limitation of the use of our recreational areas, then perhaps we should eliminate the HCA altogether and return the alleged “conservation” land to the crown, where it truly belongs. Then, the bills will not have to be paid and the people will regain free access to parks, forests, and lakes in their communities, in which they already pay taxes.
Another concern, although this is a somewhat different topic: – parking in the city. I have just noticed that the fee for parking on our streets has increased, again. Can the politicians make their money on some productive and profitable projects, not on the citizens? We are not a colony. I don’t understand why I have to pay to park my car in front of my bank, when I want to deposit or withdraw my money. I don’t understand why I have to pay for parking when I need to see my doctor or a lawyer. Parking around hospitals and medical centres was once free. Then came the barriers and the fees. We were told that this helped buy some needed medical equipment. Not true anymore. Most of these parking lots are now privatized and operated by owners not related to the hospitals or medical centres. Parking lot at Princess Point (at the bottom of Longwood Rd N) was once built with the taxpayers’ money, too. People could go there on the weekend, park their car for free, and walk around with their families. Now, they have to pay for parking their cars in their own community, in the parking lot that they have once financed, that was once public. Who gave the city the right to privatize it? To give this public property away to the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) as a “for profit” facility? Unbelievable and unacceptable!
- Intro: Why we oppose the deer hunt in Dundas Valley Conservation Area
- Part 1: Haudensaunee deer hunting in Dundas Valley – a “treaty right” or a fraud?
- Part 2: “Conveyance of lands by the Native American Chiefs of the Five Nations”
- Part 3: The “Nanfan Treaty” – legal considerations