Ontario Plans Major Increase in Wetland Protection

Ontario Plans Major Increase in Wetland Protection

At long last, the Ontario government, elected less than one year ago, has released for public discussion a new draft of the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), to be passed under the Planning Act. Under the government’s plans, municipalities and the Ontario Municipal Board (the hearing board that adjudicates planning disputes) would need to make land use planning decisions that are “consistent with” the PPS.

In the current PPS, development is prohibited only in Provincially Significant Wetlands (as defined in the PPS – read it at www.mah.gov.on.ca) that lie south and east of the Precambrian Shield – that part of southern Ontario under the most intense development pressure. In a surprise move, the government is proposing to shift the protection line considerably northward, to include all of what the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources calls Site Regions 5E, 6E and 7E. This encompasses an area twice as large as before, extending from north of Sault Ste Marie in the west to Lake Timiskaming on the Ontario-Quebec border in the east, at the headwaters of the Ottawa River – see map.

Another unexpected and welcome move is that under the new draft PPS, no development will be allowed within significant coastal wetlands in the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River System.“Coastal wetlands” means not only those located on one of the Great Lakes or their connecting channels, but also any other wetland that is on a tributary to any of the above-noted water bodies and lies partly or totally downstream of a line located two kilometres (1.2 miles) upstream of the 1:100 year flood line of the large water body to which it is connected. This addition of significant Great Lakes coastal wetlands to the PPS will capture those not already caught by being within Site Regions 5E, 6E and 7E, which will mean those on Lake Superior.

While the proposed protections for more of Ontario’s wetlands are much welcomed by conservationists, the wetland amendments are essentially the only change that the government has made to the natural heritage protection policies in the PPS, which are woefully inadequate. The new PPS proposes good moves to curb urban sprawl, promote public transit and protect farmland, but disappointingly, does little to firm up habitat protection beyond wetlands. To read how the new draft PPS fits into the government’s package of land use planning reforms, please visitwww.planningreform.ontario.ca. Please also watch Ontario Nature’s website for our positions on these planning reforms: www.ontarionature.org.

 

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