The Coalition to Protect The South March Highlands Changed Everything - The Need For A Moratorium on Development in SMH

Before the Sierra Club raised the issue of the Terry Fox Drive Extension and the Blandings Turtle, which was taken up by a group of concerned residents who expanded the mandate to include protecting all of the South March Highlands (SMH), there was no hope.

It was pretty well assumed that Terry Fox Drive would go through the middle of SMH, the KNL development south of the road would destroy that part of SMH and the only part of this ecological jewel that would be protected would be the city-owned South March Highlands Conservation Forest, including Trillium Woods and the land the city purchased thanks to Alex Munter.

My best hope at that time was that maybe the city would purchase at least some of the land north of the SMH Conservation Forest that is zoned Environmental Protection and add it to the protected lands.

Then came the Coalition to Protect the South March Highlands and due to their hard work in researching the environmental issues and raising public awareness of the South March Highlands everything changed.

I would like to thank them publicly for bringing us to the point that saving all of the South March Highlands is very much a possibility and saving at least more of it is virtually a certainty. I know how hard they have worked and how much dedication they have put to the cause and it is remarkable. I will not name names simply because I believe they would want the focus put on the land and not on individuals.

It is clear that their is a consensus among the community and City Council that the South March Highlands is an ecological jewel that should be saved. The only point of discussion seems to be how much money the City should spend, or can afford to spend, to save it.

Even City Council's most environmental neanderthal has proposed that the City spend money to purchase the lands north of the SMH Conservation Forest and the National Capital Commission (NCC) is considering adding the South March Highlands to the Greenbelt. Even the developer, KNL, is willing to give up a small portion of their lands to increase the protected area.

These lands are all environmentally inter-connected and dependent on each other, the loss of parts of it may have devastating effects on what is left. Those of us who are environmentally minded and forward thinking know that if we do not save all of the South March Highlands, or at least all of it that has not yet been developed, our descendants will look back at this lost opportunity with deep regret that we did not find a way to make it happen.

I will be the first one to recognize that there may be financial considerations that make it difficult for a municipality, the City of Ottawa, to buy all the KNL lands at their current value, the lands having been inappropriately rezoned for development when they should not have been. The blame for that must be shared by a lot of people.

But a way must be found to save this land that is of provincial significance from an environmental viewpoint, and of national significance being in the nation's capital. The responsibility and costs should be shared by all three levels of government.

What we need is a moratorium on all development in the South March Highlands until the community and all three levels of government can come together and find a solution to save this ecological jewel. All three levels of government must make a commitment to do what is necessary to put such a moratorium in place and the must do it immediately.

The decision makers must act now or their grandchildren's grandchildren will never forgive them.

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