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Sustainable King – why save our wetlands?

February 4, 2014   ·   0 Comments

The first of the Sustainability Committee’s community information sessions, Sustainable Sundays, held Jan. 26 at the King City Library, was a great success and was well attended by rural and all three village residents alike.  Featuring Mike Williams from Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and Coreena Smith from the Toronto and Regional Conservation Authority (TRCA), the group learned about the roles of both organizations and how important it is for all of us in King to maintain and improve the wetlands that we are so privileged to have in our community.
Ducks Unlimited Canada has been conserving, restoring and managing wetlands for the benefit of waterfowl, wildlife and people for more than 75 years. With 1,400 projects in Ontario, the group oversees more than 1 million acres across the province. Thirteen of those projects are in King, ranging from full management and helping landowners to restore wetlands to simply installing nest boxes. DUC is very interested in expanding its activities to care for more areas in King.
In 1999 a comprehensive Mallard Study was conducted across King Township.  Results showed that the breeding was very successful with lots of ducklings hatching.  However, due to predation by cats, dogs and coyotes, a large percentage of the new brood was killed.  These discouraging results show us all how important it is not to let our pets roam freely.
Did you know that wetlands in Ontario are home to 142 species of birds, 53 types of fish and some 20 different mammals? Or that the difference between a swamp and a marsh is the presence of trees or shrubs? Swamps are wet areas with 25% or more trees or shrubs while marshes are not treed.
So why are wetlands so important to all of us?  First of all they act as the “kidneys” of the landscape. That is to say that they remove impurities from the water such as phosphorus, heavy metals and toxins. Cattails are particularly good at this.  Wetlands enable groundwater recharge, control flooding and erosion, act like sponges and provide opportunities for recreation, research and “critter dipping.”
Remember the fun you had as a child exploring pond edges, catching frogs, minnows and tadpoles?
It is very important that those of us near wetlands not harm them by disturbing the vegetation or the soil within at least 10 metres of the edges. This includes not dumping leaves or grass clippings that fill them in, restrict flow and produce excess algae. Fertilizers from crop fields and nearby lawns also contribute to unhealthy wetlands.
People are often worried that wetlands are breeding grounds for massive clouds of mosquitoes … some spreading West Nile. This is not actually the case. If a wetland is kept healthy and free of debris then it also is home to many hungry predators such as frogs, toads, salamanders, snakes, birds, spiders, bats and dragonflies. The sources of the pesky mosquitos are more likely to be in our villages and subdivisions in the stagnant still water in old tires, gutters and birdbaths.
While we may think that King is relatively well off concerning its wetlands, we should remember that King has lost more than the provincial average since 1982 – losing some 75% (compared to 72% across the province)!
The message for all of us is that we should protect what wetlands are left, enhance them where possible, restore where degraded and create new ones where possible. There is funding available to help landowners restore their wetlands.  If you are interested in more information or require advice about your wetland please call 1-705-721-4444 ext. 247 or visit http://www.ducks.ca/
King Township lies within the jurisdiction of two Conservation Authorities, the Lake Simcoe Regional Conservation Authority (LSRCA) in the northern portion (http://www.lsrca.on.ca or 1-800-465-0437) and the Toronto Regional Conservation Authority (TRCA) to the south.  TRCA was created in response to the flooding and destruction caused by Hurricane Hazel in 1954.  Amazingly it is now the largest landowner in the GTA. It is watershed-based and owns land along some 9 different watersheds including the East Humber River here in King.
Under provincial legislation it regulates streams and valleys, corridors, wetlands and watercourses and lands adjacent to them. It is responsible for protecting us all regarding hazards from slope and erosion instability and flooding and therefore, permits are required for development (excavation and building) if your land is within a floodplain or near a watercourse. If you build without a permit, work may be stopped or fines may be levied. On-site inspection may allow it to continue with modifications.
TRCA has developed a wide range of maps for the GTA that it uses as screening tools regarding development applications. If you wish to see if your property is part of the areas protected by TRCA, then visit the website www.trca.on.ca and look under the Planning and Development section for the maps. The office number for assistance is 416-661-6600. Site visits are available.
The policies of the TRCA are presently under review.  A new draft document, “The Living City Policies,” is now available on-line for public input.  You can find it at http://www.trca.on.ca/the-living-city/public-consultations/the-living-city-policies.dot.
It includes useful checklists for planting native trees, shrubs and plants.  Have a look and help keep King green! Our next community information session is Feb. 23 and the topic is stewardship activities in King. Watch the local papers and King’s social media networks for more news.

         

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