BARRIE, Ont.—For decades, Ontario land developers and conservationists have struggled to balance economic and social interests with protection of environment and wildlife. A habitat restoration project now underway in eastern Ontario may point the way to a more productive future.
Today, machines are excavating a set of open-water pools and channels to create new fish habitat at a coastal wetland south of Napanee. The habitat was chosen as compensation for necessary harm from the conversion of the Amherst Island ferry docks. The wetland restoration is an example of how habitat compensation, or offsetting, can be a win-win for development and for nature.
The wetland habitat is owned by Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and the investments now being made will create 11 acres of habitat connecting Clark Island with Lake Ontario—supporting fish, birds and other wildlife for years to come including species at risk such as the least bittern, a wetland-dependent bird. The restoration will also reverse habitat losses that have occurred since water-control structures stabilized the lake levels and allowed vegetation to fill in the natural channels.
DUC has worked in partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Ministry of Transportation, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the local conservation authorities to plan and execute the offsetting project.
“We are pleased to see this type of collaboration occurring in Ontario,” says John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. “Our government will continue to work with organizations like DUC to find innovative and practical approaches to reducing barriers and supporting development that is beneficial to our communities while maintaining our commitment to conservation.”
Lynette Mader, DUC’s manager of provincial operations in Ontario, sees a “made-in-Ontario” offset policy for wetlands as an opportunity to establish clearer rules and standards for wetland conservation.
“Simply put, an offset policy creates a process for compensation of natural habitat, whether it’s for fish or wetlands”, explains Mader. “Just as the Fisheries Act determines when unavoidable harm impacts to fish habitat requires compensation, an offset policy for wetlands would create a reliable process for compensation of unavoidable impacts to wetland habitat.”
A policy that spells out habitat compensation for wetlands should be attractive to land developers, industry, municipalities and environmental organizations. That’s because it would reduce uncertainty for construction proponents while helping to ensure that Ontario does not continue to lose critically needed natural features that keep landscapes healthy and resilient.
“A wetland offset policy is a planning tool. It creates a transparent process supporting sustainable growth while ensuring net habitat gains on the landscape,” says Mader.
The wetland restoration at Clark Island shows how offsetting habitat loss can work to benefit development and nature. Unavoidable harm can be the springboard for newly restored wildlife habitat that enhances the natural bounty of the province.
ABOUT DUCKS UNLIMITED CANADA
Ducks Unlimited Canada delivers wetland conservation that benefits every Canadian. We keep the water in your lakes and rivers clean. We protect your community from the effects of flood and drought. We save wildlife and special natural places. We use science to find solutions to the most important environmental issues of the day and we collaborate with people who are helping create a healthier world. The wetlands we save aren’t just for ducks; they’re for all of us.
Ducks Unlimited Canada
Manager of Provincial Operations
Phone: 705-721-4444 x235
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry