Hedgerows and fence bottoms loom large at Council meeting

(Gazette file photo)

 

SARAH WILLIAMS

STAFF WRITER

 

At Tuesday’s regular council meeting, an addendum report was presented by the Development Services Department on the Prince Edward County Draft Official Plan regarding the Removal of Fence-Line and Hedgerow Moderation.

The addendum report, a response to a previous motion, was received and approved by council.

Upon direction from council, staff amended the original report, presented at the July 11th Committee of the Whole Meeting, to include several changes.

These changes require the report to include reference to the County’s rich cultural heritage as typified by tree-lined farmland, the importance of tree-lines and fence bottoms in reducing the agricultural/environmental impact of soil erosion, and the importance these areas play as environmental connectors within wildlife ecosystems.

Councillor Maynard spoke to this issue, congratulating staff on rewording the report to take the onus off the agricultural sector. However, Maynard was still troubled by aspects of the report.

“I still have some difficulty with the joining of natural heritage and cultural heritage because cultural heritage is a point in time,” said Maynard.

She ultimately conceded that the new report was reasonable, adding that she would like to see a modification made by staff.

“If you’re going to ask a farmer to maintain a fence-bottom,” she asked, “that we add farming compensation programs so if we get to the point where we want to maintain these fence-bottoms or tree planting, there’s a mechanism to make sure that the farmers are not at a financial loss in doing so.”

Staff did not object to adding this modification made by Maynard as a potential tool in the future.

Taking to the podium to speak on this issue was Elizabeth Blomme, member of Natural Heritage Conservation Prince Edward County.

“This new wording recognizes the important role that fence bottoms play in protecting the environment for future generations. It also makes clear that we all have a role to play here,” said Blomme.

Blomme then cited a provincial policy statement that, while not specifically recognizing hedgerows or fence-bottoms, does emphasize the importance of connectivity to a viable, natural heritage.

She was careful to note that there are no municipal laws that apply to restrict a normal farm practice carried out as part of an agricultural operation.

“The province must assure that it’s resources are managed in a sustainable way to conserve biodiversity, protect essential ecological processes, protect public health and safety, provide for the production of food and fibre, minimize environmental and social impacts and meet its long term needs,” stated Blomme, citing the policy.

Blomme went on to detail a conversation she recently had with a farmer had recently received criticism for removing a hedgerow from his property.

“Without current data on the state of our own ecosystems, not that farmer or anyone in the County can know what can be conserved and what is expendable. If we do not act to conserve what we have, we will experience the the consequences of inaction,” argued Blomme.

Those councillors opposing the addendum report were Councillor Maynard, Councillor Nieman and Councillor Prinzen.

“As last time it was presented, I worried about the wedge,” said Prinzen. “I worried about the fingers in the door. I’m still worried about it. So, even as an amendment, I will not support it because to me it is a wedge and it’s going to keep coming. The word farm is still in it. You can say what you want, but it’s a wedge and I will not be supporting it in any shape or form,” protested Prinzen.

Despite some opposition, the motion was carried forward.