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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Water key to future?

Water key to future?
TRCA, LSRCA look ahead to continued watershed protection


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It is a tale of two watersheds.
This year, the Toronto Region Conservation Authority celebrated its 50th anniversary and Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) celebrated 55 years of serving their respective communities.

But, after more than half a century in operation, the question is what exactly do the two conservation authorities in York Region do?

While most people think they are primarily concerned with looking after birds and animals and parks, the main purpose of the TRCA is actually to look after your water sources.

HISTORY OF CONSERVATION

Both authorities were born out of the conservation movement of the 19th century.

At that time, the Germans were just beginning to explore the field of forestry in British India, managing forests using early climate change theories.

In 1898, Prussian-born Bernard Fernow founded the forestry school at University of Toronto, one of only two at that time in North America.

The two original schools of thoughts behind conservation still exist today -- one side believes forest lands should be regulated for public activities and commerical use, the other feels this will lead to commercial overuse and ruin the pristine wilderness.

THE PRESENT

According to Brian Kemp, acting director of conservation lands at LSRCA, over the years, they have refined their approach.

"The way we do business has changed," he said,

"The lesson of Walkerton is that we can't just treat the water, we have to look at a more holistic approach of protecting water at the source."

This means being conscious of the fact the water we use in our everyday lives doesn't just go down the drain and vanish, it goes back into a system.

"We hear horror stories about water quality from Third World countries and you think that could never happen here, but it can," he said.

At LSRCA, protecting Lake Simcoe means bringing it back to earlier levels of health by generating awareness about the impact of phosphates and encouraging people to conserve water.

Community groups concerned with the health of Lake Simcoe are consulting with LSRCA to ensure the long-term health of Lake Simcoe.

LSRCA's approach has been to involve the community groups in efforts to clean up the lake by forming community partnerships.

"We don't want to dictate to a community what they can and can't do, that doesn't make us any friends," Mr. Kemp said.

THE FUTURE

Finding innovative ways of working with the community is key for the TRCA as well and the group has made great strides working with different sectors.

"The easiest way to protect the land is to own it," said Mr. Kemp.

He would like to see more acquisition of lands on the Oak Ridges Moraine and he stresses the need to provide linkages among protected lands.

Brian Denney, chief administrative officer for the TRCA, also feels preserving greenspace is an important mandate for conservation authorities.

It is easy to take for granted the impact the conservation authorities, now more than half a century old, have on the environment.

Each year, they hold tree planting events such as the Sunoco Tree Plant April 29 at George R. Richardson Park in Newmarket.

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CONSERVATION AREAS

· SHEPHERD'S BUSH, OFF INDUSTRY STREET, AURORA: trails, children's summer programs, picnic area

· WHITCHURCH, 10 KM EAST OF AURORA OFF AURORA SIDEROAD: picnic pavilion, trails

Roger's Reservoir

North of Newmarket off Green Lane

· ROGER'S RESERVOIR, NORTH OF NEWMARKET, OFF GREEN LANE: fishing, cycling, hiking, "ghost" canal system

· MABEL DAVIS, NEWMARKET OFF DAVIS DRIVE OR BAYVIEW PARKWAY: fitness trail, covered paviliion, playground

· FAIRY LAKE: hiking trails

For more information go to www.lsrca.on.ca

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