The Green Bullies. When environmentalists set their sights on your private property. By Marlene Black

On September 28th, a group of five of us sat around on the chairs that surrounded the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) Board members. There was no crowd, just a few presenters, the board members and the Landowner crashers. Yes, we’d been tipped off that the Goulbourn Wetlands ‘environmental spy’ was going to present to the board all the bad and illegal activities that he had witnessed out in rural Goulbourn. We all knew of this man, Ken McRae who lives in the middle of urban Ottawa. He’s been driving around trying to protect other people’s land for many years. He is frequently spotted, with his camera, looking for the bad-guys on their tractors perhaps digging a hole or covering one up. It doesn’t matter, he’s the ‘wetland missionary’ out to save the world.

Ken McRae at RVCA Board Meeting

Ken’s presentation targeted a ‘landowner’ in the area, one who was being accused of ‘bringing in fill’ and ‘destroying the wetlands’ and Ken’s mission was to get the conservation authorities to ‘do their job’ and ‘follow their legislation’ and ‘fine’ the offender and quickly before we lost all the water in Goulbourn Township. He had several photos taken of the dump truck driving in the laneway, several aerial photos of the improvement that was done on this landowner’s private property and maps of all the puddles of water scattered across the rural landscape. Tom Black and Mike Westley stood up and asked permission to also speak so the Board could hear the other side of the story. The Board voted to allow them 5 minutes each. Both Tom and Mike individually gave their story of how these farm fields got wet, how the quarry was dumping water onto their properties and how the drains were not being cleared. Tom said he knew the people who lived on those farms and they were all farm fields, now wet in spots due to poor drainage maintenance and water being directed onto private property. Mike spoke of getting the Ministry of Natural Resources to come onto his property and evaluate it and they told him it was NOT a wetland. Because of that, 17 landowners a few years back, got their designations removed even though the ‘city evaluator’ targeted them as wetlands. Both men spoke of the hypocrisy from the city saying they want to save wetlands yet they approve developments which destroy wetlands. The Board voted to postpone a decision until hearing more at the next meeting.

Wetlands in Stittsville that have been developed thus shifting designations to private property.

Tom and Mike and Terry Hale were presenters at the next Board meeting on October 26th. Ken was also. The Board members heard Ken say that they didn’t deserve to sit on the Conservation Board if they were unable to do their job and go after the offenders. It was noted that the City of Ottawa had backed off designations for about a year but Ken said that the RVCA had the authority to stop any work in this area and that was his drive, to have the conservation authority ORDER the landowner to remove all fill and present him with a STOP work order.

From the sidelines, watching the circus, it seemed to me that the two city staff who answered questions, did not want to acknowledge that these were not significant wetlands and they just wanted to proceed with enforcement charges.

It was a back and forth question and answer banter until our councillor, Scott Moffatt put forth a motion to deny the request from Ken McRae and wait and see what will happen after the City of Ottawa does the ditch work that was recommended and accepted a few years earlier. At this time, with proper drainage, they would be able to determine if in fact, they were dealing with true wetlands. The vote was close, 10 to 9 but in favour of the landowners. The battle is not over but has a reprieve for many months.

It was a happy group that stopped for a late coffee at Tim Hortons to discuss and plan the next steps. To read more about Ken McRae: