The prey impaling Eastern Loggerhead Shrike, an endangered songbird that hunts like a hawk, is quickly becoming the symbol of Ontario Landowners Association resistance against legislated habitat protection requirements.
Black and white and a little smaller than a robin, the name of the rare bird was invoked twice recently, once in connection with an OLA bulldozing protest beginning May 7 and the second time when association members presented to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry on Parliament Hill May 1.
The OLA has announced plans to mount the bulldozers to graphically indicate their objection to lack of compensation provisions in the proposed provincial endangered species legislation.
The focus of the protest will be Woodlawn, the rural Ottawa hamlet which is home to rookie OLA president Jack MacLaren.
MacLaren said three river-front lots encompassing about five acres which belong to his brother will be cleared of habitat by the Carleton Landowners with 16 other county OLA chapters invited to follow suit.
"These lots are worth about $200,000 each. If they were declared habitat for endangered or threatened species, they'd become almost worthless."
That's possible because the land in question is covered with hawthorn, the spikes of which are used by the loggerhead shrike to impale its prey, MacLaren said.
When they addressed the senate committee, OLA members Bill Duncan, Jacqueline Fennell, Merle Bowes and Shawn Carmichael raised the shrike in connection with the habitat protection issue. Fennell made the point that such requirements remove land from production as a service to all taxpayers and owners should be compensated.
While Senators indicated sympathy for the cause, they asked for a definition of "loggerhead shrike" along with details of its habitat and habits.
Under proposed species protection legislation, MacLaren said, farmers and other property owners will be forced to safeguard habitat as they've always willingly done... only now their land could become legally encumbered, devalued, and use-restricted without compensation.
However, Wendy Francis, Director of Conservation and Science with Ontario Nature, suggested the OLA is "shooting itself in the foot" in fighting proposed legislation which she claimed will be more flexible than laws already in place which protect the shrike and other species, along with their habitat.
Landowners in the Stittsville area resorted to bulldozing after city officials arbitrarily designated large privately owned tracts as protected wetlands without ever setting foot on them. The action forced the city to back off.
Glengarry Landowners are considering a couple of possible sites to bulldoze as well, said OLA vice-president Jamie MacMaster, adding owners are being forced to take such action because privately held scrub and wetlands are in danger of falling under government control if left in their current state.
The Landowners' position is shared by Ontario mayors, municipalities and the Ontario Forestry Coalition which are concerned about the confiscatory nature of the legislation and lack of full public consultation.