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Municipal Protected Areas Project

Dear councillors,

I have reviewed item 11.3 of the December 5 agenda of the Planning Committee. This Municipal Protected Areas Project is a good news item, in my view, and I urge you to support it.

It is disappointing that staff only consider it as a “medium priority” instead of high priority, but the simplicity of what they need to do means it can easily be accomplished quickly without disturbing other staff work. Just providing what Ontario Nature is requesting will mean that their important work will advance with minimum effort by Hamilton staff.

And it is very important that work proceed as quickly as possible. It may make the city eligible for federal land protection dollars. More importantly it will help us advance the high priority work of updating our natural heritage assessment which is necessary to evaluate unprotected wetlands, waterways, forests and other natural features. It is well understood that will lead to enlargement of the city’s identified significant natural heritage features and their protection. The staff report acknowledges the shortcomings of our current assessment.

This is crucial to the implementation of Hamilton’s climate efforts in multiple ways. At the heart of the global climate crisis is the alleged ‘right’ to convert publicly important lands and waters to private dollars while degrading the public benefits. I believe we are now well past the point where this must stop. That conversion inevitably results in the release of more carbon into the atmosphere from the soils, former wetlands and lost vegetation, as well as the elimination of carbon sinks that are crucial to the removal of carbon pollution from the atmosphere to moderate the greenhouse effect.

It will also exacerbate the impacts of climate extremes of heat and precipitation and impose additional costs on the city and its residents. Rural landscapes and vegetation act to cool the extreme temperatures. They also minimize stormwater runoff and resulting flooding. Fortunately our city staff understand this problem and are attempting to minimize it with specific stormwater fees that recognize and reward the positive ways that property owners reduce stormwater runoff.

The Municipal Protected Areas Project originates in Canada’s commitments at the COP 15 Montreal agreement to minimize the loss of biodiversity. It that too, it aligns with council’s efforts to put in place a Biodiversity Action Plan. And it is in keeping with and implementing the Montreal Biodiversity Pledge committed to by the City of Hamilton.

I was disappointed that a majority of council rejected delaying the Transportation Master Plan for the Airport Employment Growth District. But I note that planning staff have acknowledged that natural heritage assessment must occur next. The Municipal Protected Areas Project also seems to align with this promise. That is underlined by the unfortunate flooding that has already occurred in the wake of the Amazon warehouse development that has imposed a massive structural and pavement impervious area, while at the same time eliminating natural features that would have absorbed some of the impacts of extreme rainfall events.

Thank you for considering my views.

Sincerely,
Don McLean