Conservation Authorities Act (1946) was a response to the concerns of agricultural, naturalist and sportsmen’s groups. They noticed the ‘unhealthy state’ of renewable natural resources of the province as a result of poor land, water and forestry practices during the 1930s and 1940s.The combined impacts of drought and deforestation led to extensive soil loss and flooding.
Before Conservation Authorities—during the Depression and World War II—organizations such as the Ontario Conservation and Reforestation Association, the Federation of Ontario Naturalists and The Farmer’s Advocate writers pressed for conservation and wise resource management.
Many of these leading conservationists believed the best way to look after our natural resources was through an integrated management approach using watershed boundaries.
While natural resource management lay with the Province, the scale of erosion and water problems was such that a number of municipal councils agreed to cooperate leading to the passage of the CA Act in 1946.
The CA Act provided the means by which the province and the municipalities of Ontario could join together to form a Conservation Authority within a watershed to undertake natural resource management programs.
Three Fundamental concepts of this new approach were embodied in the CA Act:
1. Local Initiative
2. Cost Sharing
3. Watershed Jurisdiction
Since this rather quiet beginning, CAs have become involved in a wide range of activities depending on the resource management concerns of local residents, member municipalities and the Province. The following list summarizes the range in program development, however all Authorities do not implement all programs. Each CAs watershed management program is geared to its own special needs and conditions.
Range of Program Development for CAs
• Community Relations
• Waterfront Development & Floodplain Management
• Fish, Wildlife & Forest Management
• Flood Control, Forecasting & Warning
• Water Quality Monitoring
• Natural Area & Heritage Conservation
• Municipal Plan Review
• Wetlands & Environmentally Sensitive Areas
• Water Supply/Low Flow