The Lake Huron-Georgian Bay Canadian Framework for Community Action (The Framework) provides a collaborative and community based approach to engage all people in the watershed.
The Framework assists agencies and stakeholders in identifying common issues and priorities and in coordinating activities across the Canadian Lake Huron watershed through a consensus-based, community driven approach.
The Framework works on the principle that every individual, community and organization may operate independently, yet be linked under the umbrella of the Lake Huron Charter. Through cumulative actions, we will strive to work collectively towards protecting and restoring the natural environment. The Framework is flexible and adaptive, and provides direction and options on how communities, organizations and individuals can contribute to the future health of Lake Huron.
Thousands of years ago, melting glaciers of the last ice age left us with a magnificent gift: a string of five precious freshwater seas collectively known as the Great Lakes. At the “hub” of the Great Lakes is Lake Huron. With its land and waterscapes evolving through the interacting forces of water, geology and climate, the watershed has been shaped into an area of global ecological significance. Lake Huron and its watershed is renowned for its beaches, dunes, rugged shorelines, coastal wetlands, diverse river systems, forests and for its expansive open waters and more than 30,000 islands.
Lake Huron with its three Canadian basins; Georgian Bay, North Channel and the Main Basin is in good health relative to the southern Great Lakes. Human activities and natural processes continue to shape the shoreline and watershed, and some of these changes affect the health of the entire ecosystem and the wellbeing of its inhabitants. The northern portion of the watershed is Canadian Shield, heavily forested and primarily consists of Crown lands with important mining and forestry industries. The southern portion is primarily private land dominated by agriculture including intensively cultivated field crops and livestock operations.
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More and more people are choosing to make the Lake Huron watershed their workplace, playground and home. As the population grows, increased stress is placed on the natural ecosystem, and so it is increasingly important that we are aware of our activities and behaviours and become individually responsible for prevention, protection and restoration.
The northern and southern portions of the Lake Huron watershed are distinct geological areas, and the associated land uses and human activities present equally diverse environmental challenges.
No matter where we live in the watershed, we can all be part of the solution. For more information about your role and the role of others please see under the Framework Tab – Who is involved and what can be done. The actions under the Get Involved Tab are specific to individuals, community groups, and small and large agencies.
Four environmentally degraded Areas of Concern (AOC) were identified in Lake Huron as part of the 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Collingwood Harbour and Severn Sound have been restored, Spanish Harbour is currently an area in recovery and remedial actions continue in the St. Marys River, a binational AOC.
Contaminants in Sediments, Water, Fish and Wildlife
Water is our keystone resource and while chemical contaminants have significantly decrease since the 1970s, there are some areas with degraded water quality which can result in contaminant exposure to fish and wildlife. Consuming contaminated fish threatens human health. For fish consumption information, visit: www.ontario.ca/document/guide-eating-ontario-fish.
Nutrients and Bacterial Pollution
Some of the longest freshwater beaches are found in Lake Huron (Wasaga 14km and Sauble 11km) and many Lake Huron beaches offer safe and high-quality swimming and recreational opportunities. While most areas of Lake Huron are not impacted by excessive nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) that lead to nuisance or harmful algal blooms, and bacteria pollution that make beaches unsafe, localized nutrient and bacterial pollution is an ongoing issue. Improper use and maintenance of septic systems, agricultural and urban runoff and other sources (including wildlife) all contribute to water quality problems.
Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat and Native Species
Past and present behaviours, unsustainable land use practices, and the spread of invasive species (e.g., Phragmites and Dreissenid Mussels) continue to reduce the amount and quality of fish and wildlife habitat on land, in streams, in rivers, and along the shores of Lake Huron. Coastal and inland wetlands have been lost or degraded, shorelines are being altered, and sensitive ecosystems such as dunes and alvars are being impacted and in some cases have suffered irreplaceable damage. In the southern portion of the watershed, many streams lack vegetation on their banks to naturally filter surface water runoff and provide shade for fish and habitat for wildlife. The amount of woodlands has decreased and dams and barriers restrict fish from reaching their essential spawning areas in streams. Lake Huron is experiencing changes in ecosystem structure and its web of life as a result of human activities and non-native species.
The main threats to Lake Huron biodiversity therefore include: non‐point source pollution; non-native invasive species; unsustainable shoreline development and alterations; dams and barriers; and climate change impacts.
Other Environmental Concerns
Throughout the watershed, people are also concerned about: climate change impacts on water levels, water availability and flows in streams and rivers and important coastal wetlands; new chemicals in our environment which may impact fish, wildlife and human health; diseases such as botulism in fish and birds; species at risk; and population growth and human activities that are unsustainable. It is important that everyone in the Lake Huron watershed collectively address air, land, water and fish and wildlife related concerns.
Lake Huron Partnership
The federal, state and provincial agencies that manage binational environmental activities under the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement formally endorsed the formation of a Lake Huron Partnership. The Partnership facilitates information sharing and priority setting for binational science and monitoring, and environmental protection and restoration activities of importance to the Lake Huron basin, as well as the development of partnerships to undertake efforts that cannot be accomplished by individual agencies alone. See the renewed commitment to action and the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
The Lake Huron Partnership has identified five key threats to the waters of Lake Huron that will be addressed through an action-oriented approach. These priority threats include:
- Chemical contaminants;
- Nutrient and bacterial pollution;
- Loss and degradation of habitat and native species;
- Non-native aquatic and terrestrial invasive species; and
- Climate change impacts
New strategies and initiatives to watch for include a 2017-2021 Lakewide Action and Management plan, Lake Ecosystem Objectives, a Nearshore Framework for Management and Assessment.
The Lake Huron Partnership also facilitates the sharing of information between countries on issues which are more local in nature. However, actions that address these local domestic issues are undertaken outside of the Partnership. On the Canadian side of the basin, domestic issues are dealt with through collaborative governance networks involving multiple agencies and the public. Water quality in south-eastern Lake Huron is one such domestic issue addressed by the Healthy Lake Huron: Clean Water, Clean Beaches Initiative.The Sweetwater Sea: An International Biodiversity Conservation Strategy for Lake Huron