Deputy Environmental Commissioner praises donor efforts

With a changing climate, growing population and the ever-growing threats posed by invasive species, the importance of protected areas, especially those which host native species, grows every day.

Ellen Schwartzel is surprisingly upbeat for someone speaking about the dire realities of a changing climate. Addressing a room full of Foundation donors at our May 14th event, the
Deputy Environmental Commisioner of Ontario is keen to point out the necessity of projects like the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System.

“Wildlife corridors are going to be essential moving forward. As the climate warms, species will need to migrate to find suitable habitat. We can’t just send out a memo to all of the creatures in the forest!” she explains with a wry smile.

ECO (Environmental Commissioner of Ontario) is a nonpartisan arm’s-length agency funded by the Province of Ontario to audit the Government’s actions from an environmental perspective. The organization also drives citizen engagement on environmental issues through Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights and a new toolkit designed to arm citizens with the tools they need to demand environmental accountability in their communities.

She points to the progress made in closing coal-fired power plants, massive decreases in smog-days and Greenbelt protection as reasons to be optimistic. Keeping the crowd focused on what can be done to move forward, Schwartzel suggests the simplest of actions: plant a tree.

“Preferably a native one!” she adds, noting the extraordinary prevalence of just four species,  especially the Norway Maple, in Toronto’s urban tree canopy. A diverse canopy of native trees and, of course, protected spaces for them to thrive, will be essential to the sustainable communities of the future which will grapple with a rapidly changing climate.

Schwartzel notes that with over 11,000 acres owned or managed by the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA), representing approximately 10% of the watershed, we are in a better position than most Ontario communities to adapt to a changing climate.