Editor’s Note: We have receive this letter from Howard Clifford, president of the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust.
I am writing to express the serious concern of the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust regarding the proposed Amendment to Lanark County’s Official Plan that would remove candidate ANSI (Area of Natural Scientific Interest) designation from a number of provincially or regionally significant natural areas and re-zone these areas, partially or entirely, as rural.
Such action would put at risk ecologically significant lands and is contrary to the importance that the County attaches to the natural environment in its current official plan. The proposal is inappropriate as an example for natural heritage protection for lower tier municipalities.
MMLT is a non-profit charitable organization that works in and on behalf of the people and communities of the region to preserve ecologically sensitive lands for the long term, notably in Lanark County where we have close to 2000 acres under protection. See our Vision and Mission Statement at mmlt.ca. In addition to working with private land owners wishing to preserve their properties, we also work with volunteers, members, families and friends to increase respect for the natural world and to provide the best wilderness experiences for all ages. Our guided tours and personal approach bring thousands of visitors from across the country and beyond to enjoy Lanark County natural areas.
We understand that two provincially significant candidate ANSIs, A-15 Appleton Wetland and A-5 White Lake, would be affected. In the case of White Lake this would mean the further isolation of Conservation Reserve lands that are already fragmented.
Likewise, we have concerns about the potential fate of the many regionally significant candidate ANSIs that have been identified as worthy of protection. As per David White, the author of the ANSI review and identification report for parts of Lanark County, “the regionally significant ANSI[s],…, also require protection if they are to fulfill their role of providing alternate or backup sites to the provincially significant sites should the values of the latter be compromised or lost due to incompatible activities or other causes.”
In particular, we are concerned for the following candidate ANSIs: Panmure Alvar which is recognized as an internationally significant habitat, Maberly Bog whose re-designation risks total loss of a large area, and Christie Lake whose rock barrens have regionally significant species. In other words, the candidate ANSIs are of significance at the County level and should not be degraded through fragmentation or development that may affect their natural heritage value.
The identification of ANSIs and candidate ANSIs is an important tool for County and municipal planners to be aware of significant natural areas requiring special attention when development proposals are under consideration. They should therefore continue to be recognized in the OP so that their protection can be more assured. Protection can then readily be accomplished by requiring an Environmental Impact Statement and proof of no negative impact before development can proceed.
Ecologically significant areas provide Lanark County an excellent opportunity to celebrate its rich natural heritage. They can be promoted for tourism, thereby increasing the number of visitors to county businesses. Last year close to 2000 people visited the privately owned Blueberry Mountain (a designated County “Wonder”) and hundreds travel to view the orchids at Purdon Conservation Area. These are examples of how unique natural areas attract people seeking outdoor experiences. Of those who visited Blueberry Mountain, over half were from outside Lanark County, including close to 500 from Ottawa, over 75 from other provinces, and some even from overseas. Rather than eroding them, conservation areas can add to property values, given the increasing numbers who want to own properties that give them greater access to nature.
In sum, MMLT requests that the County reconsider the re-designation/removal of candidate ANSIs in the OP and continue to provide for appropriate identification to protect their natural heritage significance and enable the preservation of their ecological benefits for the enjoyment of current and future residents and visitors.
Thank you for your attention to our concerns.