A million trees planted, a strong urban forest management plan for Ottawa, a new water environment strategy, and a long-term vision for greenspace connectivity and land acquisition in our city - these are the things that Ecology Ottawa worked to promote in 2016 as part of our Living City campaign.
With your support, we can build on growing momentum and make 2017 a landmark year for Ottawa's living environment. Will you support this work with a one-time donation, or become a monthly donor today?
Thanks to all of our existing donors, volunteers and supporters, your contribution is helping to build a better home and city. There is so much left to do...
1. Planting a million trees :
Ecology Ottawa has been at the forefront of efforts to plant, protect and promote trees in our city in the wake of the Emerald Ash Borer infestation, which is killing up to 25% of our urban trees. Before the 2014 municipal election, we presented our "million tree vision" to all candidates - a plan to plant one million trees in Ottawa for Canada's 150th anniversary. We were happy to see the vast majority of municipal candidates pledge to support and prioritize this goal if elected. After the election, City Council enshrined our million tree goal as one of their term of council priorities by committing to plant 500,000 trees - 125,000 per year for four years.
Unfortunately, the City of Ottawa's strong commitment on trees has not been matched by other levels of government. So far, the provincial and federal governments have not come on board and contributed to Ottawa’s million tree goal. This is truly disappointing since we cannot envision success without their involvement. We will continue to try to push for more provincial and federal support in 2017 and hope to be on track to meet this goal by the end of the year.
2. Building a strong urban forest:
Over 11,000 people have already signed Ecology Ottawa’s petition calling on the City of Ottawa to develop a strong Urban Forest Management Plan, If we want to avoid problems associated with monoculture planting, infill development and climate change, and make our tree planting and protection work as effective as possible, we need to have a comprehensive understanding of our forest cover and the risks that threaten it.
This past fall the City of Ottawa finally released a draft plan, and our initial assessment can be summed up in two ways. On the one hand, the plan is a potential game changer for how we take care of trees in Ottawa. It represents the kind of thoughtful, long-term and holistic approach to the issue that we really need.
On the other hand, there are a number of problems that still need to be resolved. For instance, the draft plan is broken up into five periods of four years each, and the first period doesn’t seem to have any major investments built into it. Instead, the City is committing in the short term to prepare more studies and adopt more policies.
The City has been consulting widely (both via stakeholder meetings and public forums) and we hope that many of the outstanding issues can be resolved before the plan goes to City Council for final approval in 2017.
3. A bold new vision for greenspace conservation:
The City of Ottawa needs a bold long-term vision for greenspace conservation and a plan to bring that vision to life by purchasing and protecting key areas of land.
The 2017 City of Ottawa budget put aside over $1 million to purchase and protect greenspace in rural areas, but the overall vision is still missing. That said, there are signs that support in City Hall is growing and we are hopeful that 2017 will be a productive year in this important area.
4. Protecting our rivers and water:
For years, Ecology Ottawa has been at the forefront of the fight to clean up the Ottawa River and improve our watershed. With your help, we saw all levels of government come together to support efforts to dramatically reduce the dumping of untreated sewage into the Ottawa River. As a next step, we sought a more systemic solution from City Council - a Water Environment Strategy that would provide a framework for action to promote clean drinking water, reduce the toxins going into our rivers, and protect communities and streams from flooding associated with severe weather.
We were very happy to see a new Water Environment Strategy adopted in 2016, but we think the strategy could have been a lot stronger. There's a huge opportunity to incorporate green infrastructure - using the natural environment to slow down, soak up, and keep stormwater clean - in a systematic way. The City has started piloting elements of green infrastructure in a handful of different areas but they are not yet systematically integrating it into their planning processes. Lots more work to be done in this important area in 2017.
With your help, 2017 will be a pivotal year for progress on trees, greenspace and water protection in Ottawa. We're asking for your support to help turn these opportunities into concrete victories. Please support this work with a one-time donation, or become a monthly donor today.
Thank you for your continued support and action towards making Ottawa the green capital of Canada. We at Ecology Ottawa can’t wait to work with you in 2017, Canada’s 150th (and our 10th) anniversary.