TORONTO, July 6, 2017 – This afternoon the Province took an important step towards better protecting nature and farming across the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) with the release of regional plans for a Natural Heritage System and Agricultural System. The plans are an important step towards protecting and recovering biodiversity and supporting healthy, thriving rural communities, especially in an era of climate change.
The Natural Heritage System plan identifies a network of forests, rivers and wetlands that provide essential habitat for wildlife. “We’re thrilled to see the Province step up and lead this important mapping exercise,” says Joshua Wise, Ontario Nature’s Greenway Program Manager. “However, important habitats in regions such as Wellington and Waterloo are not adequately represented in the draft plan. This needs to be fixed.”
The proposed natural heritage system builds outward from the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Greenbelt Plans. “Linking these natural heritage systems is the key to creating a more resilient, healthy landscape,” says Debbe Crandall, Save the Oak Ridges Moraine (STORM) Coalition’s Policy Director. “I am concerned, however, that the proposed linkage areas connecting the core natural habitats are much too narrow – only 500 metres wide. By comparison, linkage areas in the Oak Ridges Moraine are as wide as two kilometres. The corridors are critical placeholders. Once identified, they would be protected from urban development, and would present opportunities for ecological restoration and stewardship over time.”
The Natural Heritage System plan, was released with an Agricultural System plan. Together the two plans will bring Greenbelt-like protections to natural areas, farmland and other necessary infrastructure that supports agriculture across the GGH. “We will carefully review the draft plans to make sure that they meet the needs of nature and rural communities,” says Erin Shapero, Senior Greenbelt and Smart Growth Program Manager at Environmental Defence and the Coordinator of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance. “The government must consult with Indigenous communities, farmers, community groups and other local experts to ensure the plans will truly support biodiversity and agriculture over the long term.”
The Province released the plans on the Environmental Registry for a 90-day public comment period, which concludes October 4, 2017 (Policy Proposal Notices: EBR 013-1014 and 013-0968).
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Earthroots is a grassroots conservation organization that works aggressively to protect wilderness, wildlife and watersheds in Ontario through research, education and action. We achieved effective protection of threatened ecosystems for over 20 years on behalf of our approximately 12,000 supporters in the province. www.earthroots.org.
EcoSpark is an environmental charity whose mission is to empower communities to take an active role in protecting and sustaining their local environment. We do this by giving people the tools for education, monitoring and influencing positive change. We have directly worked with over 64,000 people in over 20 watersheds across Southern Ontario. www.ecospark.ca.
Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all. Environmental Defence has climate change, toxics, land-use and water programs across Canada. www.environmentaldefence.ca.
The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is a defender of Ontarios innovative Greenbelt. The Alliance brings together more than 120 environmental and public health organizations, community groups, ratepayer groups and local environmental organizations to ensure the continued protection and expansion of the Greenbelt. The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance believes that a strong economy and a beautiful well-protected Greenbelt go hand in hand. www.greenbeltalliance.ca.
Ontario Nature protects wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement. Ontario Nature is a charitable organization representing more than 30,000 members and supporters, and 150 member groups across Ontario. www.ontarionature.org.
Save the Oak Ridges Moraine Coalition (STORM) is focused on protecting the ecological integrity of the Oak Ridges Moraine. Since 1989, STORM has been working at the local and regional levels to ensure that municipalities make good planning decisions to protect its ecological and hydrological functions. www.stormcoalition.org.