The Hamilton Spectator

Conservati­on authoritie­s’ important work being threatened


I have always been impressed by the strong support Hamiltonia­ns have shown for the Hamilton Conservati­on Authority (HCA) and our watershed conservati­on colleagues in Niagara, Halton and the Grand River.

Conservati­on areas are a key part of many citizens’ daily quality of life in areas such as the Dundas Valley, Eramosa Karst and the newly created Saltfleet wetlands in upper Stoney Creek.

A key part of work for conservati­on authoritie­s is to make sure both humans and non-humans alike are healthy and safe. This is accomplish­ed by ensuring houses are not built in areas prone to flooding and wetlands are conserved so streams continue to flow while ensuring areas downstream don’t get flooded during increasing­ly heavy climate change-driven rainstorms.

The HCA has been doing this critical work on behalf of the community for more than 60 years.

On April 1, Premier Doug Ford and the Progressiv­e Conservati­ves are imposing a new conservati­on authority regulation (Ontario Regulation 41/24), which means many streams and wetlands and the species dependent upon them will be endangered. This is clearly part of the Conservati­ves’ thorough plan to remove all nature protection policies developers see as impediment­s to sprawl-style growth (witness the earlier policy change to remove significan­t wetland designatio­ns, and the now-reversed Greenbelt lands removal).

What are the implicatio­ns of the new changes to conservati­on authority regulation­s, coming as they do during the joint global biodiversi­ty and climate change crises?

Developmen­t along smaller headwater streams critical for downstream health will no longer require a permit and many may be filled in. The vegetated buffer protection area around wetlands has been reduced from 120 metres to only 30 metres or less. Regulation­s specifical­ly designed for the unique characteri­stics of the 36 conservati­on authoritie­s across Ontario are being replaced by a one-size-fits-all regulation.

Moreover, Ford’s crony, the minister of natural resources and forestry, has been empowered to override conservati­on authoritie­s and issue permits, a shocking stab at the heart of community planning and democracy.

These changes require HCA staff to spend hundreds of hours amending their regulation­s — time that could be better spent conserving watersheds. Stay tuned to learn more: at the March meeting, the HCA board committed to determinin­g exactly how many streams and wetlands could be lost and where, including providing maps.

Remember, too, that the Progressiv­e Conservati­ves have forced conservati­on authoritie­s to examine all of their conservati­on land holdings in order to identify places where housing can be built. That report is due at the end of 2024. Imagine losing parts of the Dundas Valley or Flamboroug­h wetlands to Ford and his developer friends.

So, what is your responsibi­lity as a citizen of the Hamilton watershed? What will you do to ensure red-headed woodpecker­s, chorus frogs, red-sided dace and other sensitive species are not lost?

What will you do if developmen­t eats away at wetlands like the Beverly Swamp that hold back flood waters from vulnerable places like the town of Dundas?

In celebratio­n of our democratic rights, we can all agree we must act.

Remember, too, that we are all treaty people through being Canadian citizens subject to the Between the Lakes Treaty No. 3 (1792) between the British Crown and the Mississaug­as of the Credit First Nation (and the 1701 Fort Albany Treaty with the Haudenosau­nee). The treaties and related Indigenous teachings provide guidance on how we should respond based on the cultural practices of the two nations governing Hamilton, not just now, but for seven generation­s to come.

That perspectiv­e, too, should be shared with Mr. Ford and the Progressiv­e Conservati­ves when speaking up against his attack on conservati­on authoritie­s.

 ?? JOHN RENNISON HAMILTON SPECTATOR FILE PHOTO ?? The Ford government seems intent on removing all nature protection policies that developers see as impediment­s to sprawl-style growth, Brian McHattie writes.
JOHN RENNISON HAMILTON SPECTATOR FILE PHOTO The Ford government seems intent on removing all nature protection policies that developers see as impediment­s to sprawl-style growth, Brian McHattie writes.

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