Congratulations to Anna Bourgeois, Winner of a 2022 Healthy Community Award

Congratulations to our friend and volunteer Anna Bourgeois, who has just won a 2022 Healthy Community Award. The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority bestows this award upon individuals and groups whose volunteer work increases community connections, engagement and awareness of issues confronting the health of the Lake Simcoe watershed. 

What has Anna done to merit this honour? The list of her ongoing actions is staggering, and is a testament to her refusal to leave the task of “saving the planet” to “someone else.” 

Anna is the Director of Concerned Citizens of Ramara; she is both a board member and secretary with both AWARE Simcoe and the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, and she is an extremely active volunteer with Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition’s Laugh for Lake Simcoe fundraising team. Other organizations with whom she consistently shares his impressive skill set: Miller Quarry Public Engagement Committee; Orillia Water Watchers; Just Recovery Simcoe; Stop the Bradford Bypass; the Green Party of Ontario, and the Green Party of Canada.

Devoted to residents’ right to know whether the local environment and resources might be at risk, Anna scours Ramara Township council meeting agendas for items associated with illegal or questionable soil dumping, zoning bylaw alterations, noise bylaw and gun range infractions, municipal water supply system fragmentation and local quarry interactions such as bylaw compliance, exemptions and amendments–particularly where they might infringe on the health of water and soil.

When folks meet to protect the purest water of the Waverly Highlands and the Elmvale Flow, or to protest the Bradford Bypass and Highway 413, Anna is there. 

Always eager to share knowledge and inspire engagement, Anna regularly posts to the Concerned Citizens of Ramara, Simcoe North Green Party and Team Ramara Facebook pages, as well as Twitter.

An acclaimed professional graphic designer, Anna has created—pro bono—graphics for several campaigns and organizations, including Laugh for Lake Simcoe, Stop Sprawl Orillia, AWARE Simcoe, Orillia Water Watchers, Ramara Legacy Alliance, Sustainable Orillia–which included the Orillia Food Map, which helps vulnerable community members access food—and others.

As a farmer, Anna collaborates on decisions related to the Ontario Farmland Trust Conservation Easement Agreement on her and her husband Mike’s farm.

For Anna, environmental stewardship isn’t a sideline; it is a way of life. John F. Kennedy said: “Every person can make a difference, and every person should try.” Anna is the embodiment of that statement, and an amazing role model for all of us who are concerned about the health of the Lake Simcoe watershed and the state of our planet’s ecosystems as a whole.

By Susan Sheard, RLSC Board Member

Barillia Beach Park Association makes shoreline improvements look easy, because it is

If you lament that you want to improve Lake Simcoe’s health but don’t know how, then read this  pick me up! 

Barrillia Park Beach Association in Oro-Medonte, on the north shore of  Lake Simcoe, recently applied for and was granted almost $2,000 worth of native shrubs and trees. This program, called LEAP, offered by the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, is available to any Lake Simcoe lakefront property holder wishing to plant native shrubs and trees. 

Our community of 40 families co-own our beach access common lot. The property bakes in the afternoon sun and has a flat grass lawn leading to the minimal sandy beach area and is needing a bit of privacy. We are ripe for beautifying, naturalizing and shade providing to create beauty, help pollinators, provide food for birds and feed our souls.  We will also be cleaning the air, stopping erosion and increasing soil fertility.

During a work week in September, eleven neighbours cleared the sides of the lot of bindweed, unruly non native scrub and old cedar hedges that had grown through our fences. In the process we gained about 12 feet of width that will receive most of the trees and shrubs. We chose 3 species of tree: Tulip, Bur Oak and Hackberry. The shrubs include Chokeberry, Amelanchier, Nannybush, Ninebark and Fragrant Sumac. All will grow well in our sandy soil plus they produce flowers in spring, berries and fruit in summer and gorgeous reds and oranges in fall. They were all chosen from a list provided by  the Restoration Specialist for Simcoe County, Peter Shuttleworth. Peter was super helpful and will bring the plant material to our community planting date in November. 

So Lake Simcoe shoreliners take a look around your property and imagine how beautiful your property would look with a boost of native shrubs and trees. Bravo Conservation Authority for supporting the watershed in this way!

Written by Linda Wells, Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition Board member

Identifying priority lands for protection in Simcoe County

Through the summer of 2019, the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition undertook an important project: to map the parts of Simcoe County’s landscape that are protected, highlight vulnerabilities, and make recommendations on how to further protect them for future generations, with strengthened policies, property acquisitions and conservation easements.

The maps and report are timely, as the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan is up for review late in 2019, and there is a consultation underway on proposed changes to the Provincial Policy Statement. Both provincial policies could be strengthened to increase the amount of land that is protected from land use changes. 

The cartographers employed in the research found that just 14% of the total land area in Simcoe County is in the “best protected” category, and 58% is “somewhat protected.” Some of the “best protected” areas are vulnerable to permits for aggregate extraction.And 99% of the area in the “best protected” category is protected by the Province’s natural heritage protection policies. If these policies were weakened, we would be left with a much smaller and weaker Natural Heritage System in Simcoe County.

While all involved in the business of protecting natural areas understand that the policies that protect natural features may change, the Coalition suggests that linkages between the patches that are well-protected by policy are the top priorities for protection. These linkages create a cohesive, protected network through which water and wildlife can move, rather than disconnected patches. It is a “death by a thousand cuts” to the Natural Heritage System that worries the Coalition; those cuts tend to occur in areas identified as “somewhat protected” in the report. These include the crucial linkages between well-protected patches of forest and wetland.

The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority updated their Natural Heritage System and Strategy in 2018; it includes these linkage areas, but does not change the policies applied to the landscape unless a municipality adopts the NHS in their Official Plan. This is our recommendation to all Simcoe County municipalities that have not done so already. 

Protecting greenlands is good for our water, our economy, and our way of life: wetlands regulate water flow, filter water, help control flooding, and provide wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities. Forests also help filter water and regulate water flow, create oxygen, and provide habitat for wildlife. And healthy, naturalized shorelines and river banks shade and cool the water while also protecting from soil erosion, slowing erosion’s contributions to the lake’s phosphorus pollution problem.

RLSC’s report also contrasts Environment Canada’s “How Much Habitat is Enough?” recommendations for Southern Ontario with Simcoe County’s current wetland and forest cover. While wetlands coverage is within Environment Canada’s recommended range, wetlands are being lost, and forest cover of 22% is nowhere near the forest cover target for healthy aquatic ecosystems of 50%. Further, forest cover is unevenly distributed across the County. Developing local and specific targets for forest cover and wetlands would be a good next step towards increasing the resiliency of Simcoe County’s landscape and water quality. 

There is absolutely reason for hope: because Simcoe County’s Natural Heritage System is so big, there is ample opportunity to increase the amount of land that is permanently protected, if the County, municipalities or the province go beyond what today’s Natural Heritage protection policies require. The report provides recommendations for the province, municipalities, and landowners, ranging from expanding the Greenbelt into Simcoe County, maintaining or strengthening the provincial policies that protect wetlands, forests, and shorelines, developing strong tree-cutting bylaws and exploring land trust options.

The opportunity to get it right in Simcoe County should inspire engaged citizens, planners, and our governments, to develop an approach to land use planning that permanently protects an adequate amount of green space, and prepares us for an uncertain future. 

The Coalition hopes its maps and research will be useful for land trusts’ identification of priority areas for protection. The Coalition is presenting the results of its research to land trusts on November 7, 2019, by Zoom webinar. Please contact us if you would like to be included. We want to collaborate with land trusts and share our results.

The report and maps are available for download here. 

Written by Claire Malcolmson, Executive Director, Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition

The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition is a lake-wide member-based organization, representing 22 groups in the Lake Simcoe watershed, that provides leadership and inspires people to take action to protect Lake Simcoe.