For Immediate Release: July 20, 2017
Statement from Environmental Defence’s Tim Gray on Ontario’s Wetland Conservation Strategy
Toronto, Ont. – The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s finalized Wetland Conservation Strategy for Ontario, released today, will allow ongoing wetland loss in southern Ontario until 2025. This is bad news for a region where 70 per cent of wetlands have already disappeared. A move to establish a net gain in wetland area is put off until 2030, thirteen years from now, which is unacceptable.
The majority of wetlands in southern Ontario have been lost. We cannot afford to lose more of them in places that are the sources of our drinking water or where they absorb increasingly violent rainfall events. Investment in wetlands and other green infrastructure should be a central plank in the government’s historic public infrastructure investment, planned over the next 10 years.
Wetlands also have a crucial role to play in efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes. The Ontario government has committed reducing the amount of phosphorus entering Lake Erie by 40 per cent – a task that will be much harder to achieve if more wetlands in the basin are lost or degraded. Ontario needs to protect wetlands if it wants to keep Lake Erie and Ontario alive and full of fish and drinkable water.
However, there was some good news. The strategy included the following positive actions:
1. By 2019, the government will prioritize areas under most development pressure for mapping by using remote sensing based-mapping and/or on the ground wetland evaluations.
2. By 2020, the government will conduct wetland evaluations and remote-mapping in identified priority areas and will complete mapping of all coastal wetlands.
3. A commitment to continue to protect Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSWs) and Great Lake coastal wetlands from the impacts of development on adjacent lands like drainage and infrastructure development. These wetland types will not be allowed to be destroyed under wetland “Offset” programs.
4. A commitment to improve the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System (OWES) to better identify and evaluate wetlands.
5. Development of an appropriate method for evaluating PSWs in the Far North that integrates Indigenous knowledge and sound science.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry needs to advance the timelines for ending and reversing wetland loss and commit funding and staff to their action plans for wetland mapping, upgrading the evaluation system and ensuring offsets add to Ontario’s wetland inventory.
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