Woodland restoration

Recommendation #11: Priority core woodland areas in need of active rehabilitation and restoration should be identified through partnerships among the Ministry of Natural Resources, municipalities, and conservation organizations. The intent of this initiative should be to replant gaps in the forest canopy of large core woodlands to counteract fragmentation, increase the size of core natural areas, and create healthier ecosystems. One of the major advantages of this approach is that it will pay immediate ecological dividends. Even though it will take a long time for mature forest to re-establish itself, this initiative is relatively easy to implement and will achieve a good return on investment.

Ecological vs. social value of greenlands

Most greenlands are recognized as having both intrinsic ecological values and extrinsic social or aesthetic values. Until now, the prevalent policy direction has been to embrace both sets of values under one greenlands banner by promoting recreational use in significant natural areas.

Recommendation #12: A future Smart Growth Strategy should disentangle the concept of ecological value from that of social benefit, ensuring that protection is the priority in key natural areas, while in other, less sensitive, areas the focus can be placed on human uses such as passive recreation. We need to recognize that the two concepts are not always compatible and to know with certainty what kind of greenlands values (ecological or social) we are dealing with in deciding the future disposition of specific areas. Future policy needs to recognize that we need green spaces for social and aesthetic reasons, as distinct from those areas that should be protected because they possess a high degree of ecological function. This fundamental distinction needs to be clearly translated into Official Plan documents.

Priority areas for protection

One of the strategic approaches associated with future greenlands planning should be to focus on the identification and protection of core natural areas that span a large geographic area (such as the Oro Moraine or the Carden Plain). This provides an opportunity to put the planning "rules" governing greenlands protection in place well in advance of an untenable planning conflict. This is one of the lessons we could learn from the experiences of the Niagara Escarpment and Oak Ridges Moraine: to anticipate future development pressures in a given area and respond in a proactive fashion to avert crisis and controversy. These are also opportunities to plan beyond conventional short-range (10-to-15-year) time horizons.

A number of key greenlands areas in the Central Ontario Zone should be made priorities for securement and long-term protection. These have been identified because they satisfy one or more of the following criteria:

  • they are large, intact, and relatively undisturbed (natural core areas);
  • they are under immediate threat;
  • they are largely unprotected at present;
  • they represent a mix of forest, grassland, wetland, and landform features;
  • they represent unique or highly sensitive ecosystems that are poorly represented in the Zone.

Recommendation #13: The future vision of the Central Ontario Zone should include protection of large portions of key greenland areas that meet all or some of the criteria above. The large greenland areas on the following preliminary (but not exhaustive) list, some but not all of which are experiencing development pressure, are already recognized as being ecologically significant. These areas would appear to be prime candidates for ongoing and future protection and management at a broad landscape level:

  • Oro Moraine (Simcoe)
  • Midland Peninsula (Simcoe)
  • Carden Plain (Kawartha Lakes)
  • Lake Iroquois Beach (Durham/Northumberland)
  • Peterborough Drumlin Fields
  • Rice Lake Plains (Peterborough/Northumberland)

Some of these areas are already the focus of active land acquisition initiatives, which should continue. The ultimate objective should be to identify these areas in future planning documents, secure as much of the land as can be reasonably obtained through purchase or stewardship agreements, and develop a management plan for the area that can be implemented so that these areas are largely committed for greenlands protection and set aside well in advance of future development pressures.