Working to Protect Ontario’s Headwaters, Natural Heritage, and Watersheds

Civic Engagement

Formerly Best Practices, Civic Engagement refers to the OHI’s interest in moving the science, policy, and implementation yardsticks in Ontario toward an enhanced watershed management framework.

The underlying rational is straight-forward. From having been a world leader in the establishment of conservation authorities to help protect our watersheds, while also helping to drive improved protection of the Great Lakes, Ontario now occupies a landscape of gaps and contradictions in policies and their implementation, with inadequate funding, monitoring, reporting, and public engagement.

There is still a solid foundation upon which to build. This includes dedicated staff in progressive natural heritage agencies; the application of adaptive management and integrated watershed management in some agencies; commitments to ecological integrity, biodiversity, and natural capital; and new technologies, from GIS-based analysis to low impact development.

But there is a lot to do if Ontario is to re-capture the flow on watershed management. Key issues on which the OHI has and continues to work include:

  • Ensuring the inclusion of watershed management in the Great Lakes Strategy;
  • Submitting the first set of targets under the Great Lakes Protection Act, suggesting a series of goals for natural heritage protection, based in part on the federal guideline How Much Habitat is Enough
  • Securing some of those targets in land use planning, particularly targets for natural heritage protection, wetland protection, and the percentage of riparian edge with 30 m in natural heritage along both sides of our watercourses;
  • Helping with needed shifts to both sustainable building development and sustainable agriculture; and
  • Obtaining more meaningful monitoring for watershed health across Ontario.

On the last bullet above, the OHI will continue to suggest that headwater health has to become an integral part of watershed monitoring, especially with respect to areas of Contiguous Upland Headwater Catchments. CUHCs (pronounced kooks), are an OHI construct consisting of only first and second order catchments that touch each other, and which the institute believes represent the best opportunity to protect the regional natural heritage and ecological integrity in both headwaters and throughout a watershed. CUHCs are described in our publication Protecting Ontario’s Headwaters, a digital copy of which can be found here.

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