Summary of Strategic Environmental Assessment
A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) was completed for the Rouge National Urban Park management plan in accordance with the 2010 Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. The SEA was carried out in an integrated and iterative way during the management planning process with a goal of enhancing positive effects and avoiding or reducing potential negative effects.
The analysis of effects focused on four key groups of valued components that together form the basis of the Rouge National Urban Park purpose: Natural resources, cultural resources, components of importance to visitor experience, and the vibrant farming community (including agricultural resources).
Being an agency with a conservation mandate, Parks Canada management plans are developed with the intent to produce positive environmental effects and avoid or reduce negative environmental effects. However, between intention and implementation there are possibilities for unplanned or inadvertent outcomes. To ensure such possibilities are identified and averted, the SEA examines planned management actions at a high level by analyzing the various circumstances that could generate negative effects. Strategies to mitigate these potential effects are identified when warranted. The SEA also provides a better broad-scale view of the entire park within its surroundings, facilitating the identification of potential cumulative effects that could be overlooked when impact analysis is scoped only at the project level. Finally, the SEA is used to confirm that the management plan is aligned with the overall guidance for the Government of Canada provided in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.The management plan comprises four key strategies and a section on management area concepts. A summary of the SEA analysis for each is described below.
Key Strategy 1: Protect natural heritage values in support of a resilient park landscapeThe four objectives of Key Strategy 1 are inherently intended to produce positive environmental effects for the park’s ecosystems. Much of Key Strategy 1 establishes the groundwork to monitor and evaluate progress towards maintaining or restoring ecological integrity through the development of a variety of sub-plans and guidance materials. Most of the actions were predicted to have positive or neutral effects. The adoption of dark sky compliant lighting was the only action identified to have potentially negative effects on visitor experience or cultural resources. However, as a manager of several protected heritage areas that are also Dark-Sky Preserves, Parks Canada has the experience to develop guidance that will meet the needs of this unique park without impairing these valued components. Developing guidance for implementing dark sky lighting was identified as a mitigation strategy in the SEA.
Key Strategy 2: Sustain a living landscape—past, present, and future
The first objective of Key Strategy 2 supports the engagement and involvement of Indigenous communities with direct historical and current cultural connections to the park. All of the actions are predicted to have positive or neutral effects on valued components.
Key Strategy 2 actions designed to support a vibrant farming and lessee community are predicted to have positive effects on farmers and agricultural resources, though visitor experience, natural resources, and cultural resources will also benefit. Some actions could generate minor construction within the park that would be evaluated through project-level impact assessment. Two actions related to agricultural innovation and pilot projects could have potential adverse effects on natural resources, cultural resources, or visitor experience based on hypothetical scenarios, but the SEA concluded that these would be easily mitigated by putting in place a simple review function to ensure that the goals and objectives of any innovative agricultural pilot projects are aligned with the park mandate, and that the associated uncertainty or risk is acceptable and commensurate with the prospective benefits.
When managing cultural landscapes in the park, there will inevitably be cases where tradeoffs are required between the various valued components. For example, undertaking an intervention to protect a cultural landscape may incidentally have a detrimental effect on visitor experience. This management plan and the sub-plans identified within it will help provide the key information on the associated value, scarcity, resilience, etc. of the various valued components that could be affected by such an intervention. That information will be used to evaluate different options, permitting the Field Unit Superintendent to make a well-informed decision that complies with legislation and policy, such as section 6.(1) of the Rouge National Urban Park Act which highlights maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity as the first priority in park management.
Key Strategy 3: Celebrate Rouge National Urban Park as a National and International Gateway to Discovering Canada’s Environment and Heritage
Key strategy 3 outlines actions that facilitate visitor connections with the park and is predicted to have many positive effects for visitor experience. Connecting Canadians to their heritage forms a key part of the Rouge National Urban Park purpose. Since this strategy requires the most physical construction, it also has the most potential to negatively affect valued components. All forms of outdoor recreation can negatively affect the environment, so strategies intended to increase visitation can augment the intensity or severity of these impacts. Hosting events, constructing visitor facilities, and expanding the park trail network can also negatively affect natural, cultural and agricultural resources. Although these potential effects may not be avoided entirely, good planning and adherence to Parks Canada’s environmental impact analysis process and sustainable trail guidelines can help to minimize impacts to an acceptable threshold and, in many instances, contribute to a net benefit across the landscape by marrying restoration projects to these initiatives. For example: Creating a new trail using best established trail building techniques and feature-sensitive routing, and closing social trails through ecologically or culturally sensitive areas and actively restoring them. The main mitigation strategies to address the potential negative effects from Key Strategy 3 include:
- Give consideration for cumulative effects in the planning of visitor facilities that form part of a larger system, such as the gateway welcome and public activity areas, and the trail system in their respective project impact assessments.
- Incorporate alternatives analysis into the impact assessments of larger projects that could contribute to cumulative effects.
- Develop or adopt a Best Management Practice for Special Events to standardize the prescription and application of effective and efficient mitigation measures.