Letter to the Editor

Just as GM is learning they can no longer afford to make SUV’s with the high cost of oil, the Lake Simcoe Watershed community can no longer afford to compromise the natural resources that contribute to their economy.
A report released last week identified the benefits provided by the Watershed at almost $1 billion per year, or about $2,780 annually for each of its 350,000 residents. We can now see that protecting our resources is essential for our economic well-being and not merely the ideal of tree-hugging environmentalists.
But development pressures continue in the Lake Simcoe Watershed, as they do throughout Southern Ontario, and threaten to compromise our natural assets. Unfortunately, the thinking of some developers is not unlike the same rigid thinking that keeps certain car companies producing the same gas guzzling vehicles.
The report added up the dollars and cents of the goods and services provided naturally by the watershed (like water filtration, crop pollination, waste treatment and flood control) and compared it to the cost of replacement by man-made infrastructure. Not only would this infrastructure be more expensive than the current rate of receiving these services for free, but the costs for maintaining that infrastructure would accumulate over the years requiring significantly increased taxes.
If mismanagement of a car company resulting in plant closures is a significant loss, can we really afford to tamper with the economic foundation of an entire community? Mismanagement of the natural resources of the watershed will compromise all industries that rely on them – it will be hard to sell the Lake as a tourist destination when the water is polluted and the trees are replaced with condos. The cost of replacing the services that these natural resources provide with manmade infrastructure will require tax increases that will surely fall back on rate payers.
This report illustrates a change in the way we think about, understand and value our natural spaces. This shows the foresight of last year’s the all-party support for the Watershed as well as the timeliness of the Lake Simcoe’s Protection Act initiated by the provincial government. In the face of climate change, population growth, food security issues and elevated energy cost, we need to take strong measures to keep our resources healthy and protected. Political follow-up with a solid Lake Simcoe Watershed Act and Plan will show a strong leadership position from our government to preserve and enhance our quality of life.
Burkhard Mausberg is the President of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation