The Ontario government has announced a $5-million investment in a watershed conservation and management initiative to better identify risks and issues facing the Muskoka Region.

The government has also said it will match tax-deductible donations from people and businesses to the initiative, and any funding from other levels of government, up to a total of an additional $5 million.

“The Muskoka watershed is one of the highlights of our province and a vibrant hub of Ontario’s tourism industry,” said Rod Phillips, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. “This is why we are committed to working with the local community to protect it. Together, we will ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the beauty and the economic benefits this watershed brings to the region.”

In the coming weeks, the government is expected to begin forming an advisory group that will engage local organizations, municipal representatives, Indigenous communities, and the broader community to identify priority projects that could form part of the conservation initiative.

The goal of the initiative is to develop a more comprehensive approach to watershed management, and so inform current actions and future development. The initiative will also respond to concerns raised by the community about area projects, such as the North Bala Small Hydro Project, which is expected to proceed, subject to a number of permits and approvals. For instance, the project is required to have a water management plan that includes a guideline for minimum continuous flow to protect water quality and aquatic habitat and to meet Lake Muskoka’s water level objectives.

“Local residents and visitors love the Muskoka Region for its beautiful waterways, wildlife and other unique physical features,” said Norm Miller, Member of Provincial Parliament, Parry Sound-Muskoka. “Working with the people who live in our communities, municipalities and businesses to protect and conserve this area ensures the Muskoka Watershed will remain a beloved Ontario destination for many more generations.”

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“We are committed to protecting the province’s water resources to keep Ontario beautiful and pass on a cleaner environment to future generations,” said Phillips.

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