Toronto- Today, Wildlands League released a new report on how the Ontario Government’s removal of protections for the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve (DRAP) threatens the ecological integrity of Rouge National Urban Park and nature connectivity in the Greater Rouge Ecosystem.
In December 2022, the Ontario Government repealed the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve Act and removed the DRAP from the Greenbelt as part of its push to open Greenbelt lands to developers. Environmental groups and citizens have decried the move ever since.
“Premier Doug Ford’s government and developers are threatening prime natural heritage and agricultural lands with needless urbanization. Numerous independent studies show there are plenty of more appropriate areas available for homebuilding,” says Janet Sumner, Executive Director of Wildlands League.
At nearly 2000 hectares between Duffins Creek and Rouge Urban National Park, the DRAP is an important corridor for movement of wildlife and water. Species at risk recorded in the Greater Rouge Ecosystem include the western chorus frog, snapping turtle and Blanding’s turtle.
In 2022, Wildlands League worked with road ecologist Kari Gunson of Eco-Kare International to assess the impacts of roads and proposed housing on the Greater Rouge Ecosystem and find mitigation options.
“In response to Premier Ford removing Greenbelt protections from the DRAP, we focused there to assess the ecological risk of these new policies”, says Dave Pearce, Wildlands League’s Senior Forest Conservation Manager. “Our report highlights the importance of preserving ‘stepping stones’ of natural habitat for connecting wildlife on a regional scale.”
The report describes how patches of natural habitat such as woodlots, wetlands, and hedgerows are important to prevent biodiversity loss in urbanized landscapes where natural habitat is scarce.
“These habitat patches, like stepping stones crossing a swift current, allow wildlife to move where they otherwise couldn’t and help species to find the various habitats they need to survive,” Pearce explains.
There are two key wetlands identified in the report: a treed swamp in the middle of the DRAP and the Townline Swamp Provincially Significant Wetland near Finch Avenue. They are essential for wildlife moving between Duffins and Rouge, which in turn provide linkages from the Greenbelt to Lake Ontario.
Pearce laments, ‘If these patches were to be invaded by urban sprawl, animals will no longer be able to move safely between the Rouge and Duffins Creek. In some cases, populations may be extirpated’.
“The Report is clear. Developing the DRAP would reduce the ecological integrity of Rouge National Urban Park and the Greater Rouge Ecosystem. The Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve must be permanently protected,” concludes Sumner.
For more information contact
Dave Pearce, Senior Forest Conservation Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org , 416 807 8340