Community forests needed for future generations says reader

Dear Editor,

Official Plan and Climate Change

Saugeen Shores is accepting community input to the Official Plan. Here is why we need to send in our comments.

The Ontario Policy Statement of 2020 states: “Provincial plans and municipal official plans provide a framework for comprehensive, integrated, place-based and long-term planning that supports and integrates the principles of strong communities, a clean and healthy environment and economic growth, for the long term.”

The key points are long-term planning and clean and healthy environment.

Our current official plan states: The Official Plan is a general land use guide, the purpose of which is to guide land use decisions and manage change in the Town.

The key point is guide land use decisions.

The media stresses greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 eq) from fossil fuels, but did you know that in our region, the greatest impact to climate is not from emissions, but from land-use changes due to human activities?

The town of Saugeen Shores is 66 square miles or 171 sq kilometers in area. The original forest that was here prior to human activity pulled 1,848,000 tons of CO2 every year from the air and stored it in biomass and in the forest soil. That is about 7 times more than our annual community output of CO2eq which is 270,200 tons. Some of that stored carbon is released as trees die and decay, but the majority accumulates permanently in forest soils year after year.

Old growth forests were tremendous carbon sinks but we cut them down. We now have some second-growth and third-growth woodlots, but they are not mature, they are not as good at long term carbon storage, and we are eroding them with each new housing and commercial development.

The Ontario policy statement is clear: Long-term planning for strong communities and a clean and healthy environment.

In the Saugeen Shores Official Plan, we have an opportunity to set aside land for long-term carbon management in the form of mature mixed forests, but it won’t happen unless we ask for it.

There is a parallel here to Covid-19. Governments that acted early to mitigate the threat had fewer cases and fewer deaths. Governments that put economic interests ahead of public safety lost hundreds of thousands needlessly.

Let’s act now to create our community forests that will sequester carbon for ourselves and for the generations that come after us.

Provincial Policy Statement:

Saugeen Shores Official Plan:

Rob Shave, 
Southampton, Ontario