Showy Lady Slipper
Photo by Betty Campbell
The Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club

Conservation Matters, November 2009

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Helping the Greenbelt Coalition

At time of writing, a revised draft position paper regarding the NCC's review of the Greenbelt Master Plan is due to be discussed at a coalition meeting in mid-November. The major environmental areas of the Greenbelt, such as Mer Bleue, Medeola Woods, Stony Swamp, and Shirley's Bay are unlikely to be directly threatened by development. The concern is for the natural wildlife corridors that interconnect these "hotspots" and allow them to remain viable.

The OFNC conservation committee believes that continuing public support for preserving the Greenbelt is best achieved by not only declaring the value of the Greenbelt's wildlife so close to the City, but also emphasizing a wide range of its other benefits (values). The committee contibuted substantially to identifying these as Aesthetic, Public ownership, Environmental, Agricultural, Lifestyle, and Recreational.

As just one example, in addition to providing a wildlife haven, the Greenbelt acts as a reservoir of fresh air during times of no wind and temperature inversion, helping to prevent air quality from deteriorating as much as it does in many large cities.

Issues requiring justification or opposition are identified as Built facilities (including residential development within the Greenbelt as suggested by City staff), Infrastructure, Long term issues (the future of the Greenbelt) and Legal protection (which presently does not exist).

Regarding agriculture, a specific recommendation from the conservation committee is that hay cutting should not be permitted in early summer, until the young of ground-nesting bird species have fledged. These birds are such as Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlarks, Grasshopper Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, Northern Harriers, Horned Larks, and Upland Sandpipers.

At a consultation meeting with the coalition on 2009 June 18, the NCC Master Plan Review team posed three questions. These are, (together with our tentative response to them):

  • How might the Greenbelt become an environmental showcase for the Nation's Capital? Recommendation: Retain undeveloped land free from development. Increasing contrast between natural spaces and surrounding urbanization will automatically enhance the Greenbelt as an environmental showcase.
  • Are there other ecological values that we should consider as part of the assessment of Greenbelt existing conditions? Recommendation: Recognize the high ecological values of agricultural lands, if they are managed with this in mind.
  • Where might there be opportunities to strengthen the Greenbelt's ecological features and functions? Recommendation: Certain contiguous former Greenbelt lands should be re-integrated into the Greenbelt in order to protect their and the current Greenbelt's ecological functions.

See also Greenbelt Coalition web site

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