The County is working on a project to map the County’s Natural Heritage features. The idea is to identify what should be preserved – things like woodlands, streams, wetlands and grasslands. It’s called a Natural Heritage System Plan (NHS Plan) because they are all interconnected. The requirement to have this kind of plan was specified by the Province some time ago. On Monday December 2, the second of a series of meetings was held to explain this to the Public and solicit feedback. As usual, not a lot of people showed up – I counted 15 – and these seemed to be mostly concerned with issues not covered by the plan. The consultants presenting the details said that they were not providing specific policies or strategies to implement the plan.
The specific feedback requested from the public was to choose between three options. At first glance, these seemed identical but they were simply three definitions of what should be included ranging from medium sized areas to small areas. For example, for woodlands, the minimum sized lots ranged from 4 ha to 1 ha in settlement areas.
The impact of the final plan (expected perhaps in the Spring of 2020) will be modifications to the County’s Official Plan but it will not affect “Settlement Areas”. It’s expected that there will be a new section in the Official Plan that will deal with Natural Heritage.
Audience members asked about their perception that Ford had stopped protection of these areas but the consultants said that “No – he basically said hold until the County has identified areas to protect. [Which is what this plan does]. All Ford has done is to move the responsibility of Conservation groups [e.g. GRCA] to be only concerned per their previous responsibility – that is, flood control”.
But there is some interesting info if you look for it – some examples are in the table below:
Northumberland County area
|Provincially significant wetlands (inland)||3.7%|
|Provincially significant wetlands (coastal)||0.6%|
|Significant Wildlife Habitat – Deer Wintering Areas||4.9%|
|Lands owned by Conservation Authorities||0.9%|
The County’s vision for the NHS is good:
“A resilient, interconnected Natural Heritage System that preserves and enhances natural features, ecological functions and native biodiversity, contributes to healthy watersheds, recognizes the important role the agricultural and rural landscape plays in the system, and maintains the unique natural landscape and geography of the County for future generations”.
Although this report is what an average person (in this case me) would understand from this project, I must comment (sorry) that it’s not easy to follow unless you are an expert on planning and also an expert on things like forests. It’s a mix of planning, politics and environmentalism. Most people will not know what they think of the resulting plan until they see how it affects specific issues and by then it will be too late. Meanwhile, we need to rely on planners and politicians making the right choices.
The good news is that the Province and the County are seriously looking at preserving our Natural Heritage – but this is only a first step. Next will come changes to the Official Plan.
Addition 27 Jan 2020: Interactive Map showing Options