Even though the Government of Ontario has not yet produced a provincial standard on wetland offsetting, local authorities are turning to this practice to compensate for the increasing pressure of development on remaining wetlands.
Many conservation authorities and municipalities have embedded provisions for wetland and other ecosystem offsetting within their permitting policies, with a handful endeavoring to develop fully-fledged offsetting policy documents.
High Standards Set by Conservation Authorities
To date, four of Ontario’s conservation authorities (CAs) have produced detailed ecosystem offsetting policies with the goal of guiding the effective and consistent application of offsetting practices in their jurisdiction.
These four CAs are:
- Toronto and Region Conservation Authority,
- Credit Valley Conservation,
- Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, and
- Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority.
You can find some examples of high standards for wetland and other ecosystem offsetting below.
Opportunities for Improvement
Each of these policies has strengths, consistently including a strict requirement to adhere to the mitigation sequence and ensuring strategic site selection for offset projects. However, they also share some common shortfalls:
- No policy explicitly considers social and cultural ecosystem values under the scope of policy goals.
- No policy makes a commitment to ensure meaningful and respectful engagement with Indigenous communities.
- Public infrastructure projects are often exempted from adhering to the strictest requirements of the policies.
- While transparency and accountability are supported through detailed mandatory reporting to the conservation authority, little to no detailed information about the status of offsetting projects is made available to the public.
By addressing these key opportunities for improvement, Ontario’s conservation authorities can continue to demonstrate their leadership in wetland offsetting policy.