The purpose of this Environmental Registry posting was to seek feedback to help identify challenges and opportunities associated with wetland conservation in Ontario, as well as determine priorities for the development of a wetland conservation strategy for Ontario. In general, there was strong support for the development of a wetland conservation strategy. There was also strong advocacy for a holistic, landscape level approach to wetland conservation, as well as recognition that wetland conservation should be balanced with the environmental, economic and social needs of communities. Finally, there was a clear recognition that wetland conservation in Ontario is a shared responsibility and that partnerships are key to success.
Through Wetland Conservation in Ontario: A Discussion Paper a number of specific questions were asked to focus input. One area of focus was the establishment of targets for wetland conservation. Feedback on this topic included:
• agreement that well-developed, science based targets can be an effective tool for conservation;
• ‘no net loss’ of wetlands generally viewed as an overarching aspirational and provincial-level target;
• several calls for the establishment of targets based on wetland area, quality, function, connectivity and/or diversity;
• some disagreement over whether targets should be applied evenly across the province vs. on a regional or watershed scale; and
• concern that data is lacking to measure targets, with all sectors recognizing the need for better mapping and inventory of wetlands in Ontario.
Specific questions were also asked about the concept of ‘no net loss’ of wetlands the potential establishment of a mitigation/compensation hierarchy to improve wetland conservation in Ontario. Feedback on this topic included:
• overall support for the concept of ‘no net loss’, with several calls for a ‘net gain’ approach, particularly where wetland loss has been greatest;
• mixed support for the development of a mitigation-compensation hierarchy;
• clear recognition that the development of a mitigation-compensation hierarchy could provide flexibility, particularly for landowners;
• skepticism that the function of a wetland can be replaced; majority suggest clear focus on avoidance/mitigation;
• majority see a role for the province in leadership of mitigation-compensation hierarchy; and
• all sectors requested involvement/consultation if a mitigation-compensation hierarchy is to be developed.
Finally, analysis of feedback revealed a number of common recommendations for action. These include:
• development of a consistent and clear definition for wetlands across policy;
• improved coordination and integration of wetland management across all levels of government;
• improved inventory and mapping of wetlands across the province;
• a review the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System, including investigation into the use of remote sensing tools and new technology;
• improved communication about the importance of wetlands, particularly in relation to the ecosystem services they provide; and
• improved partnerships with landowners, agricultural and Indigenous communities.
This input will be considered in the development of a wetland conservation strategy for Ontario, which will be posted on the Environmental Registry at a later date for public review and comment.