Nature – Bearbells & Beagles by Leslie Noonan
Bearbells by Leslie Noonan
While Ontario has some spectacular hikes, European trails dominate my bucket list. Europeans have a much more relaxed view of landownership and public trails often travel across private lands. Unlike Ontario landowners, there is not a barrage of “No Trespassing”, “No Entry”, “Beware of Dog” or my favorite “Trespassers will be shot”. Indeed, while hiking in Scotland, the parking for trails was often in a farmer’s front yard, and the only sign might be “Don’t let the cows out”. Hikers are very respectful of the land they are crossing, and I never noticed any litter, graffiti, random fires pits or a single beer can. When hikers are respectful the landowners are more welcoming.
The Isle of Skye in Scotland offers spectacular scenery. Trails travel along the coast, above soaring cliffs, and through fields of purple heather and gorse. A word of warning: the roads to get to these trails can be real nail biters, travelling along a single lane, the land falling away to crashing rocks next to you, and the locals driving like it is the Grand Prix. I suggest putting a Canadian flag on your car so the locals can understand your snail-like pace while they blithely wave as passing withing centimetres of your vehicle as you inch ever closer to the precipice. Dramatic scenery witnessed a little too close for comfort!
The Point of Sleat is a beautiful hike through the moors to the ocean. Shetland cows with their shaggy hair watch unconcerned as you gingerly make your way through the farmyard. Once out on the Moor you pass small waterfalls and Fairy pools while in the distance the island of Eigg and the mound of Cuillin of Rum are visible. Puffy white sheep graze among the heather and sea birds call from the beaches. After several kms the trail comes to a stunning sandy beach called Camas Daraich. At this point you can sit and marvel at the sea otters frolicking in the blue waters or continue onto the lighthouse of Sleat. This is a more difficult section of trail, traveling up and over rocky outcrops to a set of stone steps hewed into a small cliff face. This section had my heart racing as I really hate heights. After you make your way down onto the shore you continue to a rocky outcrop with a group of sheep seemingly stranded on its top, though unconcerned as they munched on the yellow lichen and sparse grass. Here is the Lighthouse of Sleat with its stunning scenery across the water to the Scottish mainland. This trail is well worth the scary steps and the sidestepping of curious sheep.
NVCA November 2022 Board Meeting Highlights
2022 Third Quarter Budget Report
In the first six months of operations of NVCA, expenditures to date are tracking on schedule, with 74.9% of the budgeted expenses (75% of budget year completed).
Revenues are tracking well, with 83.76% of the budgeted revenues recognized. This includes the first 9 months of the general municipal levy of $1,953,576.
Currently, NVCA is sitting in a surplus position, primarily due to three reasons:
- Section 28 permits have already surpassed the budgeted number of $255,000 siting at $427,208 after the first 9 months
- Revenues are tracking higher than expenses so far this year which puts us in a surplus position.
- There was a large payroll accrual in 2021 due to the timing of the last payroll and a larger than normal vacation accrual.
2022 Year End Surplus/Deficit Allocation
The NVCA Board of Directors approved that any deficit/surplus for 2022 will allocated accordingly to the budget reserve.
Data Management Strategy for Planning Services Program
Currently, NVCA’s Planning and Regulations staff spend significant time doing manually intensive data entry in the absence of automated data management solution. This work includes uploading and assigning of documents, processing applications, data entry, preparing fee requests, invoices and responding to status requests. It is estimated that NVCA requires 1.5 full time staff to complete these tasks currently.
NVCA is investigating automating processes beginning with possible internal changes to the current system. If an in-house solution cannot be developed by the end of 2023, staff will be exploring software solutions that offers a full suite of software for planning, permitting and enforcement and regulatory services.
A subsequent staff report will be submitted to the board outlining the preferred data management solution. This report will also identify direct and indirect costs associated with the implementation of the solution and possible funding sources.
List of all existing NVCA programs and services fees
In April 2022, the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks released a list of programs and services conservation authorities can charge fees for.
Conservation authorities must develop a written fee policy, which includes a fee schedule that lists the fees for chargeable programs and services. The fee schedule must also include the frequency that policy and schedule(s) will be reviewed, the review process, notice of the review and changes, and the circumstances under which any person may request the authority to reconsider a fee
NVCA staff have developed a draft fee policy and associated schedules that consolidates all NVCA programs and services existing user fees.
At the November 25th meeting, the Board of Directors directed staff to apply a 2% cost of living increase to all fees. The new schedule will take effect on January 1, 2023.
Overview of Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 and related environmental registry postings
On October 25, 2022, the Ontario government introduced the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 to support More Homes Built Faster: Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan 2022-23. As part of the province’s Housing Supply Action Plan, the government is proposing to streamline approvals under the Conservation Authorities Act to focus on natural hazards.
NVCA published a media release and official statement on November 2, 2022.
Under the Environmental Bill of Rights, the government has put these proposals on the Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO) for public review and comment. Below are the ERO postings that are relevant to NVCA
ERO Posting: 019-2927 – Proposed updates to the regulation governing the activities that require permits under the Conservation Authorities Act. The changes are intended to streamline approvals to focus on natural hazards.
ERO Posting: 019-6141 – Legislative and regulatory proposals affecting conservation authorities to support the Housing Supply Action Plan 3.0. This includes a series of proposed changes to the Conservation Authorities Act and Planning Act.
ERO Posting 019-6160 – Proposed Updates to the Ontario Wetland Evaluation Systems (OWES). The Province is proposing to add new guidance related to re-evaluation of wetlands and updates to mapping of evaluated wetland boundaries. Also, to make changes to recognize the professional opinion of wetland evaluators and the role of local decision makers (e.g. municipalities)
ERO Posting: 019-6161 – Conserving Ontario’s Natural Heritage. The Province has developed a discussion paper and is seeking feedback on how Ontario could offset development pressures on wetlands, woodlands, and other natural wildlife habitat. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is considering developing an offset policy that would require a net positive impact on these features and help reverse the decades-long trend of natural heritage loss in Ontario.
Please refer to the November 2022 Board Agenda for NVCA staff comments for each posting.
Inventory of Programs and Services for Submission to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
NVCA’s Board of Directors received an update on the development of the new Memorandums of Understand (MOUs) relating to the Inventory of Programs and Services. The updates include:
Between October 1 and December 31, 2022, NVCA has had informal meetings with the following municipalities within our jurisdiction to present the draft inventory and to move forward MOU discussions: Township of Amaranth, Town of Mono, Town of Wasaga Beach, Town of Collingwood, Town of Innisfil, Township of Melancthon, Township of Mulmur, and Township of Oro-Medonte.
Many municipal partners are unclear of the changes that Bill 23 may bring forward that will need to be factored into MOUs for 2024.
Tiffin Nature Program
Geared towards pre-K and children in kindergarten, the Tiffin nature program will help children gain knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the natural world and our amazing planet.
Date: 6-week sessions from September 20, 2022 to June 13, 2023.
Location: Tiffin Centre for Conservation
8195 8th Line, Utopia, ON L0M 1T0
PA/PD Day Camp
Offered on PA/PD Days only, kids will enjoy lots of physical activity, and be mentally stimulated as they explore ever changing scenery and landscapes. They will be able to move away from excess screen time, and learn how to integrate nature into their everyday lives.
Dates: October 24, 2022, November 18, 2022, January 27, 2023, April 28, 2023, June 2, 2023
Location: Tiffin Centre for Conservation
8195 8th Line, Utopia, ON L0M 1T0
Tiffin’s Homeschool Program is designed for homeschool families who want to spend structured time outside to develop a sense of wonder, appreciation and respect for the natural world.
Date: One Friday a month from October 15, 2022 to June 23, 2023
Location: Various locations throughout the Nottawasaga Watershed
Help An Animal Overlooked By Adopters With the Ontario SPCA’s New Adopt-it-Forward Program
Give the gift of a “furever” home to an animal who is being overlooked by adopters by sponsoring their adoption fee during the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society’s iAdopt for the Holidays campaign, running until Dec. 25.
The Ontario SPCA is committed to finding a loving home for every adoptable animal. Sadly, some animals are overlooked by adopters due to age or special needs. To help those animals find loving homes, the Ontario SPCA is piloting an Adopt-it-Forward program that gives donors the opportunity to pay the adoption fee for an animal who has been waiting to find a loving home.
Presented by Swiffer®, the goal of iAdopt for the Holidays is to find loving homes for as many animals as possible at Ontario SPCA animal centres across the province during the holiday campaign. Last year, close to 600 animals found loving homes across Ontario during the iAdopt for the Holidays campaign. With many people enjoying time off during the holidays and being home together as a family, now is the perfect time to welcome an animal into your life.
If you’ve already adopted an animal, you can help promote the benefits of adoption by entering Ontario’s Cutest Adopted Animal Photo Contest at iadopt.ca. There are amazing weekly prizes to be won, as well as a grand prize awarded to the pet with the most votes. Enter your pet’s cutest photo and encourage your friends, family, co-workers and neighbours to cast their vote. To enter or to vote, visit iadopt.ca
“You can bring joy to animals in need this holiday season by making a donation to help give them the second chance they deserve,” says Caytlynn Croisier, Manager, Ontario SPCA Midland & District Animal Centre. “As a registered charity, the Ontario SPCA depends on the generosity of donors to provide care and shelter to animals in need as they wait for a family to adopt them.”
To change an animal’s life during iAdopt for the Holidays, visit iadopt.ca.