Next Steps in progress for our truly amazing Greenbelt!

“Natural Heritage Systems planning is about maintaining, restoring and enhancing ecologically sustainable and resilient landscapes.”The following article was written by Thaia Jones, Sierra Club Ontario’s Greenbelt Campaign Chair.As Sierra Club Ontario’s June 22 Greenbelt article discussed, we have much to celebrate in the new Ontario Greenbelt legislation announced on May 18th, but also much to monitor and to work out as the many changes unfold.  Events have been moving fast; two important new action items are here. As was promised, the province has taken a next step that brings us nearer to closing gaps in the natural ecosystem that encompasses not only the greenbelt itself but so much more of the Golden Horseshoe area.  The province has released a proposed Natural Heritage System Plan* and mapping that identifies networks of forests, rivers and wetlands and other natural areas that support biodiversity and that enable wildlife movement among key areas both within and beyond Greenbelt boundaries.  When this plan is completed it can represent a huge step forward for protection of wildlife and for long term sustainability of the Greenbelt itself.  But to be effective we need to get it right.  As with the greenbelt legislation, the province is asking for input.  The mapping needs revision, compiled from a variety of sources and dates and possibly lacking necessary detail in key places.  Boundaries may be inaccurate or miss environmentally sensitive areas.  The plan itself may need revision. For example, the proposed wildlife corridor width of 500 metres needs closer examination to determine if it will be adequate for some species or in some circumstances.  Ontario Greenbelt Alliance and some of its member groups will be giving input and posting comments on EBR. Individuals are also urged to do so.  Anyone who has first-hand knowledge of a specific area, big or small, or of a specific species or habitat requirement could add vital advice. Any and all comments are invited.Please go on the following NHS link to get more detailed information on the NHS proposal and to post suggestions or comments by the October 4th deadline: NHS: province’s second major initiative is the release of a proposed Agricultural System Plan.  As with the NHS Plan, greenbelt borders are no longer a consideration.  The Ag System Plan aims to integrate farming across all of South Central OntarioThis interesting plan has a twofold focus.  To quote directly from the policy proposal: An agricultural land base comprised of prime agricultural areas, including specialty crop areas, and rural lands that together create a continuous productive land base for agriculture; and An agri-food network which includes infrastructure, services and assets important to the viability of the agri-food sector. In other words, not only farming but the viability of the farm community itself will obtain much needed support when this plan is completed.  Again, all those who have ideas and comments to contribute are invited to post them on EBR:Ag System: Together, these two overlapping systems, NHS and AS, will bring Greenbelt-like protections to natural areas, farmland and other necessary infrastructure that supports agriculture across the GGH, and can help to sustain our diverse ecosystem and wildlife, promote food security, and preserve aspects of our Southern Ontario heritage and values. The province has also announced three public Open Houses:Guelph, July 20, 2017, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., Holiday Inn, 601 Scottsdale Drive, Guelph, N1G 3E7Town of East Gwillimbury, August 17, 2017, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., Mount Albert Community Centre, 53 Main Street, Mount Albert, L0G 1M0Peterborough, September 12, 2017, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., Holiday Inn Peterborough-Waterfront, 150 George Street, Peterborough, K9J 3G5*Natural Heritage Systems planning is about maintaining, restoring and enhancing ecologically sustainable and resilient landscapes. It is a strategic approach to addressing biodiversity loss, land use change and the uncertainties of climate change so that we always have clean air, clean water and a rich diversity of plant and animal life to sustain present and future generations. Natural heritage systems planning seeks to engage communities and educate citizens about the many benefits that nature provides and about nature’s fundamental place in supporting social and economic health. (Obtained from Greenbelt Foundation website.)For questions or comments about the new NHS or AS plans, please contact Thaia Jones at: thaiajones[at]gmail.comBlog Image of best practices for NHS planning was obtained from Greenbelt Foundation website.