On Thursday May 20th, Regional Council met to decide which variation of its Natural Heritage System Niagara will have in its years to come. Alongside our Water Resource System, the Natural Heritage System (NHS) constitutes our region’s Natural Environment System, a portion of the Niagara Official Plan which is to be followed for 30 years. A Natural Heritage System is characterized by natural environmental features being buffered, and linked to each other.
There were three options presented to the council, of which the latter two were focused on: 3A, 3B, and 3C. 3C allowed for the preservation of biodiversity and significant sites by requiring mandatory (non-prescribed) buffers on natural features and areas and other woodlands within settlement areas, among other small yet immensely effective requirements. On the other hand, option 3B dictated the isolation and degradation of nature without question by the exclusion of small linkages, enhancement areas, and other supporting features of wildlife.
Two of SEA’s youngest members, Charlotte Chan and Dawoud Najmudin, delegated on May 20th in support of option 3C. Both delivered 10 minute speeches, both focusing on different aspects of 3C’s benefits; everything from environmental preservation to increased biodiversity. Charlotte and Dawoud spoke for both the municipality’s sake, and the region’s future youth’s sake.
As a result, 3B was not chosen. But neither was 3C. Since a good amount of councillors had stood behind the vote, a request to regional staff was made asking for another option: the combination of both 3B and 3C to be presented and voted upon at a later date. Having council choose the inappropriately constructed 3B option was just narrowly avoided with the help of two SEA member’s nudges, along with the efforts of the other citizen delegates.