Raise Your Voice for an Official Plan for Niagara that Protects What’s Left of Our Natural Heritage

Let Your Niagara Regional Councillors and Mayors of Your Towns and Cities Know That You Care About About Saving What Remains of Our Precious Natural Areas

For the sake of ours and future generations, let’s save what is left of places like this in our Niagara region.

A Call-Out to All of us from the Biodiversity and Climate Action Committee, a non-partisan coalition of citizens in Niagara, Ontario

Posted August 28th, 2020 on Niagara At Large

Niagara’s Regional Council is about to make what may be the most important decisions of their term.

Will they make the right one?

The Region of Niagara is conducting an Official Plan review to bring its plan into compliance with Provincial Policy. As part of this review, the Region must create a Natural Heritage System (NHS) plan and Water Resource System (WRS) plan. Unfortunately, staff are not currently recommending the best option for either system.

We need to save what is left of places like this – one of the wetlands in Thundering Waters Forest, a sprawling green area in the Niagara River watershed in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Photo courtesy of Lori Monroe

Given the development pressure Niagara Region is under, now is the time to protect our remaining, fragmented natural areas and link them into systems that are robust and resilient enough to ensure the region’s children and grandchildren will be able to depend on all the benefits they provide.

This is not about preserving something that is nice to have, it’s about protecting Niagara’s economy, the health of its people and all the green infrastructure benefits that flow from our forests, rivers and wetlands, including flood and erosion control, pollution mitigation, urban cooling, carbon sequestration, oxygen generation, pollination services and recreational opportunities.

Rich natural places like Waverly Woods in the Niagara,Ontario town of Fort Erie, a home to a diversity of wildlife, are now targets for urban development. Haven’t we paved over enough places like this?

Until now, Niagara has had a “features-based” plan that identified environmentally important areas in isolation. Such plans are not adequate to ensure the health of the environment or the protection of significant features over time.

In July 2020, the Regional staff working on the NHS and WRS plans provided an update to the Planning and Economic Development Committee. Even though their own technical report said that Option 3C for the Natural Heritage System and 2B for the Water Resource System offered the most robust protection for natural areas and water resources into the future, both in our urban and rural areas, staff recommended lesser options that would allow more “flexibility” for development, especially in our cities. (See the chart immediately below that explains the differences between the options).

Natural Heritage Systems and Water Resource Systems should be determined by science. Natural systems do not recognize lines on a map. They do not stop at the borders of settlement areas.

The woodlands, wetlands and waterways, and their buffers and linkages that the science says need to be protected to ensure that we have fully functioning natural area and water systems, must be included as the science dictates, whether they are inside or outside the settlement areas.

The only Option that does that is 3C for the NHS and 2B for the WRS.

Why Regional Council Needs To Act Now To Protect Niagara’s Environment Niagara has:

  • Only 17.5%. forest cover when a minimum of 30% is required for human and environmental health according to Environment Canada;
  • Degraded and fragmented woodlands that consistently rate a “D” in the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s (NPCA) Watershed reports;
  • Poor quality surface water contaminated by fertilizer and pesticides from agriculture, faulty septic systems, sewer overflows and urban stormwater that consistently rates a “D” in NPCA Watershed reports;
  • Already lost 14 species of animals and 25 plants that should be found in our Region but no longer exist.

Public consultation on the matter will be held this fall. Ultimately, the Regional Council will decide which NHS/WRS options are selected.

If it wasn’t clear before the pandemic, it should be clear now. Studies around the world confirm that green places like this are vital to our physical and mental health. Please urge our Niagara Regional Councillors and Mayors to support an Official Plan that protects them. … No half-measures! We have lost enough already.

This may be the most important decision Regional Council makes during this term. With development pressure increasing and most of Niagara’s natural areas already cleared, if action is not taken during this term to protect what remains of the Region’s natural heritage, there will be little left to protect.

To ensure a thriving agricultural sector, healthy citizens, a desirable community and a functioning ecosystem, Council must choose Option 3C for the Natural Heritage System and Option 2B for the Water Resource System.

What You Can Do –

Watch a short delegation made to the Planning and Economic Development Committee about the issue here: https://www.youtube.com/embed/RY_1gIdVSN0?start=4974&end=6400 

Follow the Biodiversity and Climate Action Committee (BCAC) Niagara’s Facebook page to keep up-to-date with everything they are doing to advocate for the best NHS and WRS options.

Join BCAC’s email list so they can let you know when the Region will be conducting further public consultation: bcacniagara@gmail.com

Write the Mayors and Regional councillors and let them know you want them to vote for the best option for the Natural Heritage System (3C) and the Water Resource System (2B). Contact information for members of Regional Council can be found here: https://www.niagararegion.ca/government/council/profiles/default.aspx

Sign up for notices from Regional planning about the NHS and WRS: https://www.niagararegion.ca/official-plan/

 Provide feedback on the Official Plan at any time by going herehttps://www.niagararegion.ca/official-plan/provide-feedback.aspx

About the Biodiversity and Climate Action Committee – The Biodiversity and Climate Action Committee is a citizen-led, non partisan, non-profit coalition of groups and individuals in Niagara, Ontario that, through advocacy and action, will address both the climate and biodiversity crisis in the Region of Niagara, Ontario.

Follow the Biodiversity and Climate Action Committee on Facebook by clicking on https://www.facebook.com/Biodiversity-and-Climate-Action-Committee-Niagara-114688909983836/

To read a recent news commentary Niagara At Large posted on this issue, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2020/07/22/niagara-region-on-cusp-of-making-critical-decisions-on-fate-of-our-natural-heritage/

NIAGARA AT LARGE Encourages You To Join The Conversation By Sharing Your Views On This Post In The Space Following The Bernie Sanders Quote Below.

“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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