Innisfil Community Mapping Project

Community led planning to ensure Innisfil’s natural heritage systems remain strong far into the future.

Table of Contents

With the support of the Greenbelt Foundation, the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition analyzed and mapped environmental policies across Simcoe County and the Lake Simcoe watershed landscape.

Following this research, in February 2020 the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition hosted an event at Innisfil’s incredible IdeaLab and Library. This was attended by Innisfil residents, including some members of Council, the MPP for the area, Andrea Khanjin, and members of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition’s Innisfil member groups, including the Innisfil District Association and Innisfree Ltd. 

Citizens and elected leaders collaborating on the mapping project.

Participants discussed how to keep Innisfil’s natural heritage strong and connected into the future.

What we found

Only 14% of Simcoe County’s landscape fell into our “best protected by environmental policy” category; in the Lake Simcoe watershed, that percentage rose to twenty one. More of the areas’ natural heritage needs strong policy protection in order to create a robust and connected Natural Heritage System. The full reports can be accessed via the “Our Work” page, or by searching for “Reports”.

Why protect Natural Heritage?

We need an intact ecosystem complete with forests and wetlands in order to protect biodiversity and good water quality. But a healthy environment also supports healthy people and local economies.

Community members participating in the mapping exercise.

In the Lake Simcoe watershed a quality ecosystem supports the $420 million / year sustainable recreation sector, and delivers millions in ecosystem services like clean water, flood control, climate regulation and water filtration. 

Lake Simcoe Protection Plan’s High Quality Natural Cover Target

The Lake Simcoe Protection Plan includes a target of 40% high quality natural cover (HQNC) in the Lake Simcoe watershed, but no policies specifically support this target. Today, 28% of the Lake Simcoe watershed qualifies as HQNC but only half of that area is well protected by strong natural heritage policies that do not permit land use changes.

Greater efforts at the municipal level can increase the size and protections given to areas of High Quality Natural Cover, and improve on the identification and protection of other natural features that protect our environment and way of life. The 2020 provincial review of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan is an opportunity to express the need for better protection of High Quality Natural Cover.

Innisfil Community Mapping

In February 2020 the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition hosted an event at Innisfil’s incredible IdeaLab and Library attended by Innisfil residents including some members of Council and the MPP for the area, and members of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition’s Innisfil member groups the Innisfil District Association and Innisfree Ltd., for a lively discussion about how to keep Innisfil’s natural heritage strong and connected into the future.

Level of Environmental Policy Protection in Innisfil and Community Comments

This maps shows the result of the participatory mapping exercise noted above.

Results of natural heritage and environment community mapping in Innisfil,, Ontario
Results of natural heritage and environment community mapping in Innisfil,, Ontario. Click to open interactive map.

Recommendations for a municipal action plan to address community comments

Summary of Aims

  • Increase woodland cover to 40% +
  • No loss of wetlands
  • Increase wetland cover to 20% +
  • Focus restoration efforts around protected areas to increase the patch size of the feature.

1. Natural Heritage System

  • We encourage all of the municipalities in the Lake Simcoe watershed to adopt the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority’s Natural Heritage System and Strategy. If their NHS’s recommended remediation and tree planting work were completed, then up to 60% of the Lake Simcoe watershed would be in some form of natural cover. 
  • Map Ontario’s Growth Plan Natural Heritage System and incorporate the associated policies into Innisfil’s Official Plans within the identified time-frame. Once implemented, they will offer the best protection yet for natural heritage features and in particular for the linkage features between the features.

2. Wetlands

  • Develop a plan to achieve the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan’s target: No loss of wetlands.
  • Working with Conservation Authorities, increase wetland cover to 20%. 
  • Develop a plan to evaluate, map and protect accordingly, ALL of the unevaluated wetlands in Innisfil. 

3. Forests and High Quality Natural Cover

Due to the significance of patch size, it is of utmost importance to protect and maintain the 25 hectare patches mapped by the province as “High Quality Natural Cover” (HQNC) using the following steps:  

  • Identify and ground truth the quality of the natural features.
  • The Ministry of Natural Resources and the LSRCA along with municipalities need to map all known forest patches, then categorize by the 4 hectare (south) and 10 hectare (north) thresholds of the province’s “Technical Definitions and Criteria for Identifying Key Natural Heritage Features and Key Hydrologic Features for the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan”. Any woodlands below these thresholds should then be recommended for evaluation to see if they meet the density/crown cover metrics of the technical guide.
  • Municipalities and Upper tier Region or County put the natural features in Official Plans (maps, policies, technical definitions, and supportive lower-tier zoning). 
  • Support non-policy initiatives and land trusts that protect features within the 25 hectare patches that do not meet the criteria for strong policy protection. 
  • Enact an interim control bylaw to protect the mapped High Quality Natural Cover parcels of 25 hectare plus from rezoning or land use changes until the province’s HQNC research is complete.

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