On July 6th the Province took an important step towards better protecting nature and farming across the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) with the release of regional plans for a Natural Heritage System and Agricultural System. The plans are an important step towards protecting and recovering biodiversity and supporting healthy, thriving rural communities, especially in an era of climate change.
The Natural Heritage System plan identifies a network of forests, rivers and wetlands that provide essential habitat for wildlife. “We’re thrilled to see the Province step up and lead this important mapping exercise,” says Joshua Wise, Ontario Nature’s Greenway Program Manager.
The proposed natural heritage system builds outward from the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Greenbelt Plans. “Linking these natural heritage systems is the key to creating a more resilient, healthy landscape,” says Debbe Crandall, Save the Oak Ridges Moraine (STORM) Coalition’s Policy Director. “I am concerned, however, that the proposed linkage areas connecting the core natural habitats are much too narrow – only 500 metres wide. By comparison, linkage areas in the Oak Ridges Moraine are as wide as two kilometres. The corridors are critical placeholders. Once identified, they would be protected from urban development, and would present opportunities for ecological restoration and stewardship over time.”
The Natural Heritage System plan, was released with an Agricultural System plan. Together the two plans will bring Greenbelt-like protections to natural areas, farmland and other necessary infrastructure that supports agriculture across the GGH. “We will carefully review the draft plans to make sure that they meet the needs of nature and rural communities,” says Erin Shapero, Senior Greenbelt and Smart Growth Program Manager at Environmental Defence and the Coordinator of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance. “The government must consult with Indigenous communities, farmers, community groups and other local experts to ensure the plans will truly support biodiversity and agriculture over the long term.”
The Province released the plans on the Environmental Registry for a 90-day public comment period, which concludes October 4, 2017 (Policy Proposal Notices: EBR 013-1014 and 013-0968).
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