Tag: Natural Heritage

What Might a Nature Based Recovery Look Like in the Kawarthas?

In 2020 the coronavirus devastated economies, put millions of people out of work, all at a time of global climate and ecological crisis. 2020 was also the year we entered into the UN’s Decade on Restoration that aims to “prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide”. No matter where you sit on the political spectrum, you can agree that one way or another, we are in a time of crisis. A term that has been tossed around over the past year as a way out of the crisis is “a nature based recovery”.

Nature based recoveries are not a new idea, we can look to the past for models on what it might look like, putting millions of people to work while restoring our natural environments. One of the most ambitious conservation projects of all time was the Civilian Conservation Corps. Over the course of the program it employed nearly 3 million Americans while planting over 3,000,000,000 (Billion!) trees. A version of this program has been resurrected by the incoming Biden administration and is expected to present a plan within the next several months. It will be exciting to see it take shape over the coming years.

Embed from Getty Images

Closer to home, we can look to similar projects that helped employ masses of Canadians while enhancing our natural environment. Following the Guelph Conference and the subsequent establishment of the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority there was a resolution to seek any practical project that would employ civilians in the post war era. The Ganaraska region had become a dustbowl due to the high rates of erosion caused by rampant deforestation and the underlying sandy soils easily being swept away by wind or rain. Restoring the Ganaraska Watershed seemed like an obvious candidate for the project. Over the next several years the Ganaraska Authority reforested over 10,000 acres of land while employing thousands of unemployed Canadians.

The benefits of these programs have extended far into the future. Today the Ganaraska watershed is a popular outdoor tourism destination, and is no longer subject to the destructive flooding it once was. Indeed, a University of Oregon study found that for every million dollars invested in watershed restoration it resulted in 16 new or sustained jobs and up to 2.5 million dollars in total economic activitiy. There are very few public sector investments that have rates of return that scale in a similar fashion.

Locally, what might a project of this scale look like that could employ many people while creating enormous ecological benefit? One such project that comes to mind is the Kawarthas Naturally Connected. The KNC is a natural heritage system plan developed over the past decade that aims to provide a linked network of conservation corridors across the Kawarthas. Perhaps a project that restores a ecological corridor from the Oak Ridges Moraine or Rice Lake in the south to the Kawartha Lakes in the north could be a great starting point? As an added benefit, perhaps a multi-day hiking trail could follow the corridor similar to the way the Ontario Waterfront Trail is used as a platform for restoring coastal ecosystems along the great lakes shoreline.

History has demonstrated that these environmental projects can have an enormous environmental and social benefit, hopefully our recovery can help lead to a sustainable future for everyone. The Kawarthas is a leader in environmental expertise and stewardship, if anyone can accomplish a nature based recovery, it is us! In 2016, the UN designated Peterborough a Regional Centre of Expertise for sustainability, lets put that designation to use and carry out a decade of restoration.

Comments on Peterborough’s Draft Natural Heritage Plan

Recently the city of Peterborough released their draft official plan for public comment. The official plan will guide the development of the city for the next several years and council cycles and provide some certainty to members of the public about how the city will develop over the next couple decades. The official plan is divided up into several sections, the one that I am personally most interested in is the Natural Heritage System. The natural heritage system is made up of all of the natural areas in our city, and the connecting features between them. This section includes a map of all identified features in our city, as well as a section of policy that will determine how these areas are regulated and managed. Over the past several years several people including myself have taken part in stakeholder meetings that will help determine the contents of the official plan before it is presented to council to vote on. With the release of the official plan, I have a couple comments and suggestions for the policy portion of the official plan.

In the draft plan. Natural areas designations are divided into “levels” to signify their importance and degree of protection. Under this system unevaluated wetlands are not defined under any level of protection. I would encourage the city to evaluate all wetlands within the city limits and re-evaluate wetlands within the city limits to further understand their boundaries and functions. Currently, although Harper Creek wetlands are designated as provincially significant there has been no effort to evaluate or update the wetland boundary. As a result several developments have had significant negative impact on the wetland function including flooding nearby neighbors.

Harper Creek Wetlands

The draft plan makes mention of the requirement to conduct environmental impact studies on new developments. I would encourage the city to lay out the exact requirements for an EIS as several other municipalities in Ontario do. In addition, the plan should encourage or development proponents to consult with municipal staff or our new environmental advisory committee. The environmental advisory committee will be an excellent resource for our city, so we should put them to work! This is a common practice and one need only look as far as the region of Durham to find an example.

Citizen’s being great natural stewards!

Finally I would encourage the city to experiment with new ways in which citizens might become involved in the identification, protection and monitoring of natural heritage functions within our city. The city of Peterborough is home to one of the greatest concentrations of environmental knowledge in Ontario, and it would be a disappointment to not put that resource to use. Formally recognizing the role that citizen science and stewardship plays in protecting and enhancing our natural areas!

The draft plan is a great first step, let’s make this plan something we can all be proud of!

Stewards Notes Talks Natural Heritage on Pints and Politics

While you’re in for the weekend relaxing before the holidays begin in earnest, why not check out this weeks episode of Pints and Politics. Bill Templeman, Ben Wolfe, Ian Attridge, and myself all sat down to discuss our city’s important natural heritage and how we might plan for a more ecological future. Check out the podcast from the link below and let us know what you think!

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Travel the Coyote Parkway

For the past 50+ years the city of Peterborough has been debating the creation of the parkway on top of some of the greenest spaces and most widely used trails in our city. You may be surprised to hear that this space has become another different transportation corridor in our city. Coyotes roughly appear to be traveling from through our city along this corridor. You may recall the map produced earlier this year detailing Peterborough’s natural heritage system in the form of a metro map, this is a prime example of how wildlife moves around our city.

Get your sighting featured on the map by using the tag #PtboCoyote on twitter or typing a comment below.

On November 13th @SarahDeeth from CHEX news posed the question on twitter if people had been noticing greater numbers of coyotes within the city limits. People were eager to share the approximate locations of their sightings across the city. I realized that this would be an interesting dataset, and quickly went to work assembling everybody’s sightings into a single map. The results were surprising! You can see the live map below!

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Incredibly the Coyotes seem to be using the parkway corridor to travel around the city. Sightings from the north end all the way to medical drive indicate active populations roaming the area. Neighborhoods in Monaghan Ward seem to have active populations surrounding the golf course. I can also personally corroborate an active population within and around Harper Park. It is equally interesting where there are an absence of coyote sightings. Almost no sightings have taken place in the areas on the East Bank sandwiched between the Canal and the Otonabee River. My guess is that it is a relatively highly populated area that lacks easy escape routes, so coyotes avoid the east bank.

Stewards Notes Now Airing Live

Last week I had the opportunity to show Hayden Watters from CBC the natural heritage system map of Peterborough. I had never intended the popularity of the map to take off in the way it did, I simply needed a visual aide. Follow us around the city as we explore the different “transit stops” along the different transit lines. If you’re interested in the interview or want to learn more, head on over to CBC Ontario Morning and check it out. The interview starts at 12:22.

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Peterborough’s Natural Heritage System Metro

One of the obvious metaphors for a natural heritage system is a road or subway network for species that aren’t humans. Just as you require pathways to to work each morning, species need a pathway to move from their homes to their feeding grounds, water, and breeding areas. As a fun little project I decided to create a fictional metro system for all of our feathered, furry and slippery friends in the city. Each of the metro lines correspond with a real corridor that may be used by foxes, birds, snakes, and others to move between the core natural areas in our city. When we discuss the protection of our nature areas, we must not forget the metro system that connects these important natural spaces.

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