Ontario Turtle Tally
Urban Turtle Initiative
Healthy Water - Wildlife
Turtle Island Conservation
March 20-22, 2007
Consolidated by H. Marcks
Day 3 Session:
Policy, communication, & Developing Working Partnerships
March 22, 2007
Question/comment from the floor
Response from the panel and floor
We need to make these connectivity and roads issues as big as other environmental issues. When the government talks of additional population growth, it is saddening because population growth is not inevitable. Biodiversity is incompatible with population and economic growth and the things that we are talking about are only band-aid solutions. We need to think outside the box.
It is a question of judging battles that are winnable. While it would be good to tackle the basic assumptions of population growth, the status quo will attack it. We need to find out if fighting the smaller issues at the same time is doable, or if we should just focus on the bigger issues. Let's find ways that we can work within the system.
I agree that we need to plan at the macro scale, but I'm frustrated with the presentation of the Green Plan since it is Toronto-centric and shifts problems to areas outside of the greenbelt.
The scale of the Green Plan is still too small and that is a major complaint, but the current Green Plan is preliminary and will change. The next one will be slightly different and is not intended to shift problems in Toronto outside of the city's limits. There are also other initiatives to create intensification etc. within Toronto to mitigate this.
We need to change the language in policies to include words like "shall not be permitted". What is the process that takes guidelines and makes them into mandatory practice?
Opportunities to strengthen the language in policies are available during review processes. The Provincial Policy Statement, issued under the Planning Act, was most recently revised in 2005 and was improved with stronger constraints and uses the term 'shall not be permitted'. The National Heritage Manual also goes through an editing and review process (will be upgraded in 5 years) at which time we should pressure for stronger language. Look to the environmental registry to find out when things are happening so people can get involved and pressure stronger language. The environmental registry is good for letting us know when windows of receptivity to change exist.
Constant pressure at all levels is needed. It is also a good task for non-government organizations and citizens to go to the government and get science into policy, not just the scientists. We need scientists to collect the data and the NGOs to take it to the government and pressure for policies. Everyone has their place in the movement and we need to understand and fulfill that. Already we've seen progress of environmental policy moving towards conservation as forethought, as opposed to an afterthought. We're trying to get new legislation into practice that takes a more holistic and early approach at conservation, not just saving already endangered species from the brink of extinction.
The policies that set up the provincial heritage system leave it to municipalities to identify significant habitat, but a lot of municipalities don't have the resources to do this.
The people who end up doing the work for these things are the people who are already doing a lot of work but without further funds. Actual implementation is difficult because offices are already stretched too far. Most municipalities partner with their region's Conservation Authority for natural resource work and identifying significant features. There are elections coming up soon and green things are in - anything that is related to green policies of any government will get a strong response now, so let's make our voices heard.
When it comes to doing something on private land, how do you make it relevant to private landowners? Do we have incentives for people to make changes with their land?
It comes down to having money to buy their land but it is different in U.S.A. and Canada - buying land is scarce here in Canada and there are not as many resources. Work with others through outreach and encourage stewardship. Also, it may help if there are monetary rewards, compensation or tax incentives for people who practice sustainable management on their lands.
In terms of monetary incentives and compensation, we should look to incentives that are already present. Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) is one Canadian program in which farmers are compensated for sustainable farming. The Ontario Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program (MFTIP) is another program which is used as an incentive for sustainable management. We should look at these and other programs and explore adapting them for private stewardship of wetlands and other land types.
We need incentives but it's a slow process to get in place. The first step should be removing the disincentives. Right now there is a tax break to convert land for agricultural use, but if you restore it to a natural state the tax increases back to residential. This is not going to help our battles.
Creating buffer zones - how are ecosystem management land use guidelines developed for areas adjacent to, or leading up to, crossings?
Easements and zoning to reflect passages are options. However, in some areas like Montana, zone is considered a bad four letter word and no zoning exists. Wildlife passages are being implemented on land that is becoming ranchettes, so they are working on ecopassages becoming an impetus for zoning. In Florida they won't put in passages unless there is public land on either side.
How are regional corridors & missing linkages identified and prioritized? Who would be best suited to undertake this task & identify opportunities?
The effort has to be collective, involving all the people who have the information and the people who have the power to do something about it. We need to make sure that there is a group that includes: Biodiversity Strategy council members, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Ministry of Transportation, powerful non-governmental organizations, engineers, etc. All of the players must be incorporated into the decision making process. It is important to have the right people at the table because if you don't have buy-in, science can be a lot of wasted energy and it is even harder to start up an issue a second time around.
An example where this did not totally happen is the Biodiversity Strategy - the Biodiversity Council includes all agencies and players that affect biodiversity, but the strategy does not mention highways and no transportation mandate is included. Engineers also need to be included in this council.
What is the largest or most difficult point of conflict or greatest barrier to establish standardized requirements of ecopassage design & implementation?
People have indicated that they don't want standards because ecopassages are often situation-specific. A lot of times structures are designed as modifications of what already exists - e.g., modified manhole covers, culverts etc. It's not rocket science; engineers are quite capable of using modified examples of what already exist and generally engineers look forward to these new challenges. It becomes a research project that gets them a merit. Providing an incentive to be the "first" to test, implement, or design a particular mitigation technique or structure may also prove effective when trying to convince governments, transportation agencies, municipalities, engineers, and/or the public about the importance of minimizing road impacts on wildlife.
Do consultants generally repeat the processes of site assessment, data analysis & design for each project or are there opportunities for applying cumulative knowledge?
Consultants get involved as much as they can and use existing information as a starting point. Site specific projects, however, still require the collection of original information from 'the ground'. An example of consultants using existing information can be seen in the highway twinning in Banff. An EA had to be done for the twinning and consulting companies called the Park asking for data.
In Florida, consultants use the Florida natural areas inventory (GIS) information but there is an over reliance on GIS data where people can falsely assume there is nothing in an area where there really are just gaps in the database. In some places the inventory is data deficient and we need to get back to some science to fill in those gaps. Similarly, the Ontario Herptofaunal Summary data is province-wide, but parts of the province aren't very well covered.
What are the financial constraints of transportation agencies for road mitigation structures?
Start early! Get a conversation started at the root planning stage so that mitigation structures can be worked through the process. This way they can be put into the design and it won't be a surprise at the end. Transportation agencies don't have huge dollars for mitigation and get questioned on mitigation matters because people aren't familiar with them and their costs. There needs to be a strong connection with those knowledgeable.
We really need to get the message to engineers. Have you considered targeting university engineering students to get the message out there?
It is important to plant the seed and share information with engineers, universities and students. There needs to be an exchange in teaching so that we have ecologically literate engineers and engineering literate ecologists. Right now ecosystems are not talked about a lot in engineering classes and that is something that should be changed.
The first couple years of [engineering] school are general and in the third or fourth year students have a better idea of what they are going to do, so it may be best to target third year students. Presentations and articles in engineering magazines would be the best way to reach local chapters of engineers.
There has already been some partnered talks and exchanges of information. For example, last year a training course for mitigating transportation impacts on wildlife and fisheries was offered by the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University and Parks Canada. In addition, MTO, Utah State University, Montana State, North Carolina, and University of California are all involved in information transfer between ecologists and engineers.
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