Action Alert – January 11, 2024

LONDON’S ENVIRONMENTALLY SIGNIFICANT AREAS (ESAs) NEED YOUR HELP – write or call the Mayor and your city councillor (city-council)

Or tell City Council in person or on-line.

On January 29, 2024, starting at 4 p.m., the City Council’s Budget Committee will be hearing from the public on the multi-year budget. One small addition to the proposed budget to increase the staff of the ESA Team would be a big help for the protection and preservation of London’s ESAs.

The formal title of the “ask” is ESA Management – Business Case #62

The purpose is to:

  • restore staffing level of the ESA Team to the level of 2014 by adding one new member in 2024, and
  •  increase the ESA Team by another person in 2026

For the average property this would cause a total tax increase of just $1.32 over four years.

The ESA Team current has four members who are responsible for 1900 hectares in the 12 city owned ESAs. 

ESA Management by the ESA Team consists of five elements:

  • Monitoring and enhancing the natural resource features, including managing invasive species;
  • Monitoring and enhancing the natural resource features, including managing invasive species;
  • Overseeing and implementing risk management and hazard tree policies to keep trails safe;
  • Developing and maintaining the trail system;
  • Educating the community through programs, events and community projects.

Budget impact:

2024 increase of $140,000 (0.02% – 63 cents on the tax bill )
2025 increase of $6,000 (0.00% – another 2 cents)
2026 increase of $143,000 (0.02% – another 64 cents)
2027 increase of $7,000 (0.00% – another 3 cents)

WHY THIS BUDGET INCREASE IS NEEDED

Public use of ESAs increased during COVID restrictions and has not declined to pre-COVID levels. The ESA Team has also been spending time working with the City on encampment issues. In addition, the amount of ESA land being managed has increased substantially without an increase in staffing, stretching resources even further. Finally, since 2015, there have been 6,900 new housing units built within 500 m of the 12 ESAs. More use by more people results in more degradation of trails and nature in London’s ESAs.

Funding for the ESA Team could be compared to funding a new firehall. In the case of a firehall you need the people and equipment to operate it you can’t just buy part of a fire truck or hire part of a fire fighter.
Adding one person to the ESA Team (Business Case #62) would at least return the staffing level to what it was 10 years ago.

IS THERE AN ALTERNATIVE?

If Council doesn’t want to be all-in, it could juggle the hiring to delay it by a year or add one position in 2024 and delay the second position by a year, or some other combination. In any event, additional staffing is needed to replace what was lost in 2014 and to address the increase in ESA land being managed, as well as the increased use of ESAs by the public.

THE RISK OF DOING NOTHING IS CONTINUED DEGRADATION OF CITY PROPERTY. London’s ESAs are highly valued by Londoners, and essential places for nature.