An important feature of the Capital of today, the green space network comprises the vast expanses of Gatineau Park, the Greenbelt, urban green spaces and shorelines, as well as connections to the broader regional ecosystems. These green spaces will be even more important in the future, as urbanization and growth continue.
On the one hand, there are opportunities to link this land base to surrounding natural features and systems. On the other hand, these lands are at risk of further fragmentation, with increasing pressures to provide the infrastructure and services needed to support urban growth. There are systemic threats as well, such as climate change and invasive species. The emerald ash borer, for example, has had a major detrimental effect on the region’s tree cover.
The Capital green space network is part of a larger, integrated ecological system that crosses multiple administrative boundaries. These divisions make it difficult to fully monitor the health of the watersheds, wildlife and vegetation in the Capital Region. Available data suggest that, within the NCC’s landholdings, there has been some decline in vegetation cover and a loss of habitat over the past 10 years. Viewed on a regional basis, beyond the NCC lands, the rate of decline is even greater. How to ensure water sustainability in the different watersheds is better understood, but many threats to water quality and the health of aquatic ecosystems remain. The NCC will continue to monitor ecosystem health with appropriate indicators.
Forests near and within increasingly urbanized environments must be actively maintained and managed to ensure their long-term health. The urban tree canopy contributes to the region’s quality of life by improving air quality, managing stormwater and enhancing the aesthetic experience. Examples of larger urban forests include Pine Grove in the Greenbelt and the woods at the former Rockcliffe Airbase, south of the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway.
Building the Capital’s green web, as a model of promoting and protecting ecological health and biodiversity in an urban setting, is a key commitment envisioned by this plan. Protecting our shared natural heritage will be crucial to the vitality, attractiveness and resilience of the Capital Region over the next 50 years. Natural habitats and ecosystems play an important role in the Capital, and influence everyday life in the regional community. These natural areas interact with other areas of regional significance. The NCC’s plans for Gatineau Park and the Greenbelt, for example, highlight the importance of ecological linkages between these federal lands and the lands beyond their boundaries. The achievement of important environmental health and biodiversity objectives depends on ecological connectivity and linkages between habitats and natural lands, thereby enhancing the resilience and biodiversity of the entire natural system.
As we advance toward the bicentennial of Confederation, federal landowners will retain, protect and enhance the natural elements of national interest in collaboration with numerous partners and stewards in the broader community. These elements, described in the following sections, must remain a beautiful distinguishing feature of the Capital.
Key policy directions for the next 50 years
- In Gatineau Park and the Greenbelt, the NCC will prioritize the acquisition of ecologically sensitive lands to increase the protection of sensitive ecosystems that are essential to the Capital. This may be done through a variety of methods, including land use planning, land acquisition or conservation easements.
- The management of woodlots, forests and the tree canopy on federal property will require the development of an integrated forest management policy and rejuvenation actions. Federal agencies will work in close collaboration with the municipalities affected, some of which have already developed policies in this respect.
- The NCC will participate in discussions with other levels of government on the future land use at the outer limits of the National Capital Region to protect regional biodiversity.
- The NCC will work with its partners to create and secure, over the long term, quiet places and sheltered areas to protect the night sky in all sectors of the Capital green space network.
- In partnership with landowners, municipalities and other agencies, the NCC will work to secure ecological corridors that connect to the Greenbelt and Gatineau Park to protect long-term biodiversity in the Capital Region.