Toronto – The McGuinty government’s proposed Lake Simcoe Protection Act will be ineffective unless it protects the land that surrounds the Lake, says a partnership of environmental groups called Campaign Lake Simcoe.
Today, Campaign Lake Simcoe released its response to the Ministry of the Environment’s Discussion Paper on Lake Simcoe. “What it Takes to Save Lake Simcoe: A Citizen Response” includes dozens of recommendations for moving the province’s Lake Simcoe Protection Strategy in the right direction.
The groups’ response applauded the province’s commitment to reducing phosphorus, taking an ecosystem approach to water quality issues, and praised the province’s leadership on the many studies undertaken to date, which provide essential background for the Lake Simcoe Protection Strategy.
Chief among the groups’ concerns is that the province’s strategy is overly focused on phosphorus. “Phosphorus is a symptom of what is negatively impacting the health of the ecosystem, not the only cause,” said Robert Eisenberg, co-Chair of Campaign Lake Simcoe and a founder of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition.
“You won’t save this Lake if you allow the wetlands and forests around it to be paved,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. “Similarly, you won’t save the Lake if the new rules don’t apply to land that is 500 metres away from the lake, as is the case near Barrie. The Lake Simcoe Protection Act should apply to an area larger than the watershed, given that sources of atmospheric phosphorus pollution extend beyond the watershed boundary.” The groups believe it is critical that the Act apply to the full South Georgian Bay-Lake Simcoe Source Protection Region as established in the province’s Clean Water Act.
“A healthy Lake Simcoe depends on a healthy watershed. This means comprehensive land use planning that sets and sticks to clear targets for protecting key agricultural areas and a natural heritage system of woodlands and wetlands,” said Caroline Schultz, Executive Director of Ontario Nature whose members include seven conservation organizations within the watershed. “The Lake will benefit, more than 40 endangered species will benefit, and people will benefit.”
Campaign Lake Simcoe has seen overwhelming community support to date for this position, much of it expressed at the “Community Partner Workshop” held last Friday. “Many of the stakeholders are community group and naturalist club members who clearly see the forest AND the trees. They’re not so deep in this stuff that they lose sight of the basic issues: that we need to protect this ecosystem as a whole, including the lake, to make healthy communities,” said Claire Malcolmson, Project Coordinator for Environmental Defence and Campaign Lake Simcoe.
Public Information Forums begin tonight in Barrie from 6 – 9 PM at the Lion’s Gate Banquet Centre, 386 Blake St. It appears that dozens of citizen groups will be there to voice their hopes and concerns to the Minister of the Environment, John Gerretsen.
“This is Lake Simcoe’s Greenbelt moment,” said David Donnelly, legal counsel to Environmental Defence and some local groups. “The public has been asking for this for three years, and now they finally have the chance to get together, and tell the province what THEY think it’s going to take to save the lake.”
The groups’ response, “What it Takes to Save Lake Simcoe” is also critical of the fact that the government’s discussion paper does not address the need to curtail ill-planned urban growth in the Lake Simcoe area, and does not envision a more sustainable watershed community. The response points out one of the most recent and successful ways government has safeguarded these natural features in Ontario is through creating protected and linked areas in the Greenbelt and on the Oak Ridges Moraine. The proposed Lake Simcoe Protection Act needs to protect these features in a similar way.
“What it Takes to Save Lake Simcoe” is clear in its direction that large scale developments and marina resorts must be consistent with the Act, and that new significant shoreline alterations must be prohibited.
Campaign Lake Simcoe’s response is based on its “Critical Elements of the Lake Simcoe Protection Act”, a citizen vision to save Lake Simcoe endorsed by 38 organizations in December 2007. The response can be downloaded for free online: http://www.environmentaldefence.ca/campaignlakesimcoe/pub/CLSFinalResponseDiscPaperAp08.pdf
About Campaign Lake Simcoe: (www.campaignlakesimcoe.ca) Campaign Lake Simcoe is a partnership of Environmental Defence, the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and Ontario Nature and welcomes participation from all citizen groups who care about Lake Simcoe.
– 30 –
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 x 237, (416) 768-9795 (cell)