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Grasslands, Policy, Wetlands

Can the aggregate industry make space for biodiversity?

Space for wildlife may be found in unexpected places in southern Ontario

October 31, 2019
A turtle in the sun.
A turtle in the sun. © DUC/Bill Kenall

We must be creative about finding space in busy southern Ontario.

Did you know that Ontario’s turtle species are endangered? Did you know that studies show we’ve lost one in four birds in North America? There is an urgent need to act now or see a future with empty waterways and skies.

Rapid population growth is an ongoing reality and we must plan wisely if we want clean water and healthy wildlife in Ontario’s future. Following industry consultations, Ontario is proposing changes to the Aggregate Resources Act.

As part of the process, Ontarians can review the proposal and provide comments on the Environmental Registry of Ontario up to November 4, 2019.

The proposal’s focus is on growth while “protecting the environment and addressing impacts to communities”. This is an opportunity to engage with the future because today’s public policy is the framework for tomorrow’s conservation success.

The aggregate industry can contribute meaningfully to habitat restoration through smart water and landscape management. Most aggregate facilities in southern Ontario are close to where the major growth is happening. These spaces are right in the thick of Ontario’s busiest regions and can play a substantial role in sustaining natural resources.

Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) intends to focus our comments on two themes in the proposal: protecting water resources and enhancing rehabilitation of former aggregate sites.

Protect water quality with wetlands

DUC supports public policy that protects the water resources everyone needs and sees a starring role for wetlands in improving water quality and reducing impacts of floods. Ontarians must manage “natural infrastructure” systems—waterways and wetlands—just as we manage industrial systems for water management. Wetlands and grasslands can capture, slow and filter water, protecting downstream communities.

Rehabilitate wildlife habitats

DUC sees rehabilitation of former aggregate sites as a promising tool for restoring lost wildlife habitats. We provide habitat restoration expertise to the aggregate sector, making plans for rehabilitation that turns former operational sites into space for wildlife. Habitat restoration contributes significantly to biodiversity—including making space for rapidly declining turtle and songbird populations.

We must find room for biodiversity, even among the concrete and towers.

A version of this story appears as an opinion piece on Ontario news sites: Can the aggregate industry make space for wildlife?