Ottawa River Designated into the Canadian Heritage Rivers System
The Ottawa River
Indigenous Peoples have lived along the Ottawa River for over 6,000 years, and the river continues to be considered the heartland of the Algonquin First Nations community. The outstanding historical and political significance of the river as the gateway for continental exploration, a premier transportation corridor during the fur and timber eras, and home to the Nation’s Capital make it an outstanding addition to the Canadian Heritage Rivers System (CHRS).
The Ottawa River provides habitat for over 300 species of birds and is one of the continent’s most important flyways. Its rich ecosystems sustain more than 80 species at risk and the average flow of the Ottawa River is one of the greatest in Canada, with a total length of 1,271 km and a watershed covering 146,300 sq. km, mainly within the Canadian Shield. From this expansive reservoir flows many other rivers of immense importance, both ecologically and economically, including the St. Lawrence, the Saguenay, the Nelson, the Eastmain and the Churchill.
Recreationally, the Ottawa River contains a section of white-water that is renowned as a world-class paddling and rafting destination, making it an economic driver for many communities along its shores.
The Canadian Heritage Rivers System
Established in 1984, the CHRS is Canada’s national river conservation program. Under the federal leadership of Parks Canada, this joint federal-provincial-territorial initiative gives national recognition and protection to Canadian rivers of extraordinary natural, cultural and recreational significance. It promotes, conserves and enhances Canada's river heritage, and helps to ensure that Canada’s leading rivers are managed in a sustainable manner.
The process of establishing a Canadian Heritage River includes two steps: nomination and designation. Local citizens champion their rivers and bring them forward for consideration. Governments – federal, provincial and territorial – lend support and guidance, and provide approvals as required.
The Canadian Heritage Rivers Board, comprised of members appointed by federal, provincial and territorial ministers, administers the CHRS and recommends candidate rivers for designation by the responsible provincial or territorial Minister and the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change. To be considered, rivers must have outstanding natural, cultural and/or recreational values, a high level of public support, and it must be demonstrated that sufficient measures will be put in place to ensure that those values will be maintained.
For designation to occur, the responsible provincial or territorial government must approve a management plan that sets forth the policies and practices to be followed to ensure that the river’s development, management and use are consistent with CHRS objectives and guidelines. The plan’s implementation schedule must demonstrate a commitment by the host government, community members and other stakeholders to conserve the river’s heritage and recreational values. The management plan, or Heritage Strategy for the Ottawa River, Ontario, was approved by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources in 2009.
The CHRS does not affect property rights. Governments retain their jurisdictional powers and management responsibilities, and communities, Indigenous Peoples, landowners, and other stakeholders also retain their rights. The CHRS strives to raise awareness of heritage rivers and to inspire Canadians to connect with their rivers and to participate in their safe-keeping.
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