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Wetlands in jeopardy, as province favours developers

MZOs pose threat to environment, writes Bob Bowles

Bob Bowles

Orillia Today

Sunday, January 31, 2021

My concerns about the degradation of the environment go back several years.

Government organizations like the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Fisheries and Oceans Canada have for years experienced cuts to their authority and staff.

Many non-profit environmental groups have formed, competing for community funds, since little government funding support exists.

Environmental pressure from developers has greatly increased recently, from the GTA north to Severn Bridge. And more people are moving north, causing a shortage of housing and increasing land prices.

Developers of housing projects, malls, recreational facilities and aggregate extraction are now looking at building on environmental areas like Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSWs).

These significant environmental areas, once protected by past hearings and science, are now open to developers through minister's zoning orders (MZO) from the Ford government, with no appeal from the concerned public. MZOs, seldom used in the past, are now being frequently ordered to allow development on environmental sites.

The last line of defence for these important natural areas are conservation authorities, like the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA).

However, the Ontario government has moved to strip powers from conservation authorities, including those designed to protect communities from erosion and flooding.

Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, Lake Simcoe Watch and Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition are just a few of the groups working for the health of Lake Simcoe along with the LSRCA. Lake Couchiching is now experiencing development applications on both sides of the lake in PSWs. There is not even a conversation authority that protects Lake Couchiching, since LSRCA protection only extends north to Atherley Narrows.

Phosphorus and nitrogen will not only continue to pollute the lakes, but they will be greatly increased with each wetland removed for a development. Environmental groups could support Ford’s 2022 campaign and lobby for change, but developers have deeper pockets.

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A better government understanding of the problem would be more productive.

Bob Bowles is an award-winning writer, artist, photographer and naturalist, founder and co-ordinator of the Ontario master naturalist certificate program at Lakehead University.



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