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Making wetlands a priority

Cartoon by George Longley

Recently, the world marked World Wetlands Day.

Feb. 2, a day to honour those spaces that keep our world beautiful and healthy.

In years past, many thought their appearance and habitat was the extent of their usefulness, and at times, not even that. The history of the Second Marsh and the threats to fill in what many saw as a useless swamp, are only a microcosm of the historical view of wetlands.

Now though, the view is starting to shift, and rightfully so, as these wetlands not only provide habitat for many endangered species and migratory birds, but they also save municipalities serious cash.

Boiled down, wetlands have the ability to provide a number of valuable services that numerous municipalities build expensive infrastructure project to achieve. To name a few, wetlands reduce flooding, replenish drinking water, improve air quality, filter waste and improve water quality and can even create jobs through various studies and even tourism.

For that reason, Oshawa needs to make the protection of these lands a priority in the years ahead, especially with an infrastructure budget that is stretched thin.

And the threats are still there. The fate of the Second Marsh, forever linked to the Oshawa harbour is again on shaky ground as the port looks to find ways to pay back a multi-million dollar arbitration award to FarmTech, and further west, massive development threatens another chunk of green space along Park Road.

With that said, it seems that the City of Oshawa is already starting to slowly turn the corner.

At budget time, councillors approved a chunk of funds to be put toward updating the management plans surrounding Oshawa’s Second Marsh. These plans will prove vitally important moving forward in order to guide decision making around protecting the future of the provincially significant wetland.

Also, as part of the city’s “teaching city” initiative, Oshawa has been chosen to take part in the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative, a program that will help study Oshawa Second Marsh along with adding natural assets to its asset management plan. This step will not only work to protect the city’s green spaces, but may also identify ways these vital ecosystems can actually save the city money.

So it would appear Oshawa is off to a good start. However, as the threats continue to circle, Oshawa would be smart to strap on their hip waders and prepare to do what they can to save these vital assets.