LETTER: Development should not come at the expense of local wetlands

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“With up to 70% of our southern Ontario wetlands already lost to development, we simply cannot afford to lose any more,” says frustrated letter writer

OrilliaMatters welcomes letters to the editor ([email protected]). The following letter focuses on the impact of development on wetlands in the region.
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I tracked the number of articles and letters that appeared in OrilliaMatters over the past year regarding the destruction of wetlands in our region. These include the Inch Farm Wetlands in Orillia, the Automotive Innovation Park in Oro-Medonte, the wetlands near Ramara Airport and the list is sadly long. It seems to me that this is a recurring theme and that our wetlands are being taken over.

We moved to Oro-Medonte a few years ago to be closer to nature, recreational activities and to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle. Although my background is in the business world, I have always had a deep respect and love for nature.

I have no formal background in science or conservation/environment, but through volunteering with a number of conservation organizations in the area, I have learned more about the importance of nature in our lives, the relationship between the loss of natural spaces, climate change and the loss of biodiversity and of course the importance of protecting our wetlands.

A few key points about wetlands – I’m just going to cover one some:

  • They act as a natural buffer to protect low lying areas from flooding. For example, if it were not for the Minesing wetland (just west of Barrie), which has a floodwater storage capacity of 66 million cubic meters, large parts of Wasaga Beach would under water !
  • Wetlands have been described as the kidneys of the planet as they are able to filter out excess phosphorus and nitrogen and up to 90% of waterborne pathogens. They are an essential natural filter of our water.
  • Wetlands, whether large or small, are carbon sinks – something we need more of in this world of climate change, not less. When wetlands are drained for development, they are lost and, in fact, carbon can be released into the atmosphere as greenhouse gases.
  • Athletes, recreational enthusiasts, birdwatchers and photographers all appreciate the beauty and importance of wetlands. For example, organizations like Ducks Unlimited, whose roots are in hunting, “believe that nature is the foundation of strong communities, a thriving economy and a sustainable future.” They work with many other organizations to conserve, restore and manage wetlands. Kudos to them.

It troubles me and many people I speak to to see the wetlands in our region being destroyed for development or other purposes. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be development in our area because I know there will be. But it should be sustainable and it should be a smart development for the aforementioned reasons.

Development should not come at the expense of our wetlands, forests and moraines which support nature and protect the water that many of us in the region depend on for our drinking water.

So, with up to 70% of our southern Ontario wetlands already lost to “development”, we simply cannot afford to lose any more!

I therefore hope that our leaders, municipal planners, developers and the general public are listening, taking the time to learn about the importance of wetlands and taking steps to ensure that the future development of our region is sustainable and that environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles are applied in decision-making.

Doug Varty
Oro-
Medonyou

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