Please ask your Prime Minister and MPs to strengthen the park management plan to prioritize ecological integrity

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Note: If the Email button fails to work, you can copy the letter below into an email you compose yourself and send it to justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca; Catherine.McKenna@parl.gc.ca; Jane.Philpott@parl.gc.ca; carolyn.bennett@parl.gc.ca; kirsty.duncan@parl.gc.ca; john.mckay@parl.gc.ca; arnold.chan@parl.gc.ca; Gary.Anandasangaree@parl.gc.ca; Salma.Zahid@parl.gc.ca; Shaun.Chen@parl.gc.ca; Bill.Blair@parl.gc.ca; Jennifer.OConnell@parl.gc.ca; Mark.Holland@parl.gc.ca; Deb.Schulte@parl.gc.ca; david.mcguinty@parl.gc.ca; John.Aldag@parl.gc.ca; robbjames7@gmail.com.

The Letter …

Re: Please honour your commitments to strengthen the Rouge National Park Management Plan

Dear Prime Minister, Premier, Ministers, MPs, and MPPs:

Thank you for prioritizing ecological integrity within the strengthened Rouge National Park legislation.

Now, to comply with the legislation and fulfill federal “Liberal Party Approved” commitments, the Park Management Plan must also be strengthened, before private leases are extended in the park.

To prioritize ecological integrity and fulfill federal commitments and mandates, the Park Management Plan must be strengthened to:

  1. Implement Environment Canada’s scientific recommendations for ecological integrity and water quality, outlined in the 2013 Report “How Much Habitat is Enough”;
  1. Implement existing Greenbelt, Rouge Park, Oak Ridges Moraine, and Watershed Conservation Plans, particularly the “main ecological corridor” between Lake Ontario and the Oak Ridges Moraine; and
  1. Include surrounding Greenbelt lands to help create a 100+ km2 Rouge National Park.

These scientific recommendations and conservation plans require forest and wetland restoration to prioritize ecological integrity and combat the costly impacts of pollution, climate change, flooding, and erosion.  Based on their ability to reduce these costly impacts, and improve watershed, ecosystem and public health, a 2009 Ontario Report estimates the following public benefits for these land uses:

  • Near Urban Wetlands: $161,420 per year per hectare (ha)
  • Near Urban Forests: $14,777 per year per hectare (ha)
  • Cash Crop Lands: $291 per year per hectare (1 ha = 2 soccer fields in size)

To avoid $Billions in damages from pollution, climate change, flooding, and erosion, the National Park Management Plan needs to support the timely implementation of existing plans for forest and wetland restoration.

Canada is lagging far behind many other nations in terms of biodiversity protection. Less than 1% of southern Ontario’s land is protected by national and provincial parks — far below our international commitment to protect 17% of Canada’s land.  We cannot afford to dilute or delay science-based remedial action plans in Rouge National Park in southern Ontario — a region with 1/3 of Canada’s endangered species and 1/3 of Canada’s population.

Please demonstrate political integrity by strengthening the Rouge National Park Management Plan to implement existing conservation plans and scientific recommendations for prioritizing ecological integrity.

I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Your name and municipality

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Quote

Federal Liberal Party commitments provided by 16 GTA MPs

“I support amending the Rouge National Urban Park Act and management plan to ensure timely implementation of the main ecological corridor, and to implement science-based federal recommendations for wetland, grassland, forest, and watershed conservation.”

“What is most important is that this park protects ecological integrity and provides GTA residents with the maximum benefits associated with parklands:

  • protection of wildlife and biodiversity;
  • flood mitigation and carbon sequestration;
  • containment and buffering of urban sprawl; and
  • greater opportunities for outdoor recreation and education.

“This means making the restoration and maintenance of ecological integrity the top priority in managing the Park.

I support expanding Rouge Park to include surrounding park lands in the Scarborough, Markham, and Pickering regions where feasible.  …  In principle, I do support making Rouge Park 100+km2″

“I am in favour of amending the Rouge National Urban Park Act to support and compliment [sic] the implementation of existing land use management and conservation plans undertaken by the province of Ontario.

UPDATE2| Honouring Commitments to Strengthen Rouge National (Urban) Park Legislation

In February many of you reminded the new federal government to keep its Rouge Park promises:

Thank you for thinking globally and acting locally

 

The Letter …

RE: Integrity requires addition of Section 6(3) in Bill C-18 and Rouge National Urban Park Act

Dear Prime Minister, Ministers and MPs:

Thank you for introducing Bill C-18 to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act (RNUP Act) and make ecological integrity the top park priority, consistent with existing Rouge Park and national park standards.

Unfortunately, your Government will be undermining ecological and political integrity, if you fail to add the following section 6(3) within Bill C-18 and the RNUP Act: 6(3) Subsection (1) is intended to support and complement the implementation of pre-existing Ontario Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine, Rouge Park and Watershed Conservations Plans.

Section 6(3) is based on the September 2, 2014 demand of the Ontario Government and the following Liberal “party approved” position of 16 eastern GTA candidates, now Liberal Members of Parliament: “I am in favour of amending the Rouge National Urban Park Act to support and complement the implementation of existing land use management and conservation plans undertaken by the province of Ontario.”

Ontario residents are relying on the timely implementation of Ontario’s Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine, Rouge Park and Watershed Conservation Plans to buffer the impacts of growth and climate change. The implementation of these science-based and democratically approved Ontario Conservation Plans is absolutely necessary within RNUP to fulfill federal mandates to:

1) improve watershed health and Great Lakes Water Quality;
2) mitigate growing pollution, flooding and erosion liabilities and climate change risks;
3) improve fish and wildlife habitat, biodiversity and the recovery of species at risk;
4) improve public access to public park lands in Canada’s most under-protected eco-zone;
5) recreate the historic First Nation “Carrying Place Trail” between Lake Ontario and the  Oak Ridges Moraine within the RNUP.

The implementation of Ontario’s Conservation Plans will leave approximately half of Rouge Park’s public lands available for leasing beyond 2050. Therefore, the Federal Government has sufficient latitude to provide legislative support for Ontario’s pre-existing Conservation Plans while dealing equitably with people leasing public lands in this new national park.

Large legislative decisions, like carbon-pollution pricing, and smaller legislative decisions, like the RNUP legislation, will determine the future health of our region and planet.  We hope that years from now you will be able to look back and proudly say: “Our National Rouge Park legislation prioritized ecological integrity and supported the timely implementation of longstanding Ontario Conservation Plans.  We “did the right thing” for Canadians, current and future, and for our planet.”

To demonstrate ecological and political integrity, the above section 6(3) must be included in Bill C-18 and the Rouge National Urban Park Act.

Sincerely,

 

Your name and municipality or riding

UPDATE1| Honouring Commitments to Strengthen Rouge National (Urban) Park Legislation

Last fall many of you reminded the new federal government to keep its Rouge Park promises:

Thank you for thinking globally and acting locally

The Letter …

RE: UPDATE| Honouring Commitments to Strengthen Rouge National (Urban) Park Legislation

Dear Honourable Catherine McKenna,

Thank you for introducing Bill C-18 to amend the flawed Rouge National Urban Park Act (RNUP Act) and make ecological integrity the top park priority.

Please honour other Liberal “Party Approved” commitments by also adopting the following amendments:

• A new RNUP Act section 9 statement such as: “work plans which support and complement the timely implementation of pre-existing Rouge Park, Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine and Watershed Plans”;
• Addition of the words “enhancing, restoring” in section 4 of the RNUP Act;
• Addition of more publicly-owned Greenbelt lands to help create a 100+ km2 National Rouge Park.

These additional amendments are necessary to:

• honour the Liberal “Party Approved” commitments of 15 GTA candidates elected as Liberal MPs;
• honour the Canada and Ontario agreement to “meet or exceed” Ontario ORM and Greenbelt policies;
• provide the explicit Greenbelt and ORM conformity amendment requested by Ontario.

The implementation of pre-existing Ontario Conservation Plans is necessary to:

• improve Lake Ontario’s health and fulfill the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement;
• mitigate climate change and downstream pollution, flooding and erosion liabilities;
• protect and improve fish and wildlife habitat, biodiversity and ecological integrity;
• improve public access to public park lands in Canada’s most populous and under-protected region; and
• restore the Greenbelt and Rouge Park “main ecological corridor” and the First Nation “Carrying Place” Trail between Lake Ontario and the Oak Ridges Moraine.

Approximately 75% of the publicly-owned lands in Rouge Park are currently inaccessible to the public due to subsidized leases to rural residents and farmers and government employees and their families and friends.

The primary crops grown on the leased lands in Rouge Park are soybeans and cattle corn for animal feed and fuel additives — not locally available food products.

If this taxpayer subsidized status quo is hastily frozen by thirty year lease extensions, Canadians will continue to be excluded from most of the publicly-owned lands in this national park and Canadians will forfeit:

• $3.5+ billion worth of park ecological services such as mitigation of pollution, climate change and flooding;
• $100+ million due to lease subsidies and the absence of open and competitive leasing of public land.

Millions of GTA residents are relying on the implementation of Ontario’s Greenbelt, ORM, Rouge Park and Watershed Conservation Plans to buffer the impacts of growth and climate change and better protect human health and quality of life.

The implementation of these science-based and democratically-approved Ontario Conservation Plans will still leave approximately half of the public lands in Rouge Park available for leasing beyond 2050.

Therefore, the Federal Government has sufficient latitude to provide the promised legislative support for Ontario’s Conservation Plans while dealing equitably with people leasing publicly-owned lands in a national park.

Your government can and should demonstrate integrity and create a positive National Rouge Park legacy by providing legislative support for the implementation of pre-existing Ontario Conservation Plans within a 100+ km2 National Rouge Park.

Sincerely,

 

Your name and municipality or riding

ORIGINAL (Mar 15, 2016)| Honouring Commitments to Strengthen Rouge National (Urban) Park Legislation

Last spring many of you asked your new federal government to keep its promise by sending the following letter to provincial and federal politicians:

The Letter …

RE: Honouring Commitments to Strengthen Rouge National (Urban) Park Legislation

Dear Honourable Catherine McKenna,

Rouge Park is public land within one of Canada’s most endangered eco-zones, its most populous region and its most under-protected region in terms of national parks.

In 2015, the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC), the NDP Party and the Green Party, all agreed to support amendments to the last government’s flawed Rouge National (Urban) Park legislation to:

  1. make the restoration and maintenance of ecological integrity the top park priority;
  2. ensure implementation of the Greenbelt and Rouge Park “main ecological corridor” and science based watershed and Great Lakes water quality improvement plans;
  3. add additional public lands to make progress towards a 100 km2 Park.

Contrary to the fears of some, the amended legislation can prioritize ecological integrity, the Rouge Park “main ecological corridor” and watershed improvement plans, while reasonably accommodating farm leases on public lands in the Park.   The Greenbelt and Rouge Park “main ecological corridor” is less than 20% the average park width, leaving room for environmentally sustainable farming.

Based on science and the recommendations of Environment Canada, existing Rouge Park and Watershed Plans identify areas for continued farming and areas for restoring forest and wetland cover on public lands.  Forest and wetland restoration is necessary to: a) improve water quality and the health of our Lake Ontario watersheds and water sources; b) improve habitat for rare and endangered species; c) improve access to public parklands to enhance public health and well-being; d) spread park use over a larger park area to avoid traffic, parking and trail congestion problems and trampling of sensitive areas; and e) absorb water, carbon and pollutants to reduce growing flooding, erosion and pollution liabilities.

The implementation of Rouge Park and Watershed Plans is necessary to buffer the impacts of urban growth and climate change.  In 2013, one severe rain storm cost the GTA almost $1 billion in flood damages and a severe ice storm left thousands without heat and electricity for days.

Long before European settlement and widespread deforestation, the Rouge Watershed was home to indigenous people.  Restoring the Rouge Park “main ecological corridor” will help to recreate the historic “Carrying Place Trail” and its indigenous landscape between Lake Ontario and the Oak Ridges Moraine.

A 2016 Globe and Mail Article quotes retired Parks Canada Superintendent Kevin Van Tighem:

“What is needed right now is top-down change: real leadership from a government, minister and CEO who deeply love the idea of national parks as places free from artifice, commodification and commercialization, where nature rules and all Canadians are free to discover the wild and the natural.”

GTA residents want a first-class National Rouge Park, not the substandard National Urban Park which the last government proposed. Rouge Park’s lands are natural and rural, not urban.  Therefore, the word urban should be deleted from the park name.

Canadians want environmental leadership and legislation which requires the implementation of science-based plans to improve the stability of our climate and the health of our watersheds, ecosystems and communities.

I respectfully ask you to prioritize ecological integrity, the Rouge Park “main ecological corridor” and watershed improvement plans within the amended legislation for a 100 km2 National Rouge Park.

I look forward to hearing from you about your plans to implement this real change.

Sincerely,

 

Your name and municipality or riding

Many Eastern GTA candidates support stronger legislation and plan for a 100+ km2 Rouge National Park

Think Globally, Act Locally

Locally, a survey of candidates in 16 eastern GTA ridings by Friends of the Rouge Watershed shows that most candidates support amendments that would strengthen the Rouge National Park legislation and Plan by:

  1. Implementing existing Rouge Park, Watershed, Greenbelt and ORM Conservation Plans;
  2. Giving priority to the restoration and maintenance of ecological integrity in Rouge Park;
  3. Implementing the Greenbelt / Rouge Park “main ecological corridor” and science-based habitat recommendations;
  4. Enlarging Rouge Park to 100+ km2 by including additional public parklands and Greenbelt lands;
  5. Removing the dangerous misnomer “Urban” from the park name.

With respect to the 16 ridings surveyed and the above amendments to the federal Rouge Park legislation and Plan:

    • The NDP Party and 14 NDP candidates said “yes” to all five questions;
    • One NDP candidate responded in favour of questions 1 through 4;
    • One NDP candidate did not reply;
    • Ten Liberal candidates said “yes” to all five questions;
    • Six Liberal candidates responded in favour of questions 1 through 4;
    • The Green Party and all four Green candidates contacted said “yes” to all five questions;
    • The Conservative Party and its candidates did not reply.

“It is encouraging that so many federal candidates are willing to act locally to amend the Rouge National Park legislation to prioritize ecological integrity and respect conservation science” says FRW President Kevin O’Connor.

“There is a clear need to implement existing Rouge Park, Greenbelt, ORM and watershed plans to improve water quality and biodiversity, and combat dangerous pollution, climate change and flooding risks.” says Jim Robb of FRW.

candidate responses

 Five Rouge National Park Questions Posed to Candidates

Question 1:   If elected, will you support amendments to the Rouge National Urban Park Act and draft park management plan to support the implementation of the:    Greenbelt Act and Plan (2005);  Oak Ridges Moraine (ORM) Conservation Act (2001) and Plan (2002); Rouge Park Management Plan (1994) and Rouge North Management Plan (2001);  Little Rouge Corridor Management Plan (2007); Rouge Park Natural Heritage Action Plan (2008); and Rouge (2007) & Duffins (2003) Watershed Plans.

Question 2:  If elected, will you support the following amended wording for section 6(1) of the Rouge National Urban Park Act as proposed in the Bill introduced by MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan?   “The Minister must, when considering any aspect of the management of the Park, give priority to the restoration and maintenance of ecological integrity through the protection and restoration of natural resources and natural processes, while also giving consideration to cultural heritage, farming and infrastructure needs.”

Question 3:  If elected, will you support amendments to the Rouge National Urban Park Act and management plan to ensure timely implementation of the Greenbelt and Rouge Park North “main ecological corridor” and Environment Canada’s science-based recommendations for improving biological diversity and water quality?

Question 4:  If elected, will you support enlarging the National Rouge Park to 100+ km2 by including existing Rouge Valley and Park lands in Scarborough and Markham, and 24 km2 of additional federal lands in Pickering to shrink the Pickering Airport Zone?

Question 5:   If elected, will you support amending the Rouge National Urban Park Act to remove the dangerous misnomer “Urban” from the park name.

Attached please find:

  1. Copies of Green, NDP and Liberal responses to the five questions
  2. The Rouge Park Questions with supporting background information

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Jim Robb, Friends of the Rouge Watershed Phone: 647-891-9550, Email: jimrobb@frw.ca