The Jefferson Salamander is in the news again. Burlington businessman Angelo Paletta is scratching his head over a Ministry of Natural Resources stop-work order that has prevented the planting of crops on an approximately 40-acre parcel of land he owns off Number Two Sideroad and Guelph line. The family, who in addition to property development operate a large meat processing plant, has owned the farm for nearly 40 years and in past grew crops on the property to feed a large cattle operation. In more recent years they have contacted to produce cash crops on the site. The 40-acre site which is surrounded by a woodlot had been fallow for several years, and last fall it was decided to plant crops there again. The land was ploughed in readiness for this year’s spring planting. Before that could happen however Paletta received a stop-work order from Alex J. Smith of the MNR Aurora office ordering all work to stop claiming that the land is home to the Jefferson Salamander.
All of this was news to Paletta, but when Paletta property manager Dave Pitblado tried to find out what proof there was that the endangered species was living on the property, the Ministry refused to share any information. The government response suggested that there had been ongoing correspondence for years between MNR and Paletta regarding the salamander issue, but neither Angelo Paletta nor Dave Pitblado recall anything of that nature. “What bothers me the most is that this province and the City and the Region are saying we should promote agriculture and this happens,” said Angelo.
In a letter to Alex Smith of the Ministry Paletta Lawyer Scott Snyder wrote, “the (stop-work) Order…must surely mean that you have evidence that the lands in question are in fact habitat for the Jefferson Salamander. If you have no such information, then you had no basis to issue the Order. If you have such information, there is no justification for refusing to disclose it. It is unclear why you are frustrating our client’s efforts to understand the basis for the MNR’s concerns.”
Pointing out that his family has made an eco gift of some of its holdings in the area to the Halton region Conservation authority, Angelo suspects MNR wants him to spend a large sum on studies “to prove them right” about the existence of the salamander. He is would like to find out what the Ministry has on file regarding the farm. Given that the property is surrounded by woodlots, it is unlikely that a Ministry employee based in Aurora would have stumbled across the land, leading Dave Pitblado to suspect that someone locally phoned in the complaint. He notes that there has been trespassing on the property.” Someone has brought equipment in here to make a walking path and there are ATV and horse tracks here as well,” he added. The two sides will probably meet at a hearing to be scheduled sometime later this year. At Press time no one from MNR had responded to enquiries from the Bay Observer.
Written by: Carl Lafong