February 20, 2006

Ministry staff receive ECO award for work to protect Alfred Bog

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario's 2004/2005 ECO Recognition Award was presented to 45 staff members from the Ministries of Natural Resources, of Environment, and of Municipal Affairs and Housing in recognition of their concerted efforts to preserve one of the most significant wetlands in Canada, the Alfred Bog near Ottawa.

The Bog's vulnerable ecosystem has been the focus of a 20-year conservation effort in order to protect several extremely rare plant and animal species. It is also home to the most southerly moose population in Ontario.

"This very important wetland has been vulnerable to ecological degradation for more than 100 years, but now the Bog will be protected for generations to come," said Commissioner Gord Miller.

Since the 1800s, agriculture and peat harvesting have diminished the extent of the Bog by half. Sections have been protected through years of work and fundraising by local groups, but the involvement of provincial ministries was needed to protect those parts that were privately owned.

Ministry of Natural Resources personnel used their extensive wetland mapping resources to assess the ecological significance of the Bog and the effects of peat harvesting on its ecosystem. The Ministry of the Environment used its Permit to Take Water (PTTW) system to control the amount of water peat harvesters could take from the Bog.

The peat harvesters responded by appealing both the PTTWs and the Official Plan of the local municipality that had banned the harvesting operations. Ministry staff realized that they had to use their combined expertise to take the lead in land use planning and in negotiating for the purchase of the lands.

The negotiations led to a settlement under whose terms the peat harvesters agreed to minimize their impact on the Bog and to eventually turn their lands over to public ownership. At the same time, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing amended the Municipal Act to give municipalities the authority to regulate peat harvesting.

In presenting the award, Commissioner Miller noted that the hard work of local environmental groups and municipalities, combined with the dedication of the staff from provincial ministries "have led to the protection of over 90% of the Alfred Bog."

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