A Community Round Table is needed for Integrated Watershed Management

CRT Notice

Muskoka Watershed Council is seeking individuals interested in joining the Community Round Table on Integrated Watershed Management for the Muskoka River Watershed. You can become a part of the process of building better environmental management and land-use planning!

Integrated Watershed Management (IWM) is the most promising option for protecting the unique natural assets that anchor the lifestyle and economy of those who live and vacation in our region. With climate change increasing the variability and severity of weather and causing rapid changes in the natural environment, environmental management and land-use planning are now more complex tasks than they used to be. However, many decisions are currently based on local political boundaries.

To retain the high-quality environment so vital to our economy and to the quality of life of our residents, we need more effective management policies and procedures than those now in place. Many decisions and management actions require an ecosystem context, including some climate actions (e.g., forest management, infrastructure renewal), acting on problems such as calcium, salt and phosphorus, and locations and types of waterfront or urban development. The logical scale and process for making these decisions is the watershed and IWM.

IWM incorporates and balances three key components of a community: economic viability, environmental resilience, and societal needs. IWM was the key recommendation in the Muskoka Watershed Advisory Group’s June 2020 report to the Ontario Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. The Minister’s positive response, and the associated transfer of funds to The District Municipality of Muskoka (DMM), provide some of the tools to begin making IWM a reality. Now we need a Community Round Table (CRT) to drive this process forward with the support and engagement of all sectors of our community; Muskoka Watershed Council has been charged with building it.

Members of the CRT will represent specific community sectors ensuring that all perspectives are considered and that the IWM Plan ultimately produced will reflect the needs and aspirations of residents of the Muskoka River Watershed, from its origins in the Algonquin Highlands south and west to Georgian Bay.

The provincial initiative has enabled DMM to commence several projects that help build the essential baseline information and knowledge concerning water quantity, water quality and land use across the Muskoka River Watershed. This phase will be completed early in 2023. One of the first tasks of the CRT will be to evaluate and integrate the results of these projects, identifying knowledge gaps remaining and recommending studies to fill those gaps.

To succeed, the CRT requires active participation by representatives of all sectors across the watershed to capture the diversity of our perspectives: various economic sectors, municipalities, local communities, lake associations and indigenous peoples. The CRT’s overall task is to consolidate the perspectives of the representatives into building a plan for the implementation of IWM as the basis for governance of the environment and land-use planning within the Muskoka River Watershed and to continue educating and informing the community about IWM.

IWM is sophisticated and will be challenging to implement, especially given the governance systems in parts of North America where it is initiated without a regulatory body such as a conservation authority. MWC believes the benefits of IWM justify the effort needed. The CRT will explore the costs and benefits of IWM while being informed by the insights that representatives from different sectors of our community can provide. We anticipate a major report to the community late in 2023 providing a plan for moving forward towards a more effectively managed future for this region.

The CRT must be representative in order to succeed. If you are interested in participating, please fill out the inquiry form below and we will reach out to you.

Community Round Table Inquiry Form