The Natural Heritage System – a tempest in a teapot

22

by R. Sukhu

There is a lot of misinformation about the Natural Heritage System being published.  I believe that the people responsible for this misinformation are well-intentioned but not well-informed.

Below I have constructed a few “truth tests” to help identify what is true. The intent is that when discussing the Natural Heritage System, you can ask these questions to help you get at the truth.

The first bit of misinformation is that our Municipal Council are responsible creating the Natural Heritage System.  The fact is that this is a provincial directive.  If Council do nothing, then the province will impose it.  To my way of thinking, Council are acting proactively and responsibly by getting involved and attempting to craft a policy that can be customized or tweaked for our community while adhering to the province’s requirements.

As proof that the Natural Heritage System is a provincial directive please look at Section 2.1 of the Provincial Policy Statement 2005.

Truth test: ask “is the Natural Heritage System a provincial directive?”

Another piece of misinformation is that the Natural Heritage System will interfere with farming.  This is not true, if you are faming today you can continue farming in exactly the same way.  Section 2.3.1 of the policy statement states: Prime agricultural areas shall be protected for long-term use for agriculture.”  It cannot get clearer than that, protection of agriculture is the goal.

Truth test: ask “exactly how will the Natural Heritage System change my existing farming practices?” 

The erroneous claim is being made that the government wants “absolute control”.  I seriously doubt that our municipality wants to take control of our farmer’s land.  Everything I read shows that our town is trying to build a vibrant sustainable economy and farming is key.

Truth test: “Why would the municipality or the province want to take over your land?  Where is the benefit?”

I have heard people saying that you would have to get a permit to cut down a tree.  This too is incorrect.  I have consulted the “Community Official Plan – New Revised date 2017” and all I can find is a reference to a Tree Inventory.  Section 3.1.6.2 talks about Significant Woodlands but nowhere can I find anything saying that I cannot cut down a tree.

The goal seems to be to create an inventory of all trees over 10cm – nothing is said about getting a permit to cut down a tree.

Truth test: “Where in the Community Official Plan does it state that you cannot cut down a tree?”

As far as I can see, the only thing that the Natural Heritage System adds is that if you want to build a new building then an Environmental Impact Study may be required.  This is not a bad thing because it will protect our ecosystem from those few bad actors.  Yes, it may add a small cost, but the benefit is that we will ensure that everyone acts responsibly and the land we leave for our children will be worth having.

In closing, I believe that the people responsible for the misinformation raised the alarm before doing the research.  Hopefully reason will prevail, and we can lower the level of agitation that this misinformation has stirred up.