Niagara’s Regional Council on Cusp of Deciding the Fate of Our Natural Heritage for Generations to Come

“Niagara’s major environmental groups and nature clubs, along with many citizens, have worked collectively over the past year to ask our elected officials to adopt the best NES (Natural Environment System) option. We hope that other citizens will join us.”

An Important Message from Liz Benneian and Biodiversity and Biodiversity and Climate Action Niagara (BCAN)

Posted May 7th, 2021 on Niagara At Large

With all the development coming to Niagara, can we protect enough of Niagara’s natural environment to ensure it will still be there to serve our children and grandchildren?

On Wednesday, May 12, Regional Councillors will be asked to make one of the most important decisions of this term at the Planning and Economic Development Committee (PEDC) when they choose what Natural Environment System to implement as part of the Region’s new Official Plan.

The most protective option, known as 3C, would apply some additional protection within our urban areas, such as including small green linkages between significant features.

The staff report recommends a slightly less protective option known as 3B, though the report makes clear that all three of the options could be implemented and that staff don’t oppose the implementation of any of the options. Therefore, it’s important that Mayors and Regional Councillors hear from citizens that we want the most protective option, 3C, to be adopted.

            Unlike some other regions, Niagara has never had a Natural Heritage or Water Resource System. The Region has only identified key environmental features such as Provincially Significant Wetlands or Woodlands for protection in its Official plans. Provincial policy now requires better environmental planning.

Natural Heritage Systems (NHS) and Water Resource Systems (WRS) are robust, resilient systems made up of the most ecologically significant or core natural areas, buffers sufficient to protect them from adjacent land uses and linkages between them that support wildlife movement and the natural processes necessary to maintain biological diversity and ecosystem functions over time.

They may also include additional features such as “enhancement areas”, places identified that can help strengthen other features if ecological restoration occurs.

  •             Core areas of the NHS/WRS are identified through scientific surveys of the landscape and according to defined criteria for significant woodlands, wetlands and other natural features
  • Environment Canada says 30% forest cover is the minimum required for a healthy environment. According to the report, only 18.9% of Niagara’s land has greater than 25% tree cover. Our woodlands and our surface water consistently rate a “D” in Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority Watershed reports. Clearly it is not only important to protect our remaining natural areas, we must also improve them.
  • There are many advantages to protecting natural systems. For instance, wetlands and woodlands provide green infrastructure services such as flood abatement and erosion control that would cost taxpayers millions of dollars to replace.

Also, robust, science-based Natural Environment Systems make it clear what land can be developed and what land can’t, aiding to curb sprawl and helping municipalities avoid costly legal battles over development.

As well, maintaining and enhancing natural systems will help Niagara meet Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction goals and the eventual GHG reduction targets that will eventually be imposed.

Further, protecting our natural assets will support Niagara’s agricultural and viticultural businesses and our tourism industry which, pre-Covid, brought more than 13 million people to our area and added $2 billion to our economy. Visitors don’t come to Niagara because it looks like Mississauga or Vaughan, they come here for the beauty of our landscapes and the bounty of our soil.

And finally, one of the lessons of COVID has been that people need nature where they live. That’s why it is so important that our elected officials choose the Option that will best protect our woods and water features within our urban areas.

Niagara’s major environmental groups and nature clubs, along with many citizens, have worked collectively over the past year to ask our elected officials to adopt the best NES option. We hope that other citizens will join us. Please contact your Mayor and Regional Councillors, before Wednesday, and tell them want to see the 3C option selected.

Learn More

     Contact Biodiversity and Climate Action Niagara (BCAN) through Facebook or by email at bcacniagara@gmail.com or for more information call Liz Benneian at 905-562-3819.

     BCAN is a collective of Niagara’s environmental groups and citizens that advocates for proven municipal best practices and policies that protect and enhance local biodiversity and combat climate change.

For more information, visit BCAN’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Biodiversity-and-Climate-Action-Committee-Niagara-114688909983836/

Here is a chart showing what Niagara’s regional government is looking at in terms of options for protecting and preserving our natural heritage –

A Few Final Notes from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper –

Doug Draper participating in the very first  Earth Day in April 1970. The message on the sign is as relevant today as it was then. Get engaged in this important issue now before Niagara’s Regional Council.

To watch the livestream of this coming Wednesday, May 12th Niagara Regional Planning and Economic Development Committee (PEDC) where this important issue will be voted on, click on – https://www.niagararegion.ca/government/council/committees/pedc/default.aspx .

In the meantime, contact your members of Niagara Regional Council and let them know that we want what is left of our valuable natural heritage areas – both inside and outside Niagara’s so-called “settlement areas” or urban boundaries protected and preserved for the health of our communities – no more caving in to predatory developers.

For a list of Niagara Regional Councillors and their contact information, click onhttps://www.niagararegion.ca/government/council/profiles/default.aspx

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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