Can You Still See The Forest?

South March Highlands

This is the text of the presentation that I gave to the Ottawa Forest and Greenspace Advisory Committee meeting on April 26, 2010.

I am here today as a local resident

  • who is part of a larger coalition of concerned citizens that oppose the TFD expansion project

I’m here to ask Why does this City keep systematically destroying the SMH?

  • This has been going on for the past 40 years

In the past 10 years the City has been using the road to justify development of the area and vice versa.

  • This has been going on for so long that it is now difficult to tell which came first
  • The chicken or the egg

What baffles me most is how is it that City planners (who have been so busy planning how to cut down trees) have lost sight of the importance of the very forests within which they stand?

So with this presentation I’d like to start by stepping back about 50 km so that we can properly see all the forests involved.

Ottawa’s Other Transportation System

As you can see from this aerial photo, looking down from 50 km, we can see 3 major eco-corridors running in parallel to each other:

  • Gatineau Park to the North
  • Constance Lake – Shirley’s Bay along the River
  • South March Highlands to the South

Each of these eco-corridors plays a vital role in the transportation system of the National Capital:

  • They enable the transportation of animals, fish, and birds who live in and travel within them
  • Who in turn carry native seeds, pollen, and other genetic material up and down these corridors
  • This transportation of vital  genetic material helps the City fight off the invasive species that our now threatening us as a result of the combination of irresponsible development and climate change
  • These eco-corridors also help absorb the GHG emitted by the City’s other transportation system, turning these noxious fumes back into life-giving oxygen.

 How is it that City planners have been oblivious to the whole transportation picture?

Integral To Shirley’s Brook Hydrology

Now let’s zoom in a little so that we can see another transportation system at work

  • This map uses the City’s hydrology database
  • To show how the SMH are the source for the hydrology of Shirley’s Bay
  • The provincially significant wetlands are all shown in Blue so that they show up better
  • Shirley’s Brook drains the SMH wetland complex, transporting water that feeds the nationally significant wetland in Shirley’s Bay
  • In other words, the SMH eco-corridor is connected to the central eco-corridor that we saw on the previous slide.

 Ottawa’s Most Important Ecological Reservoir

Let’s zoom in a bit more and take a closer look at SMH in perspective

  • This area has been described by scientists as  one of the most important ecological reservoirs in the City of Ottawa

 Densest Bio-diversity in Ottawa

SMH has been called a “wild island” that has the richest biodiversity per hectare in the City

  • Over 654 identified species
  • Probably actually over a thousand because the area has not been holistically studied
  • All within a 3×2 km area

 What are we doing to protect it?

Even though this area has been identified as needing protection since 1972, the City has failed at conserving it.

Only 1/3 of the original “protected” 1972 lands remain

  • Lost to development in the south
  • Losing to development in the north
  • Hollowed out in the middle

 It’s Time to Stop The Madness

What little that does remain will not be sustainable if TFD is allowed to cut the remaining area in two:

  • Enabling so-called development within the arc of the road
  • Trillium woods will cease to be a forest
  • South March Conservation forest will die as a forest
  • And all we will have is yet another urban park with nothing left but squirrels and some diseased trees

Greenbelt Shepherd’s Hook Alternative

But it’s not too late to do the right thing!

  • We can extend the greenbelt with a shepherd’s hook that includes SMH
  • This will simultaneously provide protection of both SMH and Shirley’s Bay

 Ottawa’s Gatineau Park

We can then extend this with eco-corridors that encompass the wetlands beyond

  • Perhaps working with the NCC to build Ottawa’s own version of Gatineau Park
  • And then we will have a real and  holistic transportation plan that values eco-connectivity as much as we value automotive connectivity

 It’s Never Too Late To Do The Right Thing

Many I’m sure will whine about the consequences of all the bad decisions made in the past

  • Some will argue that it is too late and we can’t turn back the clock
  • Others will conveniently blame the OMB
  • But it is NEVER too late to do the right thing

All it takes is vision and the courage to follow what your heart knows is right.

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