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Help protect wetlands

Wye Marsh, photo credit: A. Delray, The Forest Vixen

Wye Marsh, photo credit: A. Delray, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Prior to the 2014 provincial election, Premier Kathleen Wynne pledged to reverse wetland loss by 2025. Accordingly, the Province has proposed a new wetland conservation strategy, which is open for public comment until November 16, 2016. The strategy, however, is not up to the task of protecting and recovering Ontario’s wetlands. Given weak overall targets, loose commitments and the failure to earmark areas for government investment, it is a recipe for inaction and delay.

The overarching target of the proposed strategy is to achieve no net loss of wetlands by 2030. This means accepting ongoing wetland loss for the next 14 years. This target is woefully short of the Premier’s pledge. Considering the immense value of wetlands, the history of loss and the urgent need to protect them this is nothing short of ridiculous.

Wetlands provide habitat for well over 20 percent of Ontario’s species at risk. They also provide benefits to society (e.g., water purification, flood control, erosion reduction, climate change mitigation) valued at more than $51 billion per year in southern Ontario alone according to a 2009 study commissioned by the Province.

As noted in a 2012 report by members of the Great Lakes Wetlands Conservation Action Plan: “We continue to lose wetlands to development, road construction and drainage. The small proportion of original wetlands that remain emphasizes the importance of protecting all remaining wetlands.” Between 2000 and 2011, we lost 6,152 hectares of wetlands in southern Ontario.

Even those wetlands that benefit from the highest level of policy protection in Ontario are disappearing. In some cases, community groups must battle powerful corporate interests to protect Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSWs) in places like Niagara and York Region, where historic wetland losses exceed 85 percent in many areas. Meanwhile, lower Great Lakes coastal wetlands have been lost at a rate of 5,336 hectares per year over the last decade, as highlighted in a 2015 Ducks Unlimited Canada analysis.

Reversing wetland loss means more than stopping the loss. It means turning things around to achieve a net gain of wetland area and function. It requires prioritizing and enhancing the protection of existing wetlands – including those identified as significant in municipal or regional policies and under the international Ramsar Convention – and implementing an effective plan for restoration in areas of greatest historical loss. It also requires significant investment in wetland evaluation, protection (securement) and restoration.

Please join Ontario Nature in calling for:

  1. A clear provincial goal and target to achieve a net gain in wetland area and functions in Ontario by 2025.
  2. Enhancement of protections for PSWs, Great Lakes coastal wetlands, and wetlands identified as locally, regionally or internationally significant.
  3. Provincial budget allocations for wetland evaluation, securement and restoration adequate to achieve a net gain in wetland area and functions by 2025.

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4 Comments

  1. Herman Veenendaal

    An issue that concerns me here in southwestern Ontario is the degree of tile drainage that continues to occur. In one of the driest years on record farmers continue to install tile drainage, removing what little water exists in the top 3 feet of soil.

    When it does rain the river here rises rapidly due to the inflow of drain water, carrying with it the many toxic chemicals applied to the drained fields. The once beautiful Thames has become little more than a farm drain.

    Where once algal blooms appeared no earlier than late June I am now seeing algal blooms in the river by late April due to the excess nutrients dumped into the river via tile drainage.

  2. Karen Nystrom

    I would gladly sign the petition, but when I click on the ‘Read The Petition’ nothing is shown. WHAT ARE WE ALL SIGNING?

  3. j. gilbert

    Is it possible to re-open the petition? I went to sign when it first came out and due to a system glitch couldn’t. I then got busy and forgot and now see that I missed the deadline. I am sure that you would reach your 1000 goal and then some if there was another round.

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