Toronto – Campaign Lake Simcoe welcomed yesterday’s release of Protecting Lake Simcoe: Creating Ontario’s Strategy for Action. The announcement included the introduction of a Scientific Advisory Committee and a new cap on phosphorus discharges into the Lake from sewage treatment plants at 7.3 tonnes per year.
“Simcoe County is the Wild West of Ontario urban sprawl and the new Lake Simcoe Protection Act must bring it under control if Lake Simcoe is to survive,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence. “The province has correctly identified land use changes, meaning urban sprawl, as a primary cause of water quality decline. Now the government needs to do something about it.”
“We look forward to the recognition that maintaining the natural cover of woodlands and wetlands in the watershed is one of the main defences against pollutants entering Lake Simcoe and is also the key to conserving the watershed’s diversity of animal and plant life, including the 30 species at risk found there,” said Caroline Schultz, Executive Director of Ontario Nature.
“Lake Simcoe is in crisis because it doesn’t have a law to protect it as the Niagara Escarpment, the Oak Ridges Moraine and Greenbelt do. If we wish to stop the leveling of the forests that grace Lake Simcoe’s shoreline, to stop the mindless destruction of wetlands, to stop the degradation of the lake itself, we too need an Act,” said Robert Eisenberg, Founding Chair of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition.
“It took more than 30 years for human activity to reduce this great lake to its current ailing state. An ecological disaster can’t be cured overnight, but this is another great step forward, particularly because it envisions residents of the watershed and government working hand in hand,” said Annabel Slaight, Co-founder of the Ladies of the Lake.
Environment Minister John Gerretsen expressed hope that the Act could receive second reading as early as June, 2008. Campaign Simcoe believes this timeline only makes sense.
The citizen movement to create the Act was started in response to deteriorating lake quality and the incredible land rush created by developers leaping over the Greenbelt into Simcoe County. Campaign Lake Simcoe will release its response to the Paper in the next few weeks. This response will be based on the “Critical Elements of the Lake Simcoe Protection Act” a citizens’ agenda for protecting and restoring Lake Simcoe that has now been endorsed by 38 groups from around the lake. It says an effective Lake Simcoe Protection Act must:
1. Restore water quality and quantity to levels compatible with cold water fish reproduction and control of algae and weeds;
2. Create a natural heritage and agricultural system to protect green space and restrict new development to existing and approved settlement areas;
3. Consult with First Nations to identify and protect First Nations heritage sites;
4. Enshrine a governance structure as recommended by the Lake Simcoe Environmental Management Strategy (LSEMS) Working Group and, in large part, by the LSEMS Steering Committee;
5. Ensure that large-scale resort developments such as Big Bay Point are consistent with the Lake Simcoe Protection Act;
6. Create recreational access that helps people treasure the lake and does not harm it;
7. Increase commitment to the restoration and rehabilitation of the Lake.
Campaign Lake Simcoe is a partnership of Environmental Defence, Ontario Nature, and the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition.
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For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280 -9521 (cell)
Robert Eisenberg, Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, (416) 484-1250 x 220
Caroline Schultz, Ontario Nature, (416) 416-444-8419