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"The Governments should provide for a binational study of the effects of changes in land use on Great Lakes water quality to determine the measures that should be taken to address these changes, including:
(i) the effects of urban and residential growth,
(ii) the effectiveness of existing policies and programs in controlling pollution from land use in all sectors, and
(iii) the identification of measures that should be taken by provincial and state governments, with appropriate assistance from the Parties, to prevent adverse effects.
Governments should proceed with implementation of the SOLEC work on Biodiversity Investment Areas, emphasizing the preservation and rehabilitation of wetlands."
Response to Recommendation
The Government of Canada agrees that changing land use is one of the dominant long-term threats facing the Great Lakes basin ecosystem. Over the next 20 years, the Great Lakes basin is expected to account for one-half of total population growth in Canada. By 2020, it is estimated that the number of Canadians in the basin will have increased by more than 2 million - a growth rate of 22%. Most of this growth will occur along the western end of Lake Ontario in what is referred to as the Golden Horseshoe region (extending from Niagara Falls to Oshawa) - the third most rapidly growing population centre in North America.
Urban land use pressures are being explicitly dealt with in the two largest AOCs - Toronto and Region, and Hamilton Harbour - both of which are located in the centre of Ontario's rapidly growing urban area. Both of these AOCs have made linkages with local and regional land use planning processes. Land use issues are also being addressed in the development of LaMPs. In addition to Toronto and Region, and Hamilton Harbour, both the previous Great Lakes Cleanup Fund and its successor, the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund, have put a high priority on funding Natural Heritage Strategies, which deal with urban and rural land use issues in Areas of Concern. Specifically, they have worked with Severn Sound, St. Clair River, Detroit River, Wheatley Harbour, Niagara River, Hamilton Harbour, and Toronto and Region to complete Natural Heritage Strategies. Natural Heritage Strategies covering the whole Bay of Quinte are almost complete. Many local governments have incorporated these strategies into regional and municipal Official Plans, including Severn Sound, St. Clair River, and Bay of Quinte. Work is continuing with Hamilton Harbour and Toronto municipalities to incorporate Natural Heritage Strategies into their Official Plans.
The influence of land use on the Great Lakes basin ecosystem, including its water quality, air quality, habitat, and biodiversity, was a major theme at the State of the Lake Ecosystem Conferences (SOLEC) of 1996 and 1998; land use was again noted as a significant stress at the 2000 conference.
There are some forthcoming opportunities in Ontario to influence local land use decision making in the Great Lakes. The Provincial Policy Statement on land use is scheduled for a statutory five-year review this year, and this may provide the opportunity to influence province-wide policies and identify measures that should be taken to prevent adverse effects, as called for in the IJC recommendation. In addition, as part of the Ontario government's Operation Clean Water strategy, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs introduced the first reading of the Nutrient Management Act on June 13, 2001. Under the proposed act, clear new standards will be developed for nutrient management on farms and all land-applied materials containing nutrients relating to agriculture, including livestock manure, commercial fertilizer, municipal biosolids, septage, and industrial pulp and paper sludge. The proposed legislation would provide authority for regulations governing several areas, including the following:
The proposed legislation would provide for a framework to phase in standards over time, depending on the size of operations and the kinds of practices that are carried out.
The province has also announced a temporary development freeze for the Oak Ridges Moraine, a significant headwater source for the Greater Toronto bioregion.
However, a major binational study of the effects of changes in land use on Great Lakes water quality conditions - as called for in the IJC recommendation - would likely be too broad and take too long to capture the opportunities that currently exist to influence land use policy in Ontario. While there may be some opportunity for a smaller-scale, domestic land use study, the federal and provincial governments have relatively little influence over local land use planning and decision making. (Provincial policy can, however, influence the municipal planning process and guide land use decisions on Crown lands - for example, forest management planning). Therefore, the most effective way, at present, to deal with the land use impact mentioned in the IJC's Tenth Biennial Report is to
Canada agrees in principle with the importance of conserving and protecting ecologically sensitive areas. A range of government and non-government initiatives already achieve this objective in some measure. The principles underlying the Biodiversity Investment Areas (BIA) concept are important and merit continued commitment and support. However, before embarking on the implementation of a new initiative or concept, the Parties need to take stock of existing protection and conservation initiatives, and the extent to which these important principles are being met. Canada's approach will be to work toward one set of shared ecologically sensitive features or areas. In so doing, we will prevent duplication or reinvention, and build upon and add value to existing initiatives; utilize existing working relationships, partnerships, and partners; and where necessary fill any missing links and gaps in our protection and conservation of ecologically sensitive areas.
The path forward will require further discussion with other government and non-government groups who share these principles but who may not have been engaged in SOLEC to date. SOLEC has proceeded as far as it can in focusing attention on the science underlying biodiversity investment areas and in developing the BIA concept. The Canadian Wildlife Service - Ontario Region is intensifying its focus on wetland science and indicators. Canada views ecologically significant areas as components of the broader ecosystem approach of LaMPs. To proceed further with a shared investment in ecologically sensitive areas, natural resource agencies, including Environment Canada and non-government interests, will need to consider how to ensure that these principles are put into practice, with the necessary focus on science and indicator monitoring. In this regard, a future SOLEC may consider looking at monitoring indicators in ecologically significant areas as reference sites.
Ontario recently announced a four-year, $102-million commitment to help implement the Living Legacy program through new protected areas and the Great Lakes Heritage Coast signature site. A part of this initiative could directly complement the implementation of the concept of biodiversity investment in ecologically significant areas. Canada supports this initiative and the range of similar initiatives and programs, and is prepared to offer its assistance, through COA and Canadian Wildlife Service's national and international programs, in the protection and conservation of ecologically significant Great Lakes sites.