Manitoulin Island joins southern Ontario through new ecozoning

This map, courtesy of Ontario Parks, shows Manitoulin Island now grouped with southern Ontario in the ‘Ecozones, Ecoregions and Ecodistricts of Ontario.’

MANITOULIN—The new Manitoulin Official Plan (OP), which was to be completed this spring, is still in progress as the Manitoulin Planning Board (MPB) and Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) continue to work together, addressing various concerns of the MPB and its member municipalities. The document, which once it is completed must be approved by the MPB, its member municipalities and the ministry, may see further delays because the recently released new Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) rezones Manitoulin, placing it in ecoregion (a large unit of land or water containing a geographically distinct assemblage of species, natural communities, and environmental conditions) 6E instead of 5E (its previous zone). (See map for ecoregion classifications).

MPB secretary-treasurer Elva Carter explained that this change will require Manitoulin to have more regard towards the significant natural heritage features.

“Our features are more like 6E than 5E, so it is more of a clarification,” said Ms. Carter. “The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) has currently not identified natural heritage features in our planning area, therefore the proposed policy will  be to specify natural heritage systems in the OP if and when the MNR does identify any.”

“As per the 2014 PPS, all of Manitoulin Island is identified south of the Natural Heritage Protection Line Northern Limit of Ecoregions 6E and 7E, for the purposes of policies under section 2.1 of the PPS,” further clarified MMHA Planner Charlsey White in correspondence with the MPB. “Understand that Manitoulin has always been located in this ecoregion, the PPS just now identifies a line between 5E and 6E. The 2005 PPS only identified lands south and east of the Canadian Shield for the purposes of policy section 2.1. The 2005 PPS did not exclude Manitoulin Island from ecoregions 6E and 7E, it just didn’t show a line between 5E and 6E.”

“It also should be noted that the policies of section 2.1 of the PPS have been updated as well.  PPS section 2.1 now includes direction on conserving biodiversity and protecting the health of the Great Lakes.  This includes, but is not limited to, the identification of natural heritage systems within ecoregions 6E and 7E.

“Using the Natural Heritage Reference Manual for guidance, the OP should identify all natural heritage features (defined in PPS) it is aware of,” continued Ms. White.  “What is still outstanding from MNR is the classification of some of these features. Some features are still only candidates for assessment and confirmation of their status is still required.”

Ms. White concluded that these changes may not be completed by the time the OP document is ready for a decision, and recommended to the MPB that they include natural heritage system policies within the OP to acknowledge that “a natural heritage system will be identified in future and, based on current information, the OP identifies features that may form part of a future natural heritage system.  It is the intent of the PB to protect these features and the diversity and connectivity of the natural features and areas over the long term of the plan.”

Ms. Carter said that discussions with the MMHA and the MPB will continue but was unable to give a date as to when the OP would be completed as the planning board was still waiting on clarification from the MMHA and the MNR.