Ontario Legislation Puts Conservation Lands at Risk

Wow, that is a mouth full. This title appears benign and inconsequential. However, when I read the below environmental registry posting fully I came to realise the full extent of this legislation and regulations. https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/019-6141

Conservation Authorities are being asked to provide the government a list of land holdings as the Province wants these lands to be available for greenfield residential development. In many cases these land holdings were donated to Conservation Authorities or the purchases were enabled by conservation foundation donors.

Municipalities and Conservation Authorities were told to cease their MOU’s or consulting agreements wherein Conservation Authorities offered their staff ecologist, biologist and environmental expertise to provide inexpensive local experts for environmental reviews.

The province’s goal to increase housing availability to ostensibly lower prices is laudable. However, directing our conservation authorities to make their long preserved natural heritage lands available for sale may be short-sighted, especially during this climate change crisis.

I can’t imagine Hamilton being without such natural heritage lands as the Dundas Valley, Eramosa Karst etc. While it may be well intentioned, adding residential developments at the expense of our natural heritage on HCA conservation lands is misguided. These conservation lands absorb huge amounts of rain that feed our aquifers, creeks, streams rivers and lakes not to mention the biodiversity of the flora and fauna. Building developments on conservation lands will unintentionally increase the impermeability of these lands while redirecting these waters to sewers for treatment at a much increased cost to property tax payers.

It appears ironic to me that the province wants the conservation authorities to continue to protect residents from floods and to preserve natural hazards. Yet there is very real risk that flooding will increase if we permit conservation lands to be converted to residential development. As I said at a recent Hamilton Conservation Authority board meeting, “This is all too depressing.”