Ecology Ottawa calls for Holistic Ecology in Wildlife Strategy

Le français viendra sous peu.

Our Program Coordinator William van Geest delegated to the Special Joint Meeting of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Commitee (ARAC) and Environment and Climate Change Committee at their June 17 meeting to express our concern over the Wildlife Strategy’s human-centric approach. Please read our delegation below, or simply watch it here.

Thank you for the opportunity to address you. I’m doing so on behalf of Ecology Ottawa.

While we’re happy to participate in the Wildlife Strategy process, we do so with some apprehension. We know the 2013 Strategy, while the consultation process began with productive community consultation, ultimately ended with the work of all these groups sidelined for an entirely rewritten Strategy. We’re hoping that this Strategy proceeds in a more democratic fashion—although we noted the omission of important community groups from the recent As We Heard It report. We’re appreciative of those councillors who have heard and echoed these concerns, and we ask committee members here to ensure that community voices are taken into account this time.

To the document itself, the action plan: We’re pleased to see habitat conservation in first position. Ottawa has been built on a rich and irreplaceable ecosystem. We do well to preserve as much of that ecosystem remains. We understand that the City has made concrete progress on this front lately, with the acquisition of lands, and we salute that.

But on balance, the plan seems really less about wildlife than 1) large mammals—not the whole host of ecosystem members—and 2) conflicts with these large animals. Fully six out of the plan’s ten points are about such conflicts. The plan’s orientation is largely toward keeping wildlife out of our way. The plan’s anthoprocentricism is particularly evident in its French title, “Stratégie de gestion de la faune,” or in English, “Wildlife management strategy.” In short, the plan upholds human dominance over the rest of the ecosystem.

To be sure, conflicts with large mammals must be part of the Strategy—and certainly there’s room for improvement here: sending police services for wildlife calls is bad for everyone. And so we’re pleased to see the “wildlife resource specialist” as one of the plan’s action items.

But as an ecology group, we’re disappointed to see such a weak and outdated ecological lens. This is 2024. We should instead take a holistic view, where we humans respectfully steward the ecosystem, with an eye to harmonious, mutually beneficial coexistence.

The As We Heard It report mentions the importance of engagement with our Indigenous communities, although the only progress noted is the start of discussions and “a commitment to ongoing dialogue.” We’re curious to hear how these discussions influenced the plan, as this isn’t evident from the outside. I’ll also mention that our Official Plan commits to “Indigenous representation in planning, placemaking, as well as environmental stewardship.”

We’re a bit shocked to see the plan maintain the status quo with beavers, even while cheaper, more effective, and more ecological solutions are readily possible—but I know our partners at OCWC have spoken to this.

Finally, we’re concerned that there’s no evidence of influence from the Montreal Pledge on Biodiversity, which Council signed in April of last year. The motion to sign the pledge, moved by Councillor Carr on behalf of Councillor Plante—both of whom attended COP15 in Montreal—resolves “that staff continue their efforts to implement policies and programs supporting the 15 commitments in the Montréal Pledge on biodiversity and report back as further resources be deemed necessary.”

The Pledge’s 15 “concrete actions” include reducing pesticide use, integrating biodiversity into planning, controlling invasive species, reducing pollution, improving access to greenspace and bluespace, engaging Indigenous peoples in decision-making, and integrating biodiversity into governance frameworks and public policies. We don’t see these reflected in the action plan—nor is the Pledge even mentioned in any of the documentation. The Pledge’s actions are good, and Council committed to them, so they should be reflected here.

Thank you for your time.

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