South March Highlands - An Open Letter

As well as being posted on my blog, The Fifth Column ( http://the5thc.blogspot.com/ ), this is being sent to:

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson ( Jim.Watson@ottawa.ca )
Ottawa City Councillor Allan Hubley ( Allan.Hubley@ottawa.ca )
Ottawa City Councillor Marianne Wilkinson ( Marianne.Wilkinson@ottawa.ca )
Ottawa City Councillor David Chernushenko ( David.Chernushenko@ottawa.ca )
National Capital Commission CEO Marie Lemay ( Marie.Lemay@ncc-ccn.ca )
National Capital Commission Review of the 1996 Greenbelt Master Plan ( info@ncc-ccn.ca )
Norm Sterling, MPP, Carleton--Mississippi Mills ( norm.sterling@pc.ola.org )
Dalton McGuinty, MPP, Ottawa South, Ontario Premier ( dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org )
Gordon O'Connor, MP, Carleton—Mississippi Mills ( OConnor.G@parl.gc.ca )
Paul Dewar, MP, Ottawa Centre ( Dewar.P@parl.gc.ca )

Note all images in this post may be clicked on to be viewed larger

I am writing to you because we have a short window of opportunity to save much of what is arguably the most important area of environmental importance and cultural heritage within the City of Ottawa. While the South March Highlands is well known for its environmental significance, as home to a great number of species of animal and plant life, many of them endangered, recent research has also discovered that it may be just as important a site of archaeological significance, particularly in relation to our country's first peoples.

The preceding map, from the 2008 Brunton report, shows the boundary of the South March Highlands. The Google Earth view shows the lands that have already been developed and the blocked in green sections indicate the lands that are owned by the City of Ottawa and protected. The rest of the lands are privately owned, and though some are zoned Environment Protection history has taught us that all the privately owned land is at risk of being developed and at risk of environmental and archaeological destruction.

It is not the purpose of this letter to document why the South March Highlands should be saved or to reiterate the broad public support within the Ottawa area and all over Canada for saving these precious lands. That has already been well done and you have likely already seen or received such documentation. I do not wish to repeat all of that here but I will be attaching a document that provides a quick and easy overview of the significance of the South March Highlands. I will also provide links at the end of this submission to further resources on the South March Highlands.

I am writing to all of you together because saving what has not yet been developed in the South March Highlands is going to take political will at all levels of government. The City of Ottawa and the National Capital Commission will be key players, but the province and federal government will also have important roles, especially in regards to funding. This land is important and precious to all residents of Ontario and all citizens of Canada.

Time is of the essence as development plans are already underway for an important section of these lands, known as the Beaver Pond Forest, and the developer is waiting for the first opportunity to clear cut the lands, even as many questions regarding the developers fulfilment of development conditions are unanswered and the legitimacy of the environmental assessment processes followed are uncertain.

The only long term solution to save these lands for posterity is to bring them under public ownership. Fortunately, I understand that the National Capital Commission, during it's Greenbelt Master Plan Review, is considering adding the South March Highlands to the Greenbelt. There is where the federal government needs to step in to assure the NCC that the funds will be available to purchase or expropriate the remaining undeveloped privately held lands in the South March Highlands. This is an imperative part of the solution.

The NCC must also expedite this part of the Greenbelt review process so that as much land as possible can be acquired. The longer the wait the more opportunity there is to "develop the lands", that is to clear-cut the forest, blast the geology and otherwise destroy the land.

Ideally, in the meantime there would be a moratorium on all development in the South March Highlands, supported and legislated by the municipal, provincial and federal governments.

Until such a moratorium can be put in place the City of Ottawa, which controls the development process, must do all that it can to prevent further development from proceeding.

The most important thing that the City of Ottawa can do, is to do what it should be doing anyway, which is to ensure that all environmental measures, including wetland and watershed provisions, and cultural heritage/archeological processes are fully and properly undertaken and that all approvals are properly in place before any development is allowed to take place.

The City must also ensure that all developers have complied with all requirements of subdivision agreements and other approvals before allowing a single tree to be cut, rock to be blasted or land to be bulldozed.

The City can also act to assure the public of their good faith by offering to purchase or expropriate the lands under imminent threat of development. There is where the provincial government needs to step in to assure the City of Ottawa that the funds will be available to purchase or expropriate these threatened lands. This is also an imperative part of the solution.

Of course the first thing the City of Ottawa needs to do is to provide an opportunity for City Councillors to get a firm understanding of all the issues surrounding the South March Highlands, particularly new City Councillors. The best way to do that would be to have the matter referred to committee where public input can be provided, before allowing any further development measures to take place on any South March Highlands lands.

If all levels of government work together and show leadership and political will we can save the South March Highlands. The people that you represent expect no less.


Richard W. Woodley, Bridlewood, Kanata, Ontario ( richardw.woodley@gmail.com )

Further resources on the South March Highlands

South March Highlands Overview (attached)

Save Ottawa's South March Highlands

Ottawa's Great Forest

I want to save the land North of Beaver Pond Park in Kanata Ontario Facebook Group

The Fifth Column SMH posts

The Fifth Column SMH Management Plan posts

Virtual Nonsense (Paul Renaud) SMH posts

South March Highlands Advocacy

South March Highlands Stewardship Plan

Appendix: South March Highlands Overview

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