While governments and land use policies change, climate change impacts, water quality deterioration, and losses of forests and wetlands proceed across Southern Ontario.
This report is intended to demonstrate that we need to increase the amount of land that is well protected for the long term, now.
The province has an opportunity to do so for the Lake Simcoe watershed in the review of the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, 2008, and Plan, 2009, and more broadly in the current consultation on proposed changes to the Provincial Policy Statement.
It is important to establish the understanding that protected lands are what we set aside as home, or habitat, for all other species. A robust protected lands policy should permanently protect the habitat for the collective sum of all of the other species in this world. This is necessary, morally and practically, to ensure a stable and vibrant planet.
The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition’s mapping project identifies levels of protection for our forests, wetlands and shorelines by analyzing the strength of policies covering them.
This analysis includes lands comprised of forests and wetlands and the buffers around them that make up Simcoe County's Natural Heritage System, or NHS.
This analysis covers the entirety of Simcoe County's landscape, excluding Barrie and Orillia.
What we found breaks down like this:
Level 1: Most Protected
Just 14% of Simcoe County's lands have a level of protection that makes it difficult to change them from their current status for most purposes.
However, 11% of these lands are potential resource extraction sites, specifically for aggregate. (See map below.)
Level 1 lands include features protected by provincial policies, namely:
- significant woodlots;
- Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSW's);
- Areas of Natural Scientific Interest (ANSI's);
- Lake Simcoe shoreline;
- natural areas abutting Lake Simcoe;
- Significant Wildlife Habitat;
- Provincial Parks and Natural Areas (such as lands covered by the Niagara Escarpment Plan);
- and Core Areas, such as those covered by the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan.
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required for land-use changes.
Map: Level 1 Protected Areas and Aggregate Potential Overlay
Use the slider to see how aggregate extraction potential overlays protected areas.
Level 2: Somewhat Protected
At Level 2, lands have weaker protections than Level 1. For some activities no Environmental Impact Assessment is required, including for low footprint infrastructure for which there is no alternative, non-intrusive recreation, maintenance of existing infrastructure, fish, forest, and wildlife management, stewardship and conservation activities, flood or erosion control, and retrofits to stormwater facilities.
Level 2 protections inhibit rather than prevent most activities, and include:
- Setbacks and vegetation protection zones around protected features such as ANSI's, PSW's, permanent and intermittent streams and lakes;
- significant groundwater recharge areas and highly vulnerable aquifers;
- linkage areas (Oak Ridges Moraine);
- Simcoe County Greenlands linkage areas;
- and features adjacent to Level 1 features.
Level 3: Not Protected
Level 3 lands include farmland, roads, settlement and built-up areas.
These unprotected lands comprise just over 50,000 hectares.
To put this in context, the City of Toronto, home to nearly 3 million people (Simcoe County is expected to just push past 400,000 by 2031), covers an area of 63,000 hectares.
A letter, co-written by SCGC and the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, sent to Simcoe County Mayors and council members.
December 19, 2018
Dear Mayor and Council,
RE: Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act
The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition represents 17 local groups of citizens who are concerned about the health of Lake Simcoe. The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition represents 35 groups from across Simcoe County and the province including ratepayers, naturalists, indigenous communities and climate advocates who want to create a more prosperous Simcoe County through protection of our water, green spaces and sustainable development.
Recently, the provincial government tabled Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act. This bill would enable municipalities to pass an Open for Business Bylaw which would remove key protective policies for our water, farmland and green spaces in favour of expediently processing development applications which may create employment opportunities. These policies which are under attack are not small, insignificant pieces of legislation. Rather they are keystone policies that keep our water clean and safe to drink, including the Clean Water Act, the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan and the Great Lakes Protection Act.
Our coalitions stand behind these protective policies and their implementation because we know that local economies and the public’s health rely on them. For example, Lake Simcoe contributes $200 M per year to its regional economy. The Clean Water Act, which was a direct to the tragedies in Walkerton, ensures that drinking water sources for Ontarians are free from contamination. We appreciate the need for economic opportunities, but we strongly believe that economic opportunities do not have to come at the expense of our drinking water, lakes or green spaces.
And some of your fellow mayors agree with us on that point. On Thursday December 13th, the Mayor of Barrie, Jeff Lehman, added his name to the growing list of Mayors who have criticized Bill 66. The Mayors of Hamilton, Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton, Aurora, Oakville and Guelphhave also come out against Bill 66. These mayors appreciate the need to protect public health and understand their economies depend on a healthy environment.
Many citizens are very concerned about Bill 66. They want to hear that their councils believe community development and protection of our environment can coexist and be mutually supportive. To learn more about Bill 66 see the Canadian Environmental Law Association’s briefing document at : http://www.cela.ca/sites/cela.ca/files/CELABriefingNote- Bill66andCWA.pdf
Today, we are calling on all municipal councils in the Lake Simcoe watershed, and in Simcoe County, to reassure those citizens that their water and green spaces won’t be sacrificed. We respectfully ask that your council put safety and good regulation first and publicly commit not to use Bill 66. To that end, we enclose an example motion which could be considered by your council.
We would appreciate notification of any actions taken by Council regarding Bill 66. Sincerely,
Executive Director, Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition firstname.lastname@example.org
Executive Director, Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition email@example.com
Photo courtesy of Bill Lishman
Media Release: Ontario Nature
Published March 9, 2017
A new Neptis Foundation report raises the alarm that major loopholes in the Government of Ontario’s proposed Growth Plan would make rural communities a focus of growth, wreaking havoc on the water, nature and communities across the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH). These changes would allow decades-old style of sprawl in over 400 rural towns, villages and hamlets – including many within the protected Greenbelt. Around 31,200 hectares of farmland, natural habitat and rural areas (equivalent in collective size to Mississauga) would come under threat from low-density, car-dependent development.
“This goes against the spirit and intent of the Province’s Growth Plan and its promotion of complete communities,” says Joyce Chau, Executive Director of EcoSpark. “These rural settlement areas were specifically excluded by the Province from the built boundary where growth should not occur because of a lack of servicing.”
The proposed Growth Plan creates a loophole where sprawling greenfield developments could be manipulated to count as intensification. The intent of the Growth Plan is to direct major growth to areas with existing roads, sewers and other major infrastructure in the GGH.
The more than 400 rural towns, villages and hamlets at risk are peppered across the Oak Ridges Moraine, Greenbelt and throughout the GGH. “The proposed Growth Plan, if not amended before its final release, will permanently transform the character of our rural countryside,” says Debbe Crandall, Policy Advisor for STORM. “This underlying development pressure threatens areas with vulnerable water sources and where we’ve asked the Province to grow the Greenbelt.”
Simcoe County has the largest portion of rural settlement areas under threat. The Neptis Foundation identified that 65% of the draft approved intensification in Simcoe Country are in greenfield areas with 83% for single-family detached housing. “These loopholes open the door to costly and unsustainable communities in need of major infrastructure services,” says Joshua Wise, Greenway Program Manager for Ontario Nature. “Pipes and roads will fragment important natural areas and pave over prime farmland.”
“The Province has chance now to close these loopholes,” says Margaret Prophet, Co-chair of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition. “It’s an opportunity to invest in creating complete communities that are cost-effective and better for our environment, farmland and families.”
The proposed Growth Plan permits an archaic formula for growth where few developers profit at the expense of our water, nature and communities in the GGH. EcoSpark, STORM, Ontario Nature and Earthroots are leading voices for natural areas protection in the GGH and growing the Greenbelt. The partnership wants the Province to close this loophole before finalizing the Growth Plan.
Read the full Neptis Foundation report.
For media inquiries and to arrange expert interviews, please contact: John Hassell, Ontario Nature, 416-786-2171
EcoSpark is an environmental charity whose mission is to empower communities to take an active role in protecting and sustaining their local environment. We do this by giving people the tools for education, monitoring and influencing positive change. We have directly worked with over 64,000 people in over 20 watersheds across Southern Ontario. For more information, visit www.ecospark.ca.
Ontario Nature protects wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement. Ontario Nature is a charitable organization representing more than 30,000 members and supporters, and 150 member groups across Ontario. For more information, visit www.ontarionature.org.
Save the Oak Ridges Moraine Coalition (STORM) is focused on protecting the ecological integrity of the Oak Ridges Moraine. Since 1989, STORM has been working at the local and regional levels to ensure that municipalities make good planning decisions to protect its ecological and hydrological functions. For more information, visit www.stormcoalition.org.
Earthroots is a grassroots conservation organization that works aggressively to protect wilderness, wildlife and watersheds in Ontario through research, education and action. We achieved effective protection of threatened ecosystems for over 20 years on behalf of our approximately 12,000 supporters in the province. For more information, visit www.earthroots.org.
The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition (SCGC) consists of over 30 community groups from across Simcoe and the province that have agreed in principle that the Greenbelt needs to expand into Simcoe County to ensure our water, natural heritage and farmland is protected. With representation from farmers, naturalists, environmentalists and ratepayer organizations, the SCGC is a balanced voice that believes that the Greenbelt would create a stronger Simcoe County. For more information, visit www.simcoecountygreenbelt.ca.