Welcome to Ontario, the land of a thousand lakes. From the fertile farmland in the south, to the rocky, mineral-rich Canadian Shield, to the grassy lowlands of the north, Ontario is rich in forests, wetlands, lakes and streams. As the province with the most culturally diverse population in Canada, our landscape is as extraordinary as its residents. But one thing is clear, young or old, urban or rural, Ontarians have long been inspired by our diverse landscape, beautiful waters and abundance of wildlife.
From mallards and meadowlark, to moose and muskrat, Ontario’s wetland habitats offer food and shelter to a myriad of waterfowl and wildlife, including numerous species at risk. For many people across Ontario, wetlands, wildlife and the great outdoors are part of who they are. Whether it’s paddling through the shadows of steep bluffs and forested valleys, hunters and anglers setting out at dawn, enjoying the serenity of hiking a winding trail or catching your first glimpse of the majestic bald eagle, with every step, you’ll find that Ontario offers a sanctuary in which to appreciate nature.
For others living more urban lifestyles, wetlands are their best chance for enjoying a future with clean water, clean air and green spaces. Wetlands remove excess nutrients and pollutants from the province’s waterways. They store carbon, which would otherwise add to climate change. They provide a buffer from high tides and storm surges that threaten to flood our communities.
No matter where you find yourself in the province, south, central or north, Ontario’s wetlands are valuable natural resources and our work is conserving these amazing places so ducks, fish and people can use them for future generations.
Wetlands are Threatened
Forty per cent of Canada’s population lives in Ontario. Cities are growing. Industry is advancing. Agriculture is expanding. It’s a heavy load for the environment to carry. Pollution, climate change and competing land uses are affecting our forests, wetlands, lakes and streams. Wetlands are a natural solution.
Competing land uses
All across the province, new homes and businesses are being built to serve a growing population. Farming in southern Ontario has become more intensified to serve this growing population, competing for land with urban expansion, energy projects and infrastructure needs. Where does nature fit in? The need for wetland conservation that supports a healthy and prosperous Ontario has never been greater.
The intensity and duration of rainfall events is increasing in magnitude across Ontario and our current infrastructure can’t keep up. While solutions to climate change are costly, we know that working with nature is one of the simplest and most cost-effective things we can do. Conserving Ontario’s wetlands is crucial to maintaining healthy ecosystems and resilient communities.
A patchwork of policies
Despite the myriad of policies in place to protect them, we know that we’re still losing wetlands in Ontario. The current patchwork of policies, regulations and programs are not sufficient to stop the net loss of wetlands. Ontario needs an overarching policy that includes a mitigation sequence which offsets unavoidable wetland loss.
Invasive species are a very real threat to Ontario’s waters, wetlands and woodlands. From Asian carp, to Invasive Phragmites, to European Water Chestnut, these invaders are harmful alien species that threaten our environment, economy and the health of our communities and the people within. Often extremely difficult, if not impossible to remove once established, combatting them begins with preventing the spread and/or introduction of invasive species in the first place.
Saving Wetlands in Ontario
Ducks Unlimited Canada has been delivering its habitat conservation program across Ontario since 1974. Since that time, we have completed more than 3,000 habitat projects across the province, and conserved almost one million acres of wetlands to date.
We have more than 25,000 passionate supporters and more than 1,100 dedicated volunteers committed to the cause. We know what needs to be done and our time-tested formula is simple, but effective. Conserve at-risk wetlands, restore those that have been drained and damaged and manage the habitat projects under our care. But to continue to do what we do best, Ontario needs stronger, better coordinated wetland policies in place.
Conserving southern Ontario wetlands
Some regions of southern Ontario have lost more than 90 per cent of wetlands. Without natural cover, wildlife can’t survive. The land can’t endure extreme weather events and flooding occurs. We have 885 wetland projects in the southern portion of the province that must be maintained and repaired to ensure the remaining habitat stays healthy.
Restoration efforts in northern Ontario
DUC has a strong history here. Over the last 30 years, 40 wetland restoration projects with water control structures have been built, with 50 more that provide enhanced habitat through nest boxes, wild rice planting and beaver pond management. Today’s challenge is maintaining them for the future.
Cleaning up Lake Simcoe
For people living in central Ontario, Lake Simcoe and southeastern Georgian Bay are important natural resources. They are vital sources of drinking water and help generate millions of dollars in tourism every year. The problem is pollutants are depositing large amounts of phosphorus into the lakes. Cleaning up Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay starts with protecting the wetlands around them.
We’re advocating for a wetland action plan in Ontario. We know that despite the myriad of policies in place to protect them, we are still losing wetlands. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has promised that “by 2025, the loss of wetlands in Ontario will be reversed.” It’s a bold, ambitious commitment, one that DUC is motivated and dedicated to help achieve.
While solutions to climate change can be costly, we know that working with nature is one of the simplest and most cost-effective actions we can take. We’re leading new research to investigate the value of wetlands to control flooding and ultimately, gain a better understanding of how combining green infrastructure like wetlands, with traditional grey infrastructure, is part of the solution to climate change in our province.
We’re bringing the wonder of wetlands into the lives of young Ontarians and empowering them to become involved action-oriented wetland conservation projects that will make a difference in their own communities. By connecting students with nature, through safe, interactive and inspiring education content, we’re helping to develop the understanding, enthusiasm, passion and respect for the environment that will drive the future conservation efforts that are critical in saving our precious natural areas.