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Collaborative conservation

May 2, 2018
Rob Jowett

Twelve conservation authorities have joined together to help tackle environmental challenges within the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

The Greenbelt Golden Horseshoe Conservation Authorities Collaborative (GGH CAC) was formed to reflecting the geography of the four recently updated provincial plans--Growth Plan, Greenbelt Plan, Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and Niagara Escarpment Plan. The 12 conservation authorities face similar challenges, which they hope to solve working together. These include new policy directions for watershed planning, green infrastructure, low impact development, stormwater master plans, the identification of water resource systems and others.

“[This collaboration among conservation authorities across the Greenbelt and Greater Golden Horseshoe] will be a vehicle to share information on natural systems and sustainability planning between the organizations,” says Credit Valley Conservation CAO and collaborative chair Deborah Martin-Downs. “[It] will enable us to share knowledge, ensure consistency of practice and provide value-added services to our municipal partners who are addressing complex issues including climate change, Great Lakes water quality, public safety through flood remediation and sustainable city building.”

The collaborative was formed from the Conservation Authorities Moraine Coalition, which comprised nine conservation authorities along the Oak Ridges Moraine.

“It was set up to look at issues that were beyond one boundary,” says Martin-Downs. “And so it was very successful for many years but once the greenbelt came into play [we] brought together a number of the conservation authorities to float the [idea of a GGH CAC] and it was very well received.”

The new collaborative brings together the original nine conservation authorities with those from Halton, Grey/Sauble, and the Niagara Peninsula.

“We share information, we share issues, so why not try and be as consistent as we can be with our guidelines, with our science, our responses to a number of issues. So that’s why we came together,” says Martin-Downs.

The collaboration will also provide a platform to deliver education and training on best practices through the Sustainable Technologies Evaluation Program and other emerging centre of excellence hubs for climate change mitigation or ground and surface water modeling.
Comprising 7,284 km2 Ontario’s Greenbelt is one of the largest in the world. It stretches around Lake Ontario from Northumberland County to the Niagara Peninsula, and also includes the entirety of the Niagara Escarpment. It was created in 2005 to natural areas, farmland, and water sources in southern Ontario from urban development.

“What the Greenbelt does is protect 1.8-million acres of farmland and forests and natural areas, and ensures that urban development cannot spread onto those areas,” says Environmental Defence CEO Tim Gray. “It also provides opportunities for recreation for people who are living in these increasingly crowded cities to get out and hike and do other things in more rural areas.” “Economically, in addition to providing the basis for our very robust farm income, it’s also really important for our local tourism and… [It] concentrates development in the urban areas.”

“It also protects the headwaters of the major rivers that flow out into Lake Ontario such as the Humber and the Credit and the Don.” That preserves the safety of drinking water as well as lowering flood risk, Gray says.

The individual conservation authorities which make up the GGH CAC were formed to protect watersheds, says Martin-Downs. The GGH CAC’s mission states that ‘effective natural systems management is still best accomplished with comprehensive planning on a watershed basis.’

Martin-Downs says the new collaborative has several large projects planned, such as wetlands protection, researching green technology, and improving the agricultural system within the Greenbelt.

Three priority projects have been identified for the 2018 collaboration’s work plan. It will begin implementation of more than 100 projects identified in a Greenbelt Enhancement Action Plan. It work with municipal, provincial, federal and other partners to coordinate efforts to link land and lake-related actions to restore, preserve and protect water quality in the Western Lake Ontario basin. And it will continue to review and understand the implications of the four updated provincial plans and associated technical guidance documents to ensure to ensure timely service delivery in planning and permitting functions.