Thursday, 16 July 2020

Species at risk in the Greater Golden Horseshoe set to lose their homes

Ontario needs your help: Species at risk in the Greater Golden Horseshoe set to lose their homes




There is a struggle between green and gold taking place in our province that you may not be aware of. Southern Ontario is home to the Greater Golden Horseshoe, one of the fastest-growing regions in North America. It's home to 9 million people- more than 55% of Ontarians. The most recognizable cities located in the Greater Golden Horseshoe included Brantford, Guelph, Peterborough, and Barrie. The area attracts one in three new immigrants to Canada and its population is forecast to surge to 13.5 million by 2041. As a result, developers and industrialists are chomping at the bit, trying to dig their hooves into this promising region.



Green vs Growth

The region’s 32,000 square kilometres is an ideal place to live and work, but it is also home to beautiful, untouched nature and booming agri-business. Some of Canada's most productive farmland is located there. World-renowned natural
features, like the Greenbelt, the Niagara Escarpment, and the Oak Ridges Moraine are found in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Biodiversity and wildlife are abundant in the region, and with great natural resources comes great responsibility. 


Photo by Rene Beignet

All of this potential has created a struggle for economic growth and preserving biodiversity. It's a delicate dance that can be done with care. That care is outlined in the Ontario Government's Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. While the plan focuses on the longterm plan to "promote economic growth, increase housing supply, create jobs and build communities," it also has provisions to protect cultural heritage and biodiversity in the region. It even has a guiding principle about climate change, stating the plan will "integrate climate change considerations into planning– moving towards environmentally sustainable communities by incorporating approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." Sounds great, right? So what's the problem?


Here's the problem


The problem is the Government of Ontario is set to amend the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. This isn't the first time this has happened. The government already revised the plan last year after a thorough public review in 2017. The revisions will ensure that the plan favours economic growth and development and will deprioritize the natural features that make the region so desirable in the first place.


I'm not saying economic growth and opportunity is a bad thing. But this type of fast-tracked and excessive growth means that we are sacrificing a vital part of the natural world, and a key player in our ecosystem. Most importantly species at risk, or as I call them, species not worth the risk.




How would this hurt biodiversity?


The government’s proposal to allow aggregate pits and quarries would contribute greatly to the economic growth of the region and construction of important infrastructure. The problem is these proposed pits and quarries would be located in the habitat of threatened and endangered species throughout the region’s Natural Heritage System. The purpose of the Natural Heritage System is to protect biodiversity, not allow bulldozers to destroy homes of endangered wildlife. These pits and quarries should be relocated to other areas of the Natural Heritage System that are not home to species at risk.


It's a no brainer right? Don't destroy the habitat of species at risk. It's a difficult act to argue in favour of. The Ontario Government probably agrees since they avoided owning up to the impact to species at risk in its Environmental Registry notice, where there is a vague reference to this proposed change



The changes to the Growth Plan also include increased land usage by developers and increasing the allowed population growth more that was originally proposed. In fact, municipalities can’t go lower than the government’s population forecasts, only higher. That sounds like it's good for business, but do you know what it's not good for? The quality of the air we breathe. If traffic and industry are increased in a way that can't be sustained across the landmass, pollution will increase along with it. It will also have a negative impact on wildlife, natural resources and farmland. 


It also impacts the bottom dollar- your bottom dollar. Taxes will increase and the current permanent residents will take the brunt of it. Not the wealthy business owners or the developers. Citizens who love the green space and appreciate the natural beauty of the Greater Golden Horseshoe will suffer the cost of the Government biting off more than the land and ecosystem can chew. But there's still hope.




What can we do?


As citizens of Ontario, we need to stand up for the natural beauty that makes our province so remarkable. Please join me and email your local representative to tell them that you want to protect biodiversity, species at risk and the cultural heritage of the Greater Golden Horseshoe. It's really easy to do! Visit Ontario Nature and sign their petition and "Say No to More Sprawl, Less Nature and Less Farmland."


Make your voice heard and tell the government that you oppose the proposed amendments to Ontario's Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. CLICK HERE to sign the petition, and share it on your social media! The consultation period ends on July 31st, so we need to gather enough signatures by then. We can have growth and green, we just need to prioritize nature for the greater good instead of sacrificing it for selfishness- and gold.




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