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Public comments on Fowler’s Toad invited

I want you to save my toads.The Ministry of Natural Resources has begun the public consultation phase of the overall benefit program proposed to protect the Fowler’s Toad habitat at Bay Beach.

The permit is required before construction can begin on the 12-story condominium project on Town-owned waterfront land.

Written submissions must be made directly to the MNR. The Town has no jurisdiction in this matter.

The MNR has reviewed alternatives, and the proposal was adjusted to minimize adverse effects on individual toads and their habitat, states the notice published on the Environmental Registry.

An application for an overall benefit permit would include creation of sand dunes in a protected area to enhance Fowler’s Toad habitat on the property, the notice reads.

A detailed story about the permit application process and information about the toad was published in the Sept. 7 edition of The Ridgeway Herald:

Habitat for Amphibianity

Condo plan offers homes for toads, less space for frolic

(Sept. 7, 2011) Part of the area that was to be open space for humans to frolic at Bay Beach will be given over for toad habitat.

A broad section on the easterly side as well as strips along the shore wall are proposed to become protection areas for Fowler’s toad.

Most of the protection zones don’t impinge on the current sandy beach, but the area directly behind the current concession stand will be off limits to people.

There will be an additional 100 square metres of sandy beach for bathers where the concession stand now sits, said the town’s senior policy planner Dave Heyworth.

Bay Beach condominium project and proposed Fowler's Toad Habitat.

The area in the middle left of the picture away from the beach will be given over to protected habitat for Fowler's Toad, according the application to the Ministry of Natural Resources to permit the construction of the 12-storey condominium tower. Click to enlarge.

The areas along the shore wall will be prepared with stone revetments buried with sand, and the natural cycle of erosion and sand deposition will be allowed to occur.

A part of these naturalized strips will occupy the area where the foundation of the dance hall now stands.

Fowler’s toad is nocturnal and they burrow in “nice fluffy sand” during the summer day and during hibernation periods off summer, Heyworth said.

Toads will be removed from the site during construction and then reintroduced afterward, he said.

The protection areas are required by the Ministry of Natural Resources to provide an overall net benefit to the species which is considered endangered in Ontario.

Because of the toad’s status, any construction or site alteration requires the MNR’s approval.

The MNR has been aware of the file for about a year, said species-at-risk biologist Katharine Yagi. The application for the “overall benefit permit” to allow construction at the site is now being reviewed by MNR staff.

Following the review, there will be a period when other agencies and the public may comment. If the application is accepted, the comments are incorporated into a draft permit that is posted for further review after which a final permit may be issued.

While the Fowler’s Toad has a vast range throughout the eastern United States from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and from Atlantic Ocean to beyond the Mississippi River, its population in Ontario is restricted to a few areas along Lake Erie.

It is listed as endangered in the province’s Endangered Species Act of 2007 and its habitat is protected from being damaged.

According to the MNR’s document, Recovery Strategy for the Fowler’s Toad in Ontario, all sand beaches, dunes, sandy-bottomed ponds and marshes, rocky shoals, seasonal pools and shorelines within 500 metres of the Lake Erie shoreline in areas where toads are known to live are considered habitat.

There are three separate populations in Ontario – the Rondeau area near Chatham, Long Point and the Niagara Peninsula.

Fowler's ToadFowler’s toad (Anaxyrus fowleri) is about five to eight cm in length in adulthood, excluding legs, with females larger than males. The back is gray or buff coloured with darker patches and numerous small dark brown warts on a granular textured skin.

They breed in sandy-bottom or rocky pools. Tadpoles hatch from eggs in water and eat dead organic material. Adults live on land and eat insects, specializing in ants and beetles, and live up to five years.

Mortality rates are high as they are subject to predation by snakes, birds, fish, mammals and other frogs.

Raccoons are special in this regard because their populations are artificially increased around human settlements. Cats don’t like them because the toad produces a noxious secretion from its skin.

They are susceptible to chemicals used in agriculture and mosquito control which may have contributed to their disappearance from Point Pelee and Pelee Island.

The main threat to their survival is habitat destruction, particularly construction of break walls, beach grooming, vehicle use, and removal of dunes for housing developments.

They are also affected by climate-related changes in the lake level, wetland drainage, accumulation of zebra mussel shells, and invasive alien plant species such as European common reed, silver poplar, crown vetch and Kentucky blue grass.

Habitat rehabilitation testing was conducted at Morgan’s Point Conservation Area, Wainfleet Long Beach Conservation Area, James Allen Provincial Park, Nickel Beach and Rock Point Provincial Park.

The tests included erecting snow fence to capture wind-blown sand to create dunes, digging ponds, removing exotic plant species, ending removal and filling of sand at beaches, piling sand at west end of beaches so that wind and storms can replenish beaches and dunes downwind, and termination of beach grooming to provide algae mats for protection.

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