Recently, Hon. Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks announced that the province is beginning the process to designate Point Petre Provincial Wildlife Area and Ostrander Point Crown Land Block as a new Conservation Reserve.

This is great news for these 4,000 acres of South Shore land as well as Prince Edward County. A Conservation Reserve designation will protect the remarkable biodiversity of these lands which are home to 33 species at risk including birds, plants, animals and fish. These lands represent the first Conservation Reserve on or near the shorelines of Lake Ontario as well as the first such designation since 2012.

What exactly is a Conservation Reserve?
Owned by the government of Ontario and regulated by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, Conservation Reserve designation protects areas that are ecologically significant. The government notes, “Climate change poses a serious threat to Ontario’s natural areas. Conservation of these areas can play an important role in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Through the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan we will protect and enhance our natural areas and greenspace, support conservation efforts, develop adaptation strategies and promote the importance of healthy natural spaces for future generations to use and enjoy.

Protected areas are defined to protect natural and cultural features, maintain biodiversity and provide opportunities for compatible recreation. These areas may contain:

  • old-growth forest
  • lakes, rivers and wetlands
  • archaeological sites or other cultural values
  • habitat for rare or endangered plants and animals”1

Type of protected areas in Ontario include provincial parks, wilderness areas, dedicated protected areas in the Far North, privately protected areas and other area-based conservation measures and Conservation Reserves.

According to the Ontario government, Conservation Reserves “Protect significant natural and cultural features while providing opportunities for a variety of compatible traditional activities (e.g. fishing, hunting, trapping). Regulated under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, they are also important for scientific research and environmental monitoring.”2 

Similar but different, Ontario’s conservation areas

Also focused on the protection of our natural environment, conservation areas are not owned by the government rather by a Conservation Authority (for example, Quinte Conservation). “Unique to Ontario, Conservation Authorities are local watershed management agencies that deliver services and programs to protect and manage impacts on water and other natural resources in partnership with all levels of government, landowners and many other organizations.”3 In fact, “Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities collectively own and operate over 500 Conservation Areas...[and] nearly 300 Conservation Areas are accessible to the public.”4

What activities can be enjoyed at an Ontario Conservation Reserve?

Enjoyment of Point Petre and Ostrander Point has a long history for countless generations of County residents. This is why it is important to note that without protection, these lands are at risk of being opened for residential or industrial development. Thankfully, a Conservation Reserve designation protects significant natural and cultural features while providing opportunities for a variety of compatible activities on the lands.

Prince Edward County Council approved support for Conservation Reserve designation and in a letter to provincial ministers, Mayor Steve Ferguson notes, “In the creation of a Conservation Reserve, we would like to see consideration for the existing uses in the area, including but not limited to ATVs and snowmobiles. We also encourage the province to engage in public consultation to seek input on any future management plan.

Successive Councils of Prince Edward County have given special regard to Ostrander Point and Point Petre as valued environmental features. Each have been designated in the County’s Official Plan as Environmentally Sensitive Areas together with associated protective policies.”5

Next steps for the new Conservation Reserve in the County’s South Shore

Point Petre and Ostrander Point are places where people connect with nature, with a long legacy of human use. Currently, hunters, fishers, birders, hikers, photographers, swimmers, snowmobilers and ATV riders all enjoy use of the trails, wetlands and shoreline.

According to the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, 2006, a management plan is essential for a new Conservation Reserve. Specifically, “A management plan is a document approved by the Minister that provides a policy and resource management framework that addresses substantial and complex issues or proposals or both for substantial capital infrastructure or resource management projects for one or more provincial parks or conservation reserves or for a combination of them.”6

Led by the government, local and national non-profits, a public consultation process will help create a management plan to make sure that natural features, cultural heritage and traditional activities are preserved for each designated land area. The Act notes that, “During the process for producing, reviewing and amending a management statement there shall be at least one opportunity for public consultation and during the multi-stage process of producing, reviewing and amending a management plan, there shall be more than one opportunity for public consultation.”7

For more information about the Conservation Reserve management planning process and how you can get involved, please contact Cheryl Anderson, Vice President, South Shore Joint Initiative at [email protected] or call 613-849-7743.

Source(s): 1,2 Ontario’s parks and protected areas ; 3 About Conservation Authorities ; 4 Conservation Areas ; 5 Municipal Letter of Support ; 6,7 Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, 2006, S.O. 2006, c. 12 – Bill 11