What Should Be Protected?
Healthy, robust, natural heritage systems provide people with better air and water quality, and provide habitat for animals.
Four fifths of Ontario’s species at risk live in Southern Ontario’s “mixedwood plains” ecozone, within which Simcoe County is situated, so what happens to our greenlands matters to a lot of creatures.
It is not enough to protect the features identified as level 1 in our analysis; those protected patches should be connected to one another.
Permanently protecting a natural heritage system of connected greenlands provides space for plants, animals, and birds to live and migrate.
There are forest and wetland targets for the Lake Simcoe watershed, but not for the Nottawasaga Valley watershed.
The targets used below are relevant, though generalized.
Later in 2019 the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition will release a Lake Simcoe watershed greenlands report, in which mapping results will be measured against specific Provincial and Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) targets for the Lake Simcoe watershed.
Land trusts protect some properties, but the locations are not mapped.
In Simcoe County land trusts protect:
Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust, 349 acres
Couchiching Conservancy, 707 acres
Nature Conservancy of Canada, 1886 acres
Simcoe County is 1,316,947 acres in size.
The graphic to the right gives some sense of how few lands are protected in this way.
The greater of:
(a) 10% of each major watershed and 6% of each subwatershed;
(b) 40% of the historic watershed wetland coverage
should be protected and restored, and there should be no net loss of wetlands.
Simcoe County has 14% wetland cover based on our analysis, and approximately half of its historic wetland cover.
Despite the relatively good looking numbers, Simcoe County is losing wetlands.
Many subwatersheds are below the LSRCA’s watershed-wide targets.
(Subwatersheds are areas that drain into a river that itself drains into the main receiving body of water, such as Lake Simcoe and Lake Huron.)
To achieve “no net loss” all wetlands should be formally evaluated, identified, and protected in the County’s Natural Heritage System.
50% forest cover or more at the watershed scale equates to a low-risk approach that is likely to support most of the potential species, and healthy aquatic systems.
Simcoe County has 22% forest cover
Simcoe County is nowhere near the forest cover target, and forests are being lost.
Forest cover is not evenly distributed across Simcoe County, with most cover in the north.
Targets that preserve and enhance the ecological health and integrity of forests should be set for the subwatersheds.
Urbanizing watersheds should maintain less than 10% hardened, or impervious land cover in order to preserve the abundance and biodiversity of aquatic species.
These lands include road surfaces, parking lots, soil that is compacted from construction, lawns and other areas from which water runs off easily.
Simcoe County is 8% urbanized.
As new lands zoned residential are developed, the urbanized and impervious portion of the County will increase.
Efforts should be made to increase residential density within existing settlement boundaries to limit the need to convert more agricultural and natural lands to residential.