Ottawa to study impacts of development in and near Pickering’s Rouge Park

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Published March 21, 2023 at 3:26 pm

Map courtesy of CPAWS Wildland League

Ottawa is launching a comprehensive study of current and future development in and around Rouge National Park, a decision that greenbelt watchdog Environmental Defence hopes will lead to the “permanent protection” of the largest swath of land controversially removed from the greenbelt by the Province last year.

Environmental Defence Executive Director Tim Gray says the move by the federal government is an “important first step” towards protection of the Duffins Rouge Agricultural preserve, land Gray calls a “vital area” of forests and farmlands.

Gray thanked supporters of the greenbelt for persuading Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault to agree to the study.

“Last November, the provincial government tried to hand 7,400 acres of our greenbelt to sprawl developers quickly and quietly,” he said. “But people like you wrote letters, made phone calls and attended rallies all across the province and made the issue too big to ignore.”

The Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve provides a “seamless protected landscape from Lake Ontario to the Oak Ridges Moraine” in the most populated area of Canada, the ministry declared in a news release in explaining its decision.

Photo Elvis Luke Fernandez

The study will be done by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada in collaboration with Parks Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada and in co-operation with indigenous groups.

“The objectives of the study are to understand the potential effects, including cumulative effects, of past, ongoing, and potential future development on the integrity of the park and on the park’s management objectives,” Guilbeault said. “This includes protecting biodiversity, natural resources, and natural processes.”

The terms and scope of the study will be provided to Guilbeault by the end of June with a goal to complete the study as soon as possible.

“Our government is extremely proud of creating Rouge National Urban Park, as a key piece of our work to protect nature, build healthy communities, and make sure people in Canada’s largest urban centre have access to an ecologically healthy green space,” the Minister said. “The participation of the public and Indigenous communities in this study is crucial and most welcome.”

The Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve lands border one of the most ecologically sensitive areas in the park which is home to many federally and provincially listed species at risk including the Bank Swallow, Eastern Meadowlark, Wood Thrush, Red-headed Woodpecker, Monarch Butterfly and several species of bats. It is also identified as ‘critical habitat’ for the Blanding’s Turtle, a threatened species under the federal Species at Risk Act.

Gray said development in the preserve is a threat to several areas of federal concern, including indigenous rights, biodiversity and climate change.

“Environmental Defence applauds this decision … but other portions remain unprotected,” he cautioned. “We will continue to monitor and work to protect those lands.”

 

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