While the term Best Practices normally refers to recommended actions for sectoral actors such as farmers and foresters, the OHI uses it to focus on moving both the policy and program 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.
And the Province is addressing several gaps by committing to changes in its land use planning regime, develop a new wetland strategy, and amend the Conservation Authorities Act.
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 the Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review, being targets for both natural heritage protection and a maximum of impervious surface area in new developments; and, most importantly,
- Obtaining commitments, also in the Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review, to both:
- Require watershed and sub-watershed planning prior land use permitting, which the OHI had been calling for since about 2009; and,
- Update its commitment to watershed planning, as the OHI had been calling for since about 2012.
On the last in-set bullet above, the OHI has been appointed to a watershed guidance document advisory group, where we will suggest and support enhanced policies and programs to improve natural heritage protection and watershed management in Ontario, not just for today but to help us deal with a changing climate.
One of the issues the OHI will address in the group is the need to develop a protocol to identify and protect key 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.
Beyond this group, the OHI will continue to facilitate discussions with all sectors in society, both in general, through our newsletter and posts to the Science, Policy, and Performance thread of the OHI Blog; through the OHI webinar series, Pools and Riffles; and along other streams.
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