Canadian Environmentalists Call on All Parties to Clean Up the Great Lakes
Ontario environmental organizations today handed all parties their vision of the three key elements that should be included in Ontario's Great Lakes Protection Act (GLPA).
The Liberals promised a Great Lakes Protection Act in the Throne Speech and both opposition parties pledged to protect water quality in their platforms. First reading of the new act is expected this spring.
The groups are urging that the Great Lakes Protection Act:
- engage citizens and support vibrant waterfront communities and economies
- protect and restore Great Lakes' biodiversity
- improve water quality and quantity
The groups agreed that the Great Lakes Protection Act needs to connect people with their lakes by improving the health of natural areas, shorelines and beaches, reducing sources of pollution from air and land, attacking destructive invasive species, and by using Ontario’s high tech innovations, regulations and natural services (like wetlands) to reduce the impacts of cities on water quality and quantity.
“The Great Lakes provide drinking water to four out of five Ontarians,” says Derek Stack, executive director at Great Lakes United. “It’s time to connect—in law—the basic necessity of clean water with how we treat our Lakes’ ecosystem. It’s time to clean up our act.”
On some Great Lakes people have begun swimming at beaches again after years of fear of contaminated water. "These places, like Blue Flag beaches on Toronto’s waterfront, serve as reminders that local investments in sewage treatment facilities can improve people’s quality of life," says Claire Malcolmson, water programs manager at Environmental Defence. "We want this experience to spread to other communities in the Great Lakes basin."
“If the Great Lakes Protection Act helps municipal governments pay for needed water and sewer infrastructure investments, people can enjoy improvements to their waterfronts and water quality quite quickly,” says Anastasia Lintner, staff lawyer at Ecojustice.
“Despite their values, Ontario’s wetlands continue to be lost at an alarming rate,” says Mark Gloutney, director of Regional Operations—Eastern Region Ducks Unlimited Canada. “The protection of wetlands in the Great Lakes Basin and coast is critical to maintaining the ecological integrity and biodiversity of the Great Lakes.”
"Wetlands are needed by 80 percent of Great Lakes fish at some point in their life cycle for spawning and or nursery habitat. But 70 percent of Great Lakes coastal wetlands have been lost due to development and or pollution. We need to put in place new policies to protect what wetlands we have left,” says Mary Muter, chair, Great Lakes Section, Sierra Club Ontario.
Stronger action on the Great Lakes has been expected for some time. Evidence has been mounting that the Great Lakes are reaching a tipping point, and the province is aware of this. In 2009, the province released a discussion paper on the Great Lakes and toured the province seeking input from stakeholders.
"Our hope for the Great Lakes Protection Act is that it will better align the work of various Ministries, municipalities, stewards and agencies that work on the Great Lakes. Many different decisions are made every day that affect the health of the Great Lakes and we hope this new Act helps to better allocate public resources for the benefit of the Great Lakes,” said Theresa McClenaghan, executive director and Counsel to Canadian Environmental Law Association.
The environmentalists' Statement of Expectations and legislative drafting notes were written by Canadian Environmental Law Association, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, Great Lakes United and the Sierra Club Ontario Chapter, with input from Conservation Ontario and World Wildlife Fund. Already the documents have the support of 16 other groups.
Environmental Defence launched an online petition last week to demonstrate public support for the ideas outlined in the Statement of Expectations for the Great Lakes Protection Act. The petition can be found by clicking here.
The Statement of Expectations on the Great Lakes Protection Act and legislative drafting notes can be downloaded by clicking here.
For more information, click here.
The Canadian Environmental Law Association works to protect human health and our environment by seeking justice for those harmed by pollution and by working to change policies to prevent such problems in the first place.
Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is the leader in wetland conservation. A registered charity, DUCpartners with government, industry, other nonprofit organizations and landowners to conserve wetlands that are critical to waterfowl, wildlife and the environment.
Ecojustice is the country’s leading charitable organization dedicated to using the law to defend Canadians’ right to a healthy environment.
Environmental Defence is Canada's most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.
Great Lakes United is a cross-border coalition of groups working to protect and restore the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River ecosystem.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>