Humankind, a planet whose future is threatened by our

Humankind, is but one of millions of species sharing a planet whose future is threatened by our activities. There are initiatives that are specifically designed to protect the environment and its nonhuman inhabitants from seemingly unstoppable human interventions. The serious consideration of the causes as well as the negative effects of human intervention along with the implementation of possible solutions are all critical components needed to be adhered to, to ensure that continued land development does not have more detrimental effects on life on earth. National Geographic defines a habitat to be “a place where an organism makes its home and it must meet all the environmental conditions an organism needs to survive”. Animals require a habitat that provides it with the things it needs to find and gather food, choose a mate, and successfully reproduce. Plants require a habitat that provides the right combination of light, air, water, and soil. (National Geographic) Habitat loss is when land cover, or its aquatic equivalent, is changed, usually following human activity. (The Earth Times) There are three categories of habitat loss; habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation, and habitat degradation. Habitat destruction happens when the landscape is instantly changed, for example mass deforestation by the clear cutting of trees. Destruction of habitats has a negative impact on the wildlife in the area. Continuing the example of deforestation, many land animals and plants that live in forests are not able to survive the deforestation that destroys their homes (Pachamama Alliance). Forest soils are moist, but without protection from the trees blocking the sun, they quickly dry out. Trees also help maintain the water cycle by returning the water vapor to the atmosphere. The canopy of the leaves on trees blocks the sun ray’s during the day and holds the heat in at night. A lack of trees will lead to more extreme temperature swings that are harmful to plants and animals (National Geographic). Trees also absorb greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide. The fewer forests there are, larger amounts of greenhouse gasses will enter into the atmosphere, which in turn will increase the speed and severity of global warming. Destruction is also the leading cause of extinction for various species and the reason many animals are endangered. Without a habitat, animals are unable to protect themselves and care for their young (CEF).Habitat fragmentation takes place through altering the land in a way that confuses the animals and disrupts their natural way of living, This occurs when people create roads and place buildings, homes, and attractions in the midst of woodlands and other natural areas. The impact that habitat fragmentation poses on the environment is just as extreme as habitat destruction. Habitat fragmentation separates animals from each other and their food sources, and can happen both on land and in the water. Fragmenting habitats takes away the advantage of migration that many animal species rely on for preservation (CEF).  Habitat degradation occurs when pollution that causes habitats to be destroyed because it changes the quality of the air, water, and land (CEF). It often creates a breeding ground for toxins. Degradation of the environment allows species that are not part of an ecosystem to invade the area. These invasive species naturally contribute to the downfall of other plants and animals that are native to the regions. Whenever humans take over natural areas for our own use, we are encroaching on the habitat of another creature. Land development means altering or developing land through land use activities including, but not limited to, grading, soil removal, construction, shoreline stabilization, alteration to watercourses, extraction of aggregates and clearing woodlots or forested areas. (Government of Ontario) Habitats including forests, swamps, and lakes are lost as people replace natural features with housing, roads, pipelines, farms, and industrial developments. Habitat loss has many impacts on individual species and on biodiversity.     In Ontario, there are two main ways in which habitat loss due to land use and development is minimized. The first is through the creation of spaces that limit land use and development. These spaces protect natural and cultural features, maintain biodiversity and provide opportunities for compatible recreation. These areas contain old-growth forests, lakes, rivers, and wetlands, archaeological sites or other cultural values, and habitats for rare or endangered plants and animals. There are four types of protected areas in Ontario; provincial parks, conservation reserves, wilderness areas and dedicated protected areas in the Far North.    Provincial parks that are regulated under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, protect significant natural and cultural features in the province while supporting Ontario’s economy. Provincial parks are important for outdoor recreation, scientific research, environmental monitoring and education. There are 335 regulated provincial parks in Ontario, with a total land area of 7,420,420 hectares.     Conservation reserves protect significant natural and cultural features while providing opportunities for various compatible traditional activities including fishing, hunting, and trapping. They are also important for scientific research and environmental monitoring. Like provincial parks, they are regulated under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserve Act. There are 295 regulated conservation reserves in Ontario, with a total land area of 1,515,630 hectares.     Wilderness areas are established to preserve areas in their natural state to protect flora and fauna. They are regulated under the Wilderness Areas Act. Research, and educational activities may be carried out to help improve local knowledge about historical, aesthetic, scientific, and recreational values. There are 11 wilderness areas in Ontario, with a total landmass of 838 hectares.     Dedicated protected areas in the Far North are being identified by First Nations and Ontario through community-based land use planning. They will help the unique ecology and boreal environment of the resources contribute to a more prosperous, healthy, and sustainable future for its communities. These areas can either be unregulated designations in community-based land use plans or regulated under the Far North or the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act. There are 9 Dedicated Protected Areas, 5 of which are regulated under PPCRA and 4 of which are non-regulated. They have a total landmass of about 1,229,451 hectares. In Ontario there is approximately 10,166,399 hectares of provincially protected areas. This is 9.4% of the province. In addition to this the Federal government protects some areas in Ontario, for a total 11, 518,649 hectares. Therefore, 10.7% of the province is protected land.The second way that habitat loss is protected from land use and development in Ontario is through the provincial environmental protection and land use planning laws. The environmental laws that regulate use of the land in Ontario are: the Environmental Protection Act, the Environmental Assessment Act and the Planning Act. The Planning Act is the primary law governing land use planning in Ontario. It has a crucial role in shaping both communities and the natural landscape in central and natural Ontario due to the broad powers over land use planning that it provides to provincial and municipal decision makers. This Act grants municipal government’s authority to control use of privately owned lands through a variety of planning tools, including official plans, zoning bylaws, site plan controls and subdivision approvals. (p.3 Land Use Planning in Ontario). Under the planning Act, developers submit applications in order to obtain approval for their developments. When deciding whether to approve the application, the municipalities must look at the Provincial Policy Statement. The PPS “provides direction on matters of provincial interest related to land use planning and development” (p.4 Land Use Planning in Ontario). “It contains planning directions for woodlands, wetlands, wildlife habitat, air quality and the quality and quantity of water” (p.4 Land Use Planning in Ontario). Under the Planning Act there are opportunities for public input and appeal of decisions to approve applications. People who are interested in environmental protection issues can “access information made available to the public by municipalities; attend public meetings; attend open house information sessions; provide written comments; and speak at public meetings.” (p.12 Land Use Planning in Ontario) The Planning Act requires land developers to adhere to the Environmental Protection Act in Ontario when lands are being developed. The Environmental Protection Act is “intended to provide the protection of the natural environment” (Benidickson 2009 p. 4). It must be followed regarding “construction, design, and operation of environmental control equipment; monitoring and clean up procedures and protocols; and a myriad of environmental-related rules. (Muldoon 2009, p.75). The Environmental Protection Act requires developers to do environmental assessments according to the Environmental Assessment Act. These include requirements to “describe the environment that will be affected, the effects that will be caused, and the actions necessary… to prevent, change, mitigate, or remedy, as well as an evaluation of advantages and the disadvantages to the environment” (Benidickson 2009, p. 263). SLAPPs are used by developers against individuals who protest projects, often in environmental and municipal planning disputes(Anti-Slapp Legislation). Developers would sue these individuals in order to “stifle their ability to speak out”. People involved in conservation or environmental protection would be afraid to get involved in planning issues. This meant that not all environmental concerns would be raised in planning decisions. There is a law that aims to protect people from SLAPPs, Bill 138, Protection of Public Participation Act, 2008, but it has not been passed. Although 10.7% of the land in Ontario is protected, it is not enough (Ontario. ca). “Wetlands make up about one-third of the province’s land base, and are most prevalent in northern Ontario. However, wetland losses have been most severe in southern Ontario: about 72% of the wetlands present prior to European settlement had been destroyed, and some areas of southern Ontario have lost almost all of their wetlands. For over 20 years, Ontario provincial policy has stated that the wetlands should be protected. However, wetlands continue to lose out to other priorities, including residential development and new pits and quarries, depriving future generations of the benefits that wetlands could provide” (p.37 Land Use Planning in Ontario). “Approximately 80% of southern Ontario’s original woodlands cover has been lost. Much of the land in this part of the province is held privately or by municipalities. Today, a substantial amount of the forest cover in southern Ontario exists because private landowners maintain woodlands. Trees also draw pollutants and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thereby buffering climate change and improving local air quality. Strips or bands of extensive tree cover running through urban areas can provide both habitat and migration corridors for wildlife. Forests in the urban areas of southern Ontario may have -or support – tree species that are not commonly found anywhere else in Canada, a significant consideration for the consequences of Ontario’s biodiversity. The PPS does not provide sufficient safeguards to protect the province’s significant woodlands”(p. 39 Land Use Planning in Ontario). ” The PPS states that development and site alteration shall not be permitted in “significant habitat” of endangered species and threatened species. However, some land uses are given priority over others and the protection of natural areas and wild species is not given the same importance as economic drivers in the implementation of the PPS” (p.43 Land Use Planning in Ontario).

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