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Smiling Turtles Halt North Bay Casino Plan

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Smiling Turtles Halt North Bay Casino Plan

There have been plenty of opponents to recent plans to construct a new major casino in the small Canadian town of North Bay, but none of them have succeeded in halting the project. However, the local, endangered ‘smiling turtle’ might just be able to achieve what they could not.

The Blanding’s Turtle, also known as the smiling turtle, is iconic in the region about 150 miles North of Toronto. The reptile has unfortunately become an increasingly rare sight in the area, however, as it is considered a threatened species. If the casino plans are allowed to move ahead, the species might end up extinct.

Bad News for Blanding’s Turtles

A local group of opponents say that the gaming establishment is set to be built on a delicate wetland ecosystem, which is an essential nesting ground for the Blanding’s turtles. According to the group, ‘Save the Turtle, Stop the Casino’, and its spokesman Jim Gray, he is shocked that the council would even consider allowing such a venue to be built on Pinewood Park Drive.

Gray says that the piece of land is a watershed area for Lake Nipissing, and that such a massive development could be harmful – or even deadly – to endangered species like the smiling turtle.

Juvenile Blanding's Turtle

Late last year, the City Council of North Bay was met with heavy criticism after it voted 8-3 in favor of allowing the casino to be constructed in the small city of just 50,000 residents. Opponents of the plans have claimed that lawmakers put the developer’s priorities ahead of those of the North Bay community, while supporters have hailed the project as a valuable aid to economic growth.

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Council Tries to Override the ESA

The $31 million gambling destination is expected to create around 200 jobs for locals. However, Gray and his group insist that these full time positions are ‘not worth it’, saying that the council has ignored provincial laws protecting threatened species of animals and plants.

He says that he will be asking developers not to proceed on the site, as well as the process that led them to choosing that particular area. Sadly, however, the plight of these fascinating creatures has largely fallen on deaf ears, as authorities have now moved to make the wetland area in North Bay exempt from the province’s Endangered Species Act (ESA).

authorities have now moved to make the wetland area in North Bay exempt from the province’s Endangered Species Act

This move would allow developers to pave and build over the marshes on the land in question, which could have dire consequences for the ecosystem and its inhabitants. The motion passed with an 8-2 vote, but council member Mark King forced a motion of reconsideration, meaning that the issue is still on the table.

Notably, the area is also protected under the federal Species at Risk Act, not to mention the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. Council members have thus far pledged responsible development, but residents of North Bay have remained outraged that such a move could even be up for consideration.

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