4 June 2015
Dear Members of Council,
Re: Term of Council Priorities
The Greenspace Alliance requests that a specific strategic objective and associated budget allocation be included in the Term of Council priorities 2015-18 for the Environmental Lands Acquisition Fund and other land conservation measures.
We note with satisfaction that Biodiversity and ecosystem health is one of the long term sustainability goals in the “roof” of the strategic map, and that it is supported by a strategic priority to Promote an environmentally sustainable Ottawa. We also commend that this priority is to be pursued over the 2015-2018 period through a strategic objective to Increase Forest Cover, as a responsibility of the Public Works department, under the oversight of the Environment Committee and the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.
However, we believe that the budget allocated, which is all operating, will be totally absorbed by tree planting in the urban, suburban and rural areas, the rehabilitation of parks and green spaces in partnership with Ecology Ottawa and the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Woodlot Management Strategy and that nothing will be left for the Environmental Lands Acquisition Fund.
While that continued funding will mitigate the temptation to again “raid” the Environmental Lands Acquisition Fund for this purpose, we believe that the fund itself is currently inadequately endowed. Land acquisition ought to be considered a cost effective and sustainable means of achieving the strategic objective of preserving and increasing forest cover and other environmentally sensitive lands. Opportunities to acquire pockets of remaining natural areas continue to arise and the City should have a consistently maintained reserve to take advantage of such opportunities.
We hope to see in the 2015-2018 Term of Council Priorities a return to a permanent, dedicated allocation for the acquisition of environmentally sensitive lands. Such an allocation would also give the City some leverage to partner with other financing sources such as land trusts, as well as pro-actively engage in or facilitate easement and stewardship agreements, in a manner consistent with Policy 5 in section 5.2.1 of the Official Plan:
“5. The City has a particular interest in ensuring that lands in the following designations are secured in a way that is consistent with their greenspace values: Natural Environment Areas, Significant Wetlands, Urban Natural Features, and Major Open Space. A similar interest may apply to any lands along waterways in a Village or Urban Area. [Amendment #96, February 22, 2012]
a. The City will consider methods other than acquisition to meet its objectives for the preservation of lands with greenspace values, including exchanging lands of similar value, negotiating conservation easements, entering into agreements with other public bodies concerning land management or maintenance, partnering with a land trust and other methods that may be proposed from time to time;”
We hope that you will support the inclusion in the Term of Council Priorities 2015-18 of a consistent, annual allocation for the Environmental Lands Acquisition Fund.
May we remind you that doing so was one of the propositions we put to all candidates in the 2014 municipal election and to which 13 of you responded. They were endorsed by 16 local groups and 150 individuals from every Ward. Nine of you supported this proposition, and two more did so conditionally. (Ref. http://www.greenspace-alliance.ca/letters)
Here are the staff documents:
Proposed Term of Council Priorities — report to FEDCo on June 2 and Council on July 8
Appendix (1 MB) — the list, 126 pages
UPDATE — 1 September 2015
At Environment Committee on June 16 and at Council on July 8 various amendments were made, and a supporting Direction to staff was given, pertaining to trees and protection of environmental lands:
At Environment Committee’s meeting of June 16, 2015 (item 5), Councillor Leiper moved a motion which passed and was sustained at Council on July 8. The motion reads:
That the Urban Forest Management Strategy be included as a strategic initiative in the 2015-2018 Term of Council Priorities under objective ES1-Supportive and environmentally sustainable Ottawa with the associated performance measure of completing the development of the Forest Management Strategy in 2016.
(Find this on the audio tape starting at the 4:44 mark. Go to 4:30 to hear his questions on tree planting which were, I believe, answered by David Barkley. Go here for Matthew Pearson’s report on the meeting.)
In discussion, it was made clear that this motion does not call for additional resources since the Strategy is funded, but serves to highlight the importance of preserving our urban forest, in addition to the emphasis on planting new trees.
In addition, there were significant Directions to staff, including:
That Planning and Growth Management staff provide, for the information of Council, options regarding Urban Forestry Management and reliable sources of funding (i.e., an analysis of funds currently available for land preservation / conservation / acquisition at the federal level or through the Nature Conservancy or other sources) for the acquisition of environmentally sensitive lands, that these options be reported to Council in the form of a memorandum, and that this memorandum be submitted to Council before the matter rises to Council on 8 July 2015.
This came about as a result of questions by Chair Chernushenko at 4:38 about land acquisition, wherein he specifically referenced Ecology Ottawa and the Greenspace Alliance. In reply, Nick Stow confirmed that three Urban Natural Areas (UNAs) had been recommended for funding but did not come forward. He also alluded to opportunities to work with other partners (including federal) to protect some rural natural areas but funding to pursue this was not carried forward either. Later, at 4:51, Chair Chernushenko returned to the importance of not missing opportunities to save important woodlots.
The responding Memorandum to Council from Michael Mizzi and its Appendix are attached. They review seven sources of alternative funding and five alternative protection mechanisms. They conclude that tax dollars as a source and outright purchase as a mechanism are best but that these alternatives may work in site-specific cases.
The full Action Summary of this item is also attached. (The discussion had also featured questions about Toronto’s energy retrofit program, the need to learn from other cities, and a request by Councillor Brockington that a report on renewable energy be brought forward by Q4 2016 instead of Q4 2017; the latter request was implemented as a technical amendment on July 8.)
At Council on July 8, Councillor Qadri, seconded by Councillor Wilkinson, moved Motion 15/6 which was carried. The “Therefore” portions are:
THAT City Council approve that the partial or outright acquisition of the Urban Natural Features identified in the 2013 report be included as a priority in the 2015-2018 City Strategic Plan under the Strategic Objective ES1 – Support an Environmentally Sustainable Ottawa, and that Planning Committee have oversight over this strategic initiative; and
…THAT staff be directed to explore other funding options, such as those outlined in the September 2013 Urban Natural Features Strategy Update, to advance the acquisition of urban natural features and provide a status update to Planning Committee and Council by Q3 2016, and that staff be directed to develop options to change the current Council policy of replenishing the Environmental Acquisition Reserve Fund only with future excess amounts from the City of Ottawa Sinking Fund for consideration as part of the next Long-Range Financial Plan.
The first part references the three UNAs that were identified in Nick Stow’s report to Planning Committee about a UNA Strategy Update on October 8, 2013, namely ## 193 (Shea Road Woods), 100 (Armstrong Road South Woods, and 95 (Nantes Woods). #100 has since received partial protection through a land swap with the developer.
One must be grateful that at least notice of the continuing need to protect natural areas was taken.
Erwin (ed. 3 May 2017)