Wetlands are among the most productive and diverse habitats on Earth and form an important part of Ontario’s landscape. From the swamps and marshes in the southern part of the province to the vast peatlands in the north, wetlands play a vital role in supporting Ontario’s rich biodiversity and providing essential ecosystem services on which Ontarians depend for health and well-being.
In 2014, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) was given a mandate to work with other ministries, municipalities and partners to review Ontario’s broad wetland conservation framework and identify opportunities to strengthen policies and stop the net loss of wetlands. To achieve this mandate, the MNRF is working to develop a wetland conservation strategy for Ontario that will identify a provincial vision, goals and outcomes for wetlands in Ontario and set out a series of actions that the government will undertake over the next 15 years to improve wetland conservation and stop the net loss of wetlands.
As a first step in the process, MNRF released Wetland Conservation in Ontario: A Discussion Paper. The purpose of the paper was to provide some ideas and priorities for wetland conservation in Ontario and solicit feedback from a diverse array of stakeholders on the current framework and ideas for the future of wetland conservation in Ontario. Wetland Conservation in Ontario: A Discussion Paper was posted on the Environmental Registry on July 27th, 2015 for 95-days (www.ontario.ca/environmentalregistry and search 012-4464). As well, a series of public, Indigenous and stakeholder listening sessions were held to gather input. Over 286 comments were submitted via the Environmental Registry, which provided thoughtful analysis and clear recommendations for the development of a wetland conservation strategy for Ontario.
Building on the input received, MNRF has developed a proposed Wetland Conservation Strategy for Ontario. The Strategy represents a 15-year blueprint to improve the conservation of wetlands across the province, providing a conceptual framework for conserving Ontario’s wetlands, as well as a list of actions the Ontario government will undertake to ensure progress. The key goals include advancing public awareness of Ontario’s wetlands, increasing knowledge, strengthening partnerships to maximize conservation efforts and to continue to improve and develop policy approaches as opportunities arise, including development of a wetland offsetting policy to prevent the net loss of wetlands and promote net gain and better support implementation and compliance.