Monday, December 27, 2010

place of quiet?

Walking along the Ginger Valley trail my 15-year-old daughter commented that she can't remember ever walking on a trail where she couldn't hear traffic.

Roads bisect and disrupt the natural areas we have, fragmenting both habitat, and the experience of habitat. Even when out of sight, traffic interferes with the enjoyment of nature, and has become the background soundtrack to our lives.

The ironic thing is, to escape, we must get in cars and drive hours away, and even then, must work to get away from vehicular noise.

Is there a place locally that defies the constant hum or drone of motor vehicles?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

small is...not big and stupid

Thoreau once suggested that "most men appear never to have considered what a house is..."
Some giant homes, built for two people to inhabit, offend the natural sentiment of neighbours. Well, how about considering the other extreme - small dwellings that take up very little space?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

video from the valley

Christmas will end hunt in Valley

It appears that process was the first casualty in the deer hunt in Dundas Valley, resulting in a renegotiated deadline to end the hunt which has closed the Headwaters Trail. The trail will be re-opened December 25. 

A long term agreement on use of these lands by hunters from the Haudenosaunee needs to be established (or perhaps an agreement that has hunting take place in areas other than HCA lands with established trails) if there are to be continued good relations, based on trust and mutual respect. It sounds like the HCA was involved in this type of process, so it seems only fair for the process to be respected by all.

Here's the latest from the local daily:

Native hunters asked to leave Dundas Valley
The Hamilton Conservation Authority says confederacy members from Six Nations have agreed to make Dec. 24 the final day of their hunt.
DEER HUNT The Hamilton Conservation Authority says confederacy members from Six Nations have agreed to make Dec. 24 the final day of their hunt.
Ron Albertson/The Hamilton Spectator
ANCASTER The Hamilton Conservation Authority has asked Haudenosaunee Six Nations hunters to end their two-week deer hunt on Dundas Valley conservation lands by Dec. 25.
“They have consented to reduce the length of the closure to have the trails open Christmas Day, and that there would be no further hunting for the remainder of the year,” HCA chief administrative officer Steve Miazga said Tuesday.
The move comes after an early-morning conference between HCA chair of the board Chris Firth-Eagland and Miazga, who then contacted members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and asked them to leave the western part of the conservation area near Paddy Green Road where they set up a deer hunt site on the weekend.
The Haudenosaunee Six Nations Confederacy members, who say they have treaty rights to hunt in the area, began hunting deer with bows on Sunday and had planned to remain there until the end of the year.
“In order to have a relationship with the Hamilton Conservation Authority, if they ever hope to be partner stewards with the citizens of Hamilton, through the city of Hamilton and the Hamilton Conservation Authority, then they must lead in this instance and show support for the work we’ve been doing in looking at Iroquoia Heights (deer management) and get their people out of the Dundas Valley,” Firth-Eagland said Tuesday morning.
THE CONSERVATION AUTHORITY WAS HOPING FOR “A GRACEFUL WITHDRAWAL get out within the next several days – and tell us you are coming back to the table with us at the Deer Management Advisory Committee to help us understand the issues and work together in the long term,” Firth-Eagland said.
“I asked Steve Miazga this morning to go back to the Haudenosaunee as quickly as possible with their own words, with their own notion. I urged him to look at the minutes of when they came and made their presentation, and their reference that they are thinking seven generations to the future, that they must plan for the health and welfare of the natural environment.” 

Monday, December 20, 2010

limits of tolerance?

Refreshing to see treaty rights being considered, and not rejected outright as is often the case.  The trail effected by the temporary closure is limited to the western section of the Headwaters Trail, and does not include the Hamilton to Brantford Rail trail. As the article notes, not everyone will be happy with this decision, but if we accept the premise that deer are overpopulated (i.e. surpassing natural limits) in this region, then this method seems to be an interesting way of dealing with it.  The Spectator article is reprinted below; the HCA notice from their web site is here:

Dundas Valley is not a happy hunting ground
the Hamilton Spectator

Part of the Dundas Valley Conservation Area in Ancaster is closed to the public for the rest of December to allow deer hunting by natives from the Six Nations Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
The decision to close a three-square kilometre chunk of the conservation area near Jerseyville Road and the Morgan Firestone Arena was made with no public fanfare by the Hamilton Conservation Authority.
At the entrance to one trail at the bottom of Martin’s Road, a couple of small paper safety notices, with an accompanying map, are posted to trees, announcing that the trails are closed until December 31.
The decision to close the section from Martin’s Road to Paddy Greene Road, between Power Line and Jerseyville roads, was made last week, according to Steve Miazga, chief administrative officer of the conservation authority, “at the request of the Haudenosaunee, who informed us that they would be harvesting in that area which is the far west end of Dundas Valley.
“We have played it low-key because we don’t wish to attract any further attention in terms of poachers to our situation and we do know that we have poachers in the Dundas Valley,” added Miazga.
Miazga said an agreement was reached to respect the treaty rights of the Haudenosaunee, who will cull the deer both for food and because deer are an important part of mid-winter ceremonies that will take place in early January.
“Quite frankly, they’ve been very forthright with us and have informed us of when and where they will be conducting their harvest in terms of their food-gathering and their ceremonies,” said Miazga. “We respect their treaty rights and therefore we have decided that we have to post those trails.”

View Dundas Valley Hunting zone in a larger map

Paul Williams, a member of the committee working on hunting issues on behalf of the Haudenosaunee, said the arrangement balances treaty rights and public safety.
“We’re having to reconcile social issues, legal issues on both sides, conservation issues and certainly we work with the conservation authority to identify the places where the deer can be taken with the greatest safety, the greatest benefit in terms of conservation and the least possibility of inconvenience to the public,” said Williams.
Williams also noted that there was no need for public fanfare because the issue of treaty rights and hunting is well-established for the Haudenosaunee.
“We do what we can to avoid conflict, but this isn’t something new,” said Williams.
“This is something we’ve done with other agencies before. It’s not secretive.”
Both Miazga and Williams refused to speculate if members of the confederacy would have proceeded with the deer hunt if an agreement with the HCA hadn’t been reached.
Williams also wouldn’t speculate on the number of Six Nations hunters who might participate in the hunt.
“It’s not as if hundreds of people are descending on the valley,” he added.
The two sides have studied the deer population in the area and concluded that there is an overabundance of deer. The HCA’s study conducted in 2009, based on standards set by the Ministry of Natural Resources, suggests the west end of the Dundas Valley area has three times the appropriate number of deer.
Only bow and crossbow hunting will be allowed on the HCA land until Dec. 31, and both the MNR and Hamilton police have been informed about the hunting decision.
The decision to close the trail was not greeted happily by some Ancaster residents out walking their dogs Sunday morning in the conservation area.
“I’m disgusted with it,” said one man, who declined to identify himself. “They have no business being here, as far as I’m concerned.
“It’s like a turkey shoot for them.”
Joanne and John Renaud, who have enjoyed the area for about two decades, worried about their safety.
“I don’t like the idea,” said Joanne.
“You wonder, ‘Am I going to be mistaken for an animal?’” added John.
Rob Martin, who has used the trail for about 10 years, said he was very surprised when he noticed the warning signs.
“That’s way too dangerous,” said Martin. “If they see my dogs walking along, are they going to take a shot?
“I have to assume they’re not that stupid.”
Miazga acknowledged he expects the conservation authority’s decision will be met by some anger.
“I can appreciate their concern but nevertheless we, as the HCA, have to weigh the issue of public safety and treaty rights and in consideration of both, it’s only prudent that we close those trails,” said Miazga.
Williams said he also expects some people will react angrily.
“What we’ve found is there are some people who will be unhappy, no matter how human beings take deer,” said Williams.
“They’re also unhappy about people eating cows.”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

walk on the wild side

Coyotes have been hunting deer in Dundas, apparently right along the busy rail trail, according to this article in the Hamilton Spectator. Some advice: 1. Do Not Feed Wildlife. 2. Keep your dogs leashed 3. Don't panic! Coyotes live in the area, and are generally shy of people. Attacks on humans are very rare. We have coyotes in our neighbourhood near Cootes Paradise, and I've only seen one up close once, as it ran ahead of my daughter and I on a trail. I was thrilled to see it, but it did make me a little nervous for a while. But you are far more likely to get in a car accident than be attacked by a coyote. 

Dundas neighbours worry about coyotes

A partially eaten deer carcass on the rail trail in Dundas lies just metres from a childrens' playground.
COYOTE KILL A partially eaten deer carcass on the rail trail in Dundas lies just metres from a childrens' playground.
Ron Albertson/The Hamilton Spectator

Twyla Murray is increasingly worried about the growing number of coyotes boldly prowling her southwest Dundas neighbourhood.

Murray and her husband, Brian, live just steps away from the Dundas rail trail and the nearby Dundas Valley ravine running behind Little John Road. They rattle off stories of close sightings of coyotes.

On one occasion, there was a coyote standing outside their back door in broad daylight. On another, Brian came within feet of a coyote while walking their schnauzer-poodle, Bailey, who froze in fear.

They say neighbours have been confronted by three coyotes walking down the street and the animals have been spotted in an open area beside playground equipment.

“We’ve been worried because they’re very close and don’t seem to be afraid,” said Twyla.

“We go out on the trail a lot and we see moms with strollers and little kids running far ahead … It scares me. I don’t think people realize.”

The couple thinks there should be warning signs along the rail trail and ravine paths to make users aware.

Little John resident and Spectator photographer Ron Albertson snapped a photo of the latest deer victim of coyotes this week. He and his wife have come across three carcasses in the last few months along the Dundas rail trail, adjacent to a popular playground and in the shadow of Dundana public school.

He’s also concerned that rail trail users aren’t prepared to happen upon a coyote.

A number of people walking the trail Wednesday said they weren’t aware that coyotes are hunting deer in the area. One woman walking her large dog said the news makes her wonder if she should be out on the trail alone.

“I run the trail down in the ravine. Maybe I won’t do that any more,” she said.

Coyote attacks on humans are exceedingly rare but not unheard of. A 19-year-old Toronto woman was killed by two coyotes in Cape Breton in October 2009.

Brazen coyotes have become an issue in several parts of Hamilton, including along the Beach Strip last year when they were going into back yards searching for food. Experts say coyotes are one of the few animals in Canada whose range is growing. That brings them into more urban and suburban environments.

Coyotes den in fields, tree stumps or burrows, and typically hunt singly or in pairs. They will kill or eat carrion.

The Murrays say they now see far fewer deer and rabbits than when they moved into the area five years ago. Deer had become something of a nuisance but Twyla worries that the coyotes don’t have any natural predators locally.

Sue O’Dwyer, acting manager of Hamilton Animal Control, says the agency has received 12 calls since January about coyotes in Dundas. She said people are mostly reporting the animals in fields and back yards.

O’Dwyer says if coyotes become a public safety issue, animal control will contact the Ministry of Natural Resources, which would decide whether to trap and euthanize problem animals.

She says those walking in or close to natural areas should carry bells or an air horn and always keep dogs on a leash. Anyone who comes across a coyote should make lots of noise and throw something in its direction, she said. They shouldn’t turn and run but stand their ground and make eye contact with the animal.

Confrontations with an aggressive coyote should be reported to animal control or even the police.

O’Dwyer is particularly concerned about reports of people feeding coyotes, either from their hands or by leaving out food in their back yards. That changes their behaviour from nocturnal, timid creatures, she says, into entitled beggars.

“If people feed them, they will show up in the day and get bold and they become too familiar with people.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

monsters in the valley

Yes, there are people out there who feel the need to build BIG, BIG houses where there once was a wee cottage. There are arguments against such giant impositions on the landscape, especially in the lovely remains of the valley, but it's almost a morally embarrassing voyeuristic thing to watch. But rich people don't know how we feel anyway.

So maybe you should check out an online petition against the enormous chateau here.

(image from the Hamilton Spectator web site)