OFA is not in favour of removing the requirement for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) to review and confirm wetland evaluation results. We believe a no-cost appeal process should exist for landowners who firmly believe that the feature identified on their farm as a wetland is, in reality, not a bona fide wetland, and we believe that MNRF is the appropriate body to do this.
OFA is pleased to see this proposal includes notification in writing to “landowners of the property of properties containing the wetlands… of any new wetland evaluation or amended wetland evaluations…” (p.8). However, we believe that this does not go far enough. Notification should be provided to any potentially impacted landowner and tenant which may include neighbours who could be impacted by buffers or species-at-risk restrictions around the wetland that do not respect property boundaries. It is also essential that both landowners, tenants and neighbours receive notification before the feature has been designated as a wetland in the Official Plan.
OFA insists that the definition of wetlands is incomplete in the OWES system and manuals. The definition used should be the complete definition found in the 2020 Provincial Policy Statements (PPS). OFA recommends that in both OWES manuals, the definition of a wetland should be expanded to include wording from the second paragraph found in the 2020 PPS’ Wetlands definition: “periodically soaked or wet lands being used for agricultural purposes which no longer exhibit wetland characteristics are not considered wetlands for the purposes of this definition”
OFA believes wetland evaluators should be required to notify landowners and tenants that an evaluation is being undertaken on their property prior to accessing private property. OWES evaluators and any other persons helping an evaluator on field visits must strictly abide by all relevant biosecurity and health and safety protocols in place on any farm. OFA is in favour of field visits during evaluations as a means of ground truthing. The timing of visits is important to ensure that simply wet lands are not erroneously classified as wetlands.
OFA strongly recommends that instances of decisions being based upon the professional judgement of the wetland evaluator must be clearly detailed in all documentation and include factors and/or assumptions that may been considered to reach that decision.