By Zaynab Kanji -- June 18, 2021 -- Ontario has announced that the North Gwillimbury Forest will become a publicly owned nature reserve.
Many people are excited about the creation of this 360-hectare reserve in Georgina, especially the North Gwillimbury Forest Alliance, which has for years worked for the protection of the area.
The long and costly fight to protect these lands has shown the significance of community-based environmental and non-governmental organizations working together.
Environmental groups, however, point out that while MPP Caroline Mulroney and Minister Steve Clark proclaimed the importance of the North Gwillimbury Forest to the health of Lake Simcoe, simultaneously they are disregarding the most important wetland in the watershed - The Holland Marsh wetland.
There are potentially huge negative impacts on the Holland Marsh from the proposed 16km Bradford Bypass, which the province says will be under construction this fall, even though there has been no environment assessment for two decades.
It seems like while one thing is being handed to the people by government, something else is being taken away.
It is understandable that the announcement of the creation of the reserve has invoked a lot of excitement and curiosity, as this is a win for many of the organizations who have fought for protection for a decade. They feel like they are finally being heard and given some sort of priority and celebration towards that is no less than respected, however, it is important to consider all of the land.
This new reserve is adjacent to the Arnold Matthews Reserve; this was created by local residents in 2008 and has been loved by the public ever since.
Over the next several years, the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority is planning restoration and enhancement projects on the property and to establish a long-term plan for the future of this reserve.
It is very easy to get reeled into this plan and build up excitement over it, but it is easy to fall into the trap of being blind to the lack of protection of the rest of the land so it is important that we take all factors into consideration; the good and the bad.
Margaret Prophet, Executive Director of Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, says: “Today, while MPP Mulroney and Minister Steve Clark proclaim the importance of Lake Simcoe and its health with this announcement, they are simultaneously ignoring the most important wetland in the watershed, the Holland Marsh wetland, which is slated to be the future home of a 16 km, four- to six-lane highway called the Bradford Bypass.”
She continues: “Commitment to the lake isn’t conditional upon political leanings or polling of issues. True commitment to Lake Simcoe means recognizing when governments are knowingly engaging in projects that will do harm and reconsidering those plans to make the media statements and sound bites actually mean something beyond superficial window dressing.”
Photo courtesy of the North Gwillimbury Forest Alliance.