In his letter, “A native non-native” (Autumn 2011, page 7) Don Scallen says that “black locust is not nearly as credible a threat as the other invasive plants featured in [Lorraine Johnson’s] article “Natural invaders” [Spring 2011, page 22].”
Those responsible for control of invasive plants have, by necessity, taken the nuanced approach that Scallen recommends because resources for controlling invasive exotic species are generally insufficient to control even the worst invasives. In a four-level classification of invasive exotic species in southern Ontario, black locust is classified as category two – not the worst, but definitely an invasive weed. Close to home, I have seen many areas completely dominated by black locust and forming impenetrable thickets – undesirable and very difficult to get rid of. In addition, all parts of the tree are toxic to livestock as well as people.
On the other hand, like other legumes, black locust harbours nitrogen-fixing microbes on its roots and consequently will grow in very poor soils, so it may be suitable for providing shade in areas where no other tree will grow (other than ailanthus, misnamed tree of heaven, another category two invasive). The native range of black locust does not come closer than Pennsylvania – considerably farther south than honey locust.
The honey locust, on the other hand, is a tree valued in urban forestry for tolerating urban conditions and light shade, and dropping leaves that disintegrate readily.
It is not invasive.

Bob Kortright, President, Toronto Field Naturalists

The pits

I am very concerned about the open pit quarry they want to put in the area of Shelburne, Ontario, in Melancthon Township. How are we going to feed future generations? They cannot eat the rocks they get out of the quarry.

Uta Bangay, Vankoughnet, Ontario

Toothless legislation

I promptly ended my reading of the Summer 2011 issue at page 15, completely outraged and exasperated at the seemingly useless status of Ontario’s laws for protecting nature. Four articles – “On guard for the moraine” (page 7), “A great deal” (page 8), “Coalition fights off construction” (page 14) and “Turtle hunting” (page 15) – made my blood boil.
I guess the question I’m asking is why are we sinking time, effort and money into working toward “protecting” places and species that, in the end, have no real protection at all? It’s not a “why bother” question, but rather a wakeup call about what we really need to be doing – pushing our lawmakers into making laws that have real teeth. Given all the legislation surrounding the Oak Ridges Moraine, the Niagara Escarpment and endangered species, one would expect them to be properly and completely protected, but they really and truly are not.
Given the current system, our natural places will gradually be nickel and dimed to death because, on the surface, our laws appear to be strong enough to protect vulnerable sectors, but in reality they are not. So our collective effort must focus on strengthening those laws by giving them real teeth, because if we don’t, everything we have done over the past decades and decades to come (short of spending billions to buy significant properties) will be for nothing.

Terry McDonald, Guelph, Ontario