Over 3,500 species, plants and animals call rare home. Thirty of these species are designated at risk, which means they are under various degrees of threat, many of them due to significant habitat loss. The healthy relationships among these species, the landscape and humans are of key importance because we all rely on clean air, clean water and healthy soils for our well-being and survival.
As a land trust and environmental institute, rare protects over 900 acres of conservation land, an area that is larger than Central Park in New York, and we share a border with the proposed Cambridge West development. The rare lands are part of the Blair Bechtel Cruickston Environmentally Sensitive Landscape (ESL) system, based on a policy framework that was put in place due to the ecological significance of the area. The core of our mission and vision is to protect and steward the rare property, beyond municipal or other policy frameworks, intact in perpetuity, on behalf of the public. We carry the responsibility to protect the lands in one piece, within its existing boundaries, beyond our lifetimes.
We are in opposition to any proposals that roads be built, enhanced or directed through the rare lands, including a West Bypass — an option dismissed from further planning many years ago. At that time, hundreds of rare donors came forward. Over $1 million was raised to provide critical information that demonstrated the significance of the hydrology, geology, habitat diversity, species diversity and many other features of the rare property. We led this effort to ensure the rare lands remain intact in perpetuity with no further roads and bridges built. The Region and City showed foresight and leadership ahead of their time by deleting these road options and creating the ESL designation, the first of its kind in Canada.
We also do not endorse new rare property boundary lines or land swaps proposed by community members in order to support the construction of roads through the ecologically significant lands that rare currently owns, by bringing them under new ownership and opening up opportunities for development of these lands. Such suggestions not only disregard the very core priorities and values of our organization, but they are also not permitted within the existing policy framework and ignore the realities of the actual landscape. The rare property is important in many ways, including as habitat for threatened grassland birds and aerial insectivores. The effects of any roads or land swaps would increase fragmentation of the original rare lands, create barriers to wildlife movement and come with severe edge effects, thereby altering and destroying critical habitat.
The undesirable impact of roads cannot be mitigated by building additional roads through existing conservation lands. The “green infrastructure” provided by rare, including habitat and ecological services, has an estimated annual benefit to our communities of more than $10,000 per acre, for a total exceeding $9.5 million annually.
We invite the community to explore our 8 km of trails to learn more about the importance of green spaces in their neighbourhoods.
By Dr. Stephanie Sobek-Swant, rare’s Executive Director
Feature photo by Randy Fowler: Bobolinks seen in Southfield, two juvenile and one adult female.