Ontario Conservation Authorities have been natural champions for Healthy Watersheds for more than 60 years.
The idea or concept of Ontario conservation authorities really began in the late 1920’s and 30’s when drought, deforestation led to extensive soil loss and floods.
During the Depression and World War II organizations such as the Ontario Conservation and Reforestation Association, Federation of Ontario Naturalists and individuals writing for the Farmer’s Advocate pressed the case for conservation and resource management.
Many of these early conservationists strongly believed a new approach to natural resource management was needed. And that this approach must be an integrated one using natural watershed boundaries.
The scale of erosion and water problems was so extensive that the Province and a number of municipal councils agreed that a new approach was essential. The resulting new spirit of cooperation led to the passage of the Conservation Authorities Act in 1946. The Act enabled communities to form conservation authorities which were unique on this continent then and still are today.
These autonomous organizations were based on three sound principles.
- Local residents had to provide the initiative to form the authority and in doing so accepted the responsibility of contributing financially to the conservation program.
- Costs had to be shared by the communities in the area and by the provincial government.
- Conservation authorities were to be organized on a watershed basis so that natural drainage patterns and characteristics are preserved.
Problems such as flooding could be managed on a uniform basis and regulations could be established to protect river valleys from building encroachment and erosion problems.
Some of the early conservation authorities included the Grand River and Toronto Region where flooding problems were extensive and occurred frequently. Conservation management in Ontario thus began and was truly conservation by the people and for the people. Local residents established programs that reflected their needs and priorities.
Conservation Authorities are mandated to ensure the conservation, restoration and responsible management of Ontario’s water, land and natural habitats through programs that balance human, environmental and economic needs. Conservation Authorities are legislated under the Conservation Authorities Act (1946).
- Ensure that Ontario’s rivers, lakes and streams are properly safeguarded, managed and restored.
Based on Ontario’s system of watersheds, Conservation Authorities are known globally for their stewardship of our rivers, lakes and streams through the development and delivery of watershed-based programs that work with nature to protect, restore and effectively manage Ontario’s water resources.
- Protect, manage and restore Ontario’s woodlands, wetlands and natural habitat.
Because what we do on land is reflected in our water and ecosystems, Conservation Authorities develop programs that protect our land resources and promote watershed stewardship practices that lead to healthy, sustainable communities and industries.
- Develop and maintain programs that will protect life and property from natural hazards such as flooding and erosion.
Conservation Authorities work in partnership with municipalities to protect life and property through the development of programs that minimize or prevent the impact of natural hazards such as flooding and erosion.
- Provide opportunities for the public to enjoy, learn from and respect Ontario’s natural environment.
Through the lands they manage and own, as well as the educational programs they deliver, Conservation Authorities provide opportunities for our citizens to understand and appreciate the value of their natural environment as well as the social and economic benefits of protecting that environment.
Conservation Authorities promote an integrated watershed approach to managing Ontario’s natural resources based on the cause-effect relationship between human activities and the healthy state of our environment. Key to the success of this approach are locally developed watershed action plans that describe what we must all do in order to ensure a safe and secure water supply and a healthy aquatic ecosystem.
To further promote conservation efforts in the Province, a new organization representing the collective interests of the network was formed in 1989.
Conservation Ontario conducts programs such as government communications and assistance, marketing, resource management modeling, partnership development, policy and planning, and research.
The formation of Conservation Ontario signaled a shift to a new, more entrepreneurial way of conducting environmental business which focused on excellence in managing and delivering watershed-based ecosystem resources and services. Conservation Ontario is a non governmental organization representing the network of 36 conservation authorities. It is funded by Conservation Authority levies and governed by a Council of Conservation Authority Board members.
Facts about Ontario’s network of Conservation Authorities
- Conservation authorities own more than 340,000 acres (138,000 hectares) of land in Ontario.
- C.A.’s serve a population of more than 9,000,000 people
- There are 352 conservation areas in the Province and more than 200 of these areas offer a wide range of recreational activities and facilities.
- More than 5,000,000 people visit the conservation areas annually including 1,500,000 campers that use 60+ campgrounds.
- Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities are the only community-based environmental protection agencies in the Province. They have also served as a model for other provinces and countries.
- Conservation Authorities are the only agencies set up to manage renewable natural resources on a watershed basis.