Protecting our wetlands is a vital part of planning for our future. They impact local ecosystems and watersheds, provide crucial habitat, and even affect our climate.
Wetlands are evaluated for significant characteristics with up to 50 characteristics considered. If a wetland scores enough points, that area is considered to be provincially significant and has a higher level of protection under provincial policy.
The federal government is contemplating wetland loss as an indicator of environmental health. The provincial government has taken action to identify and protect wetlands through the Provincial Policy Statement.
Protecting wetlands will help sustain a superior level of environmental health.
Regions/municipalities are also beginning to identify, maintain and protect these areas within their communities.
In Muskoka, both the District and local Area Municipalities have adopted land use policy that recognizes the value of wetlands and protects them.
Official Plan policy in Muskoka states that all wetlands are important and should be preserved. Limited development may be permitted within wetlands provided that wetland values can be protected.
Provincially Significant Wetlands are wetlands that, in the opinion of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry:
Development is not permitted in Provincially Significant Wetlands.
According to Ducks Unlimited Canada, "research shows that up to 70 per cent of Canada's original wetlands in some areas have disappeared as a result of urban development, drainage and land conversion to agriculture."
Ducks Unlimited Canada is dedicated to conserving, restoring and managing wetlands and associated habitats for North America's waterfowl. These habitats also benefit other wildlife and people and are essential for maintaining watershed health.
Ducks Unlimited Canada was formed more than 60 years ago by sportsmen who recognized that conserving wetlands helps to ensure the future of waterfowl populations.
Today, Ducks Unlimited Canada is strongly supported by both hunters and non-hunters who recognize the many benefits associated with their habitat conservation program.
What are Wetlands?
Wetlands are defined as lands that are saturated with water long enough to cause the formation of waterlogged (hydric) soils and the growth of water-loving (hydrophytic) or water-tolerant plants.
Wetlands are Important
Surface water runoff may contain sediments, excess nutrients, viruses and pathogens and/or a variety of chemicals. A wetland acts like a filter to remove sediments, absorb nutrients and biologically change many chemicals into less harmful forms.
Significant Wetlands and the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System
Provincially Significant Wetlands are those areas identified by the province as being the most valuable. They are determined by a science-based ranking system known as the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System.
Ontario is home to approximately 24% of Canada's wetlands and 6% of the world's wetlands. Estimates of wetland extent in Ontario range from 24 million to 29 million hectares, or 22-27% of the area of the province.
Wetlands in a Watershed Context
A watershed is an area of land that drains into a common body of water and involves water and any other natural feature or function that affects or is affected by water.