Safeguard Oak Ridges Moraine Protected Area from Shining Hill Estate's Development Plan

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In response to a proposal from the Shining Hill Estate’s developer, the Town of Newmarket is considering rolling back environmental protections on a portion of the Oak Ridges Moraine.

This ecologically rich area in southwest Newmarket, Ontario, Canada was first formed by glacial activity 10,000 years ago and has been formally protected since 2003. The moraine is headwaters to more than 30 rivers and forms the watershed divide between Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe. The ecological integrity of the moraine has major implications for the health of rivers and lakes nearby which are already facing major degradation issues due to rapid urbanization. Additionally, this protected portion of the moraine represents one of the last remaining intact ecosystems in the Town of Newmarket. The moraine is home to a rich biodiversity of plants and animals and provides numerous ecosystem services that benefit society both locally and globally. Examples of the ecosystem services that the moraine provides include water purification for the 300,000 people whose drinking water relies on the moraine, watershed protection, erosion and flood control, nutrient cycling, improved air quality, climate regulation and carbon storage, and support for human mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. Amidst a climate and ecological crisis, the reasons to keep this area protected have only grown stronger over the last 18 years. Not the opposite.

Unfortunately, across Ontario, air, land, water, and biodiversity are under threat. In the last 150 years, southern Ontario has lost 70% of its wetlands (NCC, 2020) and according to WWF Canada, from 1970-2016 populations of Canadian at-risk species have declined by 59 per cent. On a global scale, more than 11,000 climate scientists from around the world have declared that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency (Ripple et al., 2019) and Earth-system scientists have informed us that four of nine planetary boundaries have been exceeded (Steffen et al., 2015). Despite being in a planetary emergency, this past year Ontario has seen increasing threats to its remaining intact ecosystems. For example, the provincial government has used 30 Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZOs), previously reserved for exceptional circumstances, to fast-track development. These MZOs are being applied to Provincially Significant Wetlands and other historically protected conservation areas across the province.

The area this petition is seeking to protect is not being faced with an MZO, but is being threatened by a proposal to rollback environmental protections. This area had a protective OP 28 restriction placed on it by council in 2003. The developer is asking to re-zone this area to have protections rolled back.

Conservation of increasingly threatened intact ecosystems, like the Oak Ridges Moraine, are of fundamental importance to the current and future viability of human and non-human life on our planet. Nature-based solutions are being called for by the United Nations, political leaders, scientists, business leaders, and communities around the world. Protecting natural ecosystems and engaging in restoration can address threats to biodiversity and reduce climate change through sequestering and storing carbon in natural ecosystems.

The councillors of the Town of Newmarket have two choices:

·       Yield to business-as-usual development that further degrades nearby rivers and lakes and drives us closer to ecosystem and climate collapse

OR

·       Become inspiring leaders committed to seeking innovative solutions to some of the largest issues facing humanity

Join us in fighting for the protection and long-term conservation of one of the few remaining intact ecosystems in the Town of Newmarket situated on the traditional lands of the Wendat, Haudenosaunee, and Anishinaabe peoples and treaty land of the Williams Treaties First Nations! Sign our petition!

 

References

Ecojustice. (2020). Fighting to protect important wetlands in Ontario. Ecojustice. https://ecojustice.ca/case/fighting-to-protect-important-wetlands-duffins-creek/

Nature Conservancy Canada. (2020). Conservation of the Minesing Wetlands expanded. Nature Conservancy of Canada. https://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/where-we-work/ontario/news/conservation-of-the-minesing.html

Oak Ridges Trail Association. (2021). The Oak Ridges Moraine. Oak Ridges Trail Association. https://www.oakridgestrail.org/moraine/

Ripple, W. J., Wolf, C., Newsome, T.M., Barnard, P. & Moomaw, W.R. (2019). World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency. BioScience. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz088

Steffen, W., Richardson, K., Rockström, J., Cornell, S. E., Fetzer, I., Bennett, E. M., Biggs, R., Carpenter, S. R., Vries, W., de Wit, C. A., Folke, C., Gerten, D., Heinke, J., Mace, G. M., Persson, L. M., Ramanathan, V., Reyers, B., & Sörlin, S. (2015). Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.1259855.

WWF Canada. (2020). Living Planet Report Canada Wildlife at Risk. WWF Canada. https://wwf.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/WWF-7-x-9-LPRC_Web.pdf