The Greenbelt Foundation

We Invest in Natural Infrastructure.
We Support Rural Economies.
We Make the Greenbelt Work for Ontario.

The Greenbelt Foundation is dedicated to ensuring the Greenbelt remains permanent, protected and prosperous.

We seek to make the right investments in its interconnected natural, agricultural and economic systems to ensure a working, thriving Greenbelt for Ontario.

Ontario's Greenbelt is the world's largest, with over 2 million acres of farmland, forests, wetlands and rivers, working together to provide clean air, fresh water and a reliable, local food source. Permanent protection of the Greenbelt is crucial to preparing the Greater Golden Horseshoe for the impacts of climate change.

In 2018/19 the Greenbelt Foundation:

  • Improved southern Ontario’s resilience to climate change by investing in natural infrastructure
  • Engaged underserved communities by funding trips into the Greenbelt
  • Supported strong collaborations with Indigenous partners on land-use and conservation issues
  • Assisted in the development of best practices for local agriculture
  • Invested in partners that build Ontario’s food security

A Message from our CEO

The past year has been one of great energy and activity at the Greenbelt Foundation. We took bold action on climate change, worked to engage underserved communities, supported strong collaborations with Indigenous partners on education and local engagement efforts, piloted innovative research on soil health and on growing Ontario's fruits and vegetables sector, and invested in programs that help municipalities enhance their natural assets for the benefit of their communities.

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As an organization, we ensure that Ontario's Greenbelt continues to be a prosperous resource that offers unparalleled benefits to the people of Ontario and beyond. The Greenbelt generates $9.1 billion annually in economic activity through agriculture, tourism and recreation. Its 2 million acres of natural landscapes provide $3.2 billion a year in ecosystem services, including protecting vulnerable communities from flooding, regulating temperatures near urban areas, and protecting the regions 78 species-at-risk.

Summer 2019 was the hottest on record and spring 2019 saw devastating floods across the province. With that in mind, the importance of building the Greenbelt's existing natural infrastructure, as a cost-effective means for protecting communities from extreme weather, cannot be overstated.

The Greenbelt Foundation ensures the thoughtful stewardship of Ontario’s Greenbelt and ensures its continued success in a number of ways. Whether through research, knowledge-sharing, investing in rural economies or assisting municipalities in protecting themselves from the threats of climate change, the Foundation is here to contribute to building the Greater Golden Horseshoe as a prosperous and sustainable region.

We are very grateful for the ongoing support of our partners. Without your investment and collaboration, we would be unable to do any of our important work. I look forward to another exciting and productive year at the Greenbelt Foundation, and to meeting with our stakeholders, friends and colleagues to continue building the Greenbelt as a critical resource for the people of Ontario.

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Edward McDonnell
Chief Executive Officer, Greenbelt Foundation

Investing in Natural Infrastructure

The Greenbelt includes a range of unique ecosystems or “natural assets” that provide infrastructural services to Ontario communities.

The Greenbelt Foundation partners with organizations that support Ontario municipalities and developers who want to invest in and develop natural assets as solutions to pressing infrastructural problems, especially those posed by climate change.

Natural infrastructure refers to a naturally-occurring or naturalized area or system, such as a forest, wetland or river valley (collectively known as “natural assets”) that benefits local communities by providing important ecosystem services such as flood prevention, water purification, temperature modification, atmospheric and noise pollution buffering, and more. Natural infrastructure is cost-effective, increases in value with age and offers more flexibility than built infrastructure.

Some important areas of natural infrastructure in the Greenbelt include the forests and aquifers of the Oak Ridges Moraine, the watersheds of the Niagara Escarpment and the 21 Greenbelt-protected Urban River Valleys that channel fresh water through Canada’s most developed region.

The protected landscapes of Ontario’s Greenbelt provide critical natural infrastructure to southern Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe region, which is home to approximately 9 million people.

The Greenbelt Foundation has built strategic partnerships with key organizations, helping municipalities and developers invest in natural assets. Our Partnerships include:

Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI), an organization that teams up with Canadian municipalities to develop resilient, long-term natural infrastructure alternatives. Together with MNAI, the Foundation is building partnerships with major cities and rural municipalities across the Greater Golden Horseshoe, with current projects in Peel and Halton regions.

In Peel Region, for example, MNAI is helping integrate local natural assets from the Credit River Valley watershed into municipal asset management frameworks, so that they may be valued and ultimately invested in.

Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and the Greenbelt Foundation are partnering to support the installation of a naturalized stormwater management system in a new development site in accordance with existing municipal policy and regulations. This system, which will take the form of a naturalized pond, will mimic a natural asset by becoming a fully-functioning ecosystem that will filter and store stormwater, prevent flooding, and provide important habitat and greenspace.

DUC is currently in the process of establishing partnerships with a suitable municipality and developer to demonstrate this technology. Through this pilot demonstration the Foundation and DUC are excited to encourage other regional developers and municipalities to also consider naturalized stormwater management solutions in new and existing developments.

With our support, MNAI and DUC are working to make valuing and investing in natural assets a mainstream approach for municipalities, developers and community groups across the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

Photo credit: Taku Kumabe

Personalizing Climate Change

The effects of climate change can already be seen in Ontario and yet, the majority of us don’t understand the risks, or how we might take action, including what community-based and regional solutions might be out there.

The Greenbelt Foundation has taken strides to educate the public on this important issue. Through our In a Changing Climate series, we communicated how climate change will affect the daily lives of Ontarians in a range of ways – from undermining simple pleasures like playing outdoor ice hockey, to creating more complex problems like a loss of local biodiversity. These reports shared insights from partners and researchers while providing everyday solutions that each person can use to mitigate the impact of climate change in their life.

In 2018, the Greenbelt Foundation launched a series of reports called In a Changing Climate. By partnering with experts from a range of organizations, including the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Royal Botanical Gardens (Hamilton) and Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit, the Foundation investigated the effects of climate on public health, gardening, birds, outdoor ice hockey, fresh water, and biodiversity in Ontario.

The Foundation investigated the effects of climate change on everything from public health, gardening, birds, outdoor ice hockey, fresh water, and biodiversity in Ontario

These reports help readers understand the ways their lives and the lives of their family might be affected by climate change. The reports also advise readers on how to protect themselves, as well as how to get involved in local climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

The series is a free digital resource, available to the public on the Greenbelt Foundation website. Hard copies will be delivered to key public institutions.

Photo credit: Stephen Wright

Enhancing our Urban River Valleys

Healthy river valleys provide Ontario communities with clean drinking water and cool oases during hot summer months, minimize flood risks, and provide critical habitat for southern Ontario’s 78 species at risk.

In 2017, the Greenbelt Foundation was instrumental in having 21 Urban River Valleys designated as Greenbelt-protected waterways, ensuring the Greater Golden Horseshoe’s most important sources of fresh water remain protected. But the ongoing sustainability of these ecosystems relies on the dedicated stewardship of community groups and volunteers. So, in March 2018, the Foundation partnered with Park People to create the Greenbelt River Valley Connector Program in order to engage Ontario residents and add value to their local river valleys.

The Greenbelt River Valley Connector Program engages and connects residents with their local Greenbelt-protected river valleys through community-based outreach, stewardship and education. The program, which is comprised of fifteen grants given out over three years, supports local leaders and community partners in providing nature-based programming that explores these important ecological corridors, restores their ecological health, educates the public on them, and enhances public enjoyment of them.

These urban river valleys flow from the headwaters in the Greenbelt’s Oak Ridges Moraine and Niagara Escarpment, through Canada’s most developed region into Lake Ontario, providing a protected source of clean drinking water for millions, and a natural refuge and migration corridor for endangered species.

These urban river valleys flow from the headwaters in the Greenbelt’s Oak Ridges Moraine and Niagara Escarpment, through Canada’s most developed region into Lake Ontario, providing a protected source of clean drinking water for millions
2019 Grantees
  1. City of Vaughan—$11,092 provided to the City of Vaughan to engage the community in enhancing the local Humber River Valley through an educational open house event and the planting of a pollinator garden at Doctors McLean Park. The Project builds on the City’s Great Walks Program to improve trail connectivity and natural heritage preservation, while providing cultural heritage programming and recreational activities.
  2. Friends of the Rouge, Markham—$20,000 provided to Friends of the Rouge Watershed to engage youth and community volunteers to take part in restoration and stewardship initiatives within the Rouge River Watershed, and learn about the ecological and health benefits of the urban river valleys and the importance of the Greenbelt.
  3. Ontario Streams—$25,000 provided to Ontario Streams to engage local residents in Richmond Hill, Markham and Brampton to take part in stream restoration and stewardship initiatives, and deepen understanding of the aquatic and ecological health indicators of the urban river valleys and the broader benefits of the Greenbelt ecosystem.
  4. Bowmanville Valley—$24,500 provided to Bowmanville Valleys 2000 Inc., to engage local residents and build broader community awareness of the Greenbelt and the Bowmanville / Soper Creek urban river valleys, through signage and supporting implementation of wayfinding products. This is part of a broader plan to unite two watersheds and trail systems, creating a closed loop of green around the Town of Bowmanville.
  5. Riverwood Conservancy, Mississauga—$15,000 provided to The Riverwood Conservancy to engage school children and community volunteers through restoration, stewardship events and educational activities that enhance biodiversity within Riverwood Park and the Credit River Valley and promote broader awareness of the Greenbelt.
  6. Photo credit: Nigel Hart

Engaging Underserved Communities

For many Ontarians, it can be challenging to get outside of urban areas and into green spaces.

In 2018, the Greenbelt Foundation launched Into the Greenbelt, a program run in partnership with Park People, Boys and Girls Club of Canada, Conservation Authorities and local Greenbelt farms. The program brings Ontario’s newcomers, underserved youth and other underserved groups into the Greenbelt for impactful, educational daytrips. The trips go to farms, conservation areas and wildlife centres, giving participants a chance to experience a part of Ontario they may have previously never encountered.

The Into the Greenbelt program removes economic barriers, allowing a diverse range of Ontarians, from differing socio-economic backgrounds, to explore and enjoy the Greenbelt’s natural and agricultural landscapes

For the 2018/19 program, the Greenbelt Foundation, Park People and Boys and Girls Club of Canada partnered with agencies and charities across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas to provide micro-bursaries in support of 40-60 annual trips, supporting over 2000 participants. These trips go to places like Reesor’s Pick-Your-Own-Farm in Markham Region and Mountsberg Conservation Area in Halton Region.

The Into the Greenbelt program removes economic barriers, allowing a diverse range of Ontarians, from differing socio-economic backgrounds, to explore and enjoy the Greenbelt’s natural and agricultural landscapes, while learning about their significance.

Into the Greenbelt is a popular program that typically sees full enrolment. We encourage participants to share their experiences through social media, and with family members and friends, helping to spread the word about all that the Greenbelt has to offer.

Supporting Indigenous Reconciliation

Indigenous communities have strong ties to the Greenbelt land.

The Greenbelt Foundation is working to build relationships with Indigenous communities from across the region, opening dialogue and coming to better understand their perspectives, needs and interests. This year, the Foundation helped to launch two key projects aimed at Reconciliation: the Moccasin Identifier Project and the Indigenous-Municipal Engagement Program.

With support from The Greenbelt Foundation, The Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation have further developed their Moccasin Identifier Project. Through this project, prominent heritage markers – “identifiers” – will be installed across the Greenbelt, each one a representation of a moccasin, identifying a specific tribe, upon whose land that moccasin is featured. The identifiers will be located at significant sites, such as trails and campsites.

The Moccasin Identifier Project also incorporates local Indigenous history and knowledge into school curriculums using an educational toolkit. The toolkit includes information, lesson plans and stencils of moccasins that students can use to paint symbolic markings on their school grounds.

Founder of the program, former Mississaugas of the Credit chief, Carolyn King has been travelling across the Greenbelt region to work with students on testing the toolkit. Ultimately, the school program aims to increase students’ understanding of First Nations and the Metis Nation presence in Ontario.

Shared Path addresses the need to incorporate indigenous voices, perspectives and knowledge into Ontario land-use planning, land stewardship and land management.
shared path team

The Indigenous-Municipal Engagement Program led by Shared Path addresses the need to incorporate indigenous voices, perspectives and knowledge into Ontario land-use planning, land stewardship and land management. Shared Path is a collaboration between First Nations, Metis and other local Indigenous communities, and land-use professionals. The project’s purpose is to increase knowledge and understanding of land-use planning issues related to Indigenous interests, such as Treaty rights, as well as environmental and traditional knowledge. The Shared Path will culminate in the creation of an accessible database and policy guidance document.

Photo credit: Michael Young for MIP school toolkit

Investing in Sustainable Food Systems

As a working landscape, the Greenbelt plays a unique role in Ontario’s food system and is vital to Ontario’s long-term sustainability and prosperity.

With the support of the Greenbelt Foundation and through its protected status, Ontario’s Greenbelt preserves 750,000 acres of some of Canada’s most fertile farmland within one of its most favourable growing climates. Greenbelt farmland is in close proximity to Canada’s most densely populated region, making it a critical resource for advancing local food initiatives.

The Greenbelt is a working landscape that:

Has two specialty crop areas: the Niagara Peninsula Tender Fruit and Grape Lands & the Holland Marsh, a key growing region for Ontario’s vegetables.

Includes just 6.1% of Ontario’s farmland but is home to 4,783 farms, representing 9.6% of all Ontario farms.

In 2016 was close to 40% comprised of agricultural land.

Is home to farms that are 39% smaller than farms in the rest of Ontario, but produce 68% more revenue per acre.

Produced 10.7% of Ontario’s veg crop in 2016.

Produced 52.6% of all Ontario’s fruit crop in 2016.

The Greenbelt Foundation is supporting Ontario’s Greenbelt in becoming one of the world’s most sustainable food-producing regions. We achieve this by focusing on:

  • Increasing production and access to local food
  • Researching climate adaptation strategies
  • Improving soil health
  • Building complete rural communities
  • Developing opportunities for environmental stewardship
  • Convening and partnership building
The Greenbelt Foundation is supporting Ontario’s Greenbelt in becoming one of the world’s most sustainable food-producing regions

Sharing Knowledge, Boosting Rural Prosperity

Building and enhancing local food systems is crucial to Ontario’s rural economic prosperity and sustainability.

The Greenbelt Foundation recognizes the importance of knowledge-sharing to the local agricultural sector and so, in 2018 we launched a series of research projects culminating in knowledge-sharing workshops. These projects were geared to educating municipal planners and economic development staff about best practices for supporting local agricultural producers.

Some key knowledge-share reports on the local Agricultural Sector produced by the Greenbelt Foundation include:

Dollars and Sense

Assesses the economic contribution of agriculture to the regional Ontario economy and identifies opportunities for import-replacement—the process by which produce (typically fruit and vegetables) is grown and sold locally to replace some of what is exported.

Sustaining Soil Health – case studies

Highlights farmers who are showing leadership and innovation in soil health management in different regions of the Greenbelt.

Effects of Management Practices on Soil Organic Content in Agricultural Soils in the Greenbelt

An opportunity-analysis for carbon-drawdown—the process by which carbon is removed from the atmosphere through natural processes, resulting from adoption of best management practices for sustaining soil health amongst different soil types across the Greenbelt.

Agriculture Trends and Updates

Highlights the natural and regional advantages that the Greenbelt provides to the agricultural and agri-food sectors.

Championing Soil Health

Soil Health is critical to the sustainability of agriculture in Ontario. It also plays a significant role in mitigating climate change, as healthy soil is more able to absorb and store atmospheric carbon than degraded soil.

In 2018, the Greenbelt Foundation supported the launch of a pilot project known as the Erin Soil Health Coalition.

The Coalition is a group of 27 Greenbelt-region farmers who want to improve the health of their soils. They are receiving advice from experts, adopting new management practices, and conducting soil tests with the support of citizen scientists. By collaborating as a group, they are able to share information and learn from each other’s use of different techniques to improve their soil’s health.

Driving Tourism and Recreation

Ontario’s Greenbelt includes unique landforms like the Oak Ridges Moraine, awe-inspiring conservation areas like Bruce Peninsula National Park, and thriving, dynamic communities made up of working farmers, small business owners, food entrepreneurs, microbrewers and more. With its diverse range of attractions, the Greenbelt region has become a major site of tourism and recreation in Ontario.

In 2018/19, the Greenbelt Foundation supported this important source of revenue for rural economies by investing in projects that encourage tourism and recreation in the Greenbelt.

Tourism and recreation in Ontario’s Greenbelt generates $2.3 billion on average per year. This is an important and sustainable source of revenue for rural economies. Some key projects that the Greenbelt Foundation funded in 2018/19 include:

Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association, which stewards a globally-significant terrestrial ecosystem. The Association was the first to promote the Biosphere concept along the Niagara Escarpment, which is part of Ontario’s Greenbelt.

The Bruce Peninsula is one of the most ecologically significant regions in the Great Lakes basin. It is a critical stronghold for globally-rare and endemic species and it boasts an outstanding mosaic of ecosystems and natural communities.

The Foundation funded their Wilderness Eco Adventure project, which brings individuals, groups and families on adventures of varying degree into the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere, as part of a local sustainable tourism and management plan.

Credit Valley Conservation Foundation's Credit Valley Trail Experience Plan will be a 100km trail from the headwaters in Orangeville to the mouth of Lake Ontario in Port Credit. Credit Valley Conservation and its trail partners believe the establishment of the preferred route and realization of the trail vision will inspire, connect and empower generations of river guardians who will value and protect the Credit River watershed. This project will engage Indigenous groups, arts and cultural organizations, local tourism businesses and municipalities to develop concrete workplans.

Tourism and recreation in Ontario’s Greenbelt generates $2.3 billion on average per year

Our Partners

The Greenbelt Foundation’s achievements would be impossible without the ongoing support of its partners, donors and the dedicated governance of its Board of Directors. Our partners include a range of organizations with whom we collaborate to fund key projects and support important research initiatives. We thank all of you for your support and commitment.

The Greenbelt Foundation would like to pay special thanks to the Government of Ontario for their ongoing, committed support of our work.

ontario logo
boys and girls club canada logo conserving canada's wetlands logo eco health ontario logo eco spark logo environmental defence logo soil health coalition logo green infrastructure ontario coalition logo toronto and region conservation authority logo town of halton hills logo municipal leaders for the greenbelt logo making nature count logo natural resources canada logo ontario federation of agriculture logo ontario greenbelt alliance logo ontario nature logo park people logo rink watch logo royal botanical gardens logo royal ontario museum logo simcoe muskoka district health unit logo golden horseshoe food and farming alliance logo laurier logo


In 2018/19, the Greenbelt Foundation invested in a range of key partnerships, educational initiatives, research and policy work and community programs.

Year ended March 31st, 2019 / Our charitable ratio: 85%


program activities: grants $1,478,061; awareness and education $979,524; research and policy $703,262; community programs $606,621
supporting activities: management and general $552,913; fundraising, business development $129,167

*Each year, KPMG audits our financial records. Our full financial audit can be found online at

Thank you

From the entire team at the Greenbelt Foundation, thank you for taking the time to learn more about us!

As an organization, we care deeply about the landscape, ecology and communities of Ontario and Canada. Through careful investments, we add value to the economy, protect southern Ontario against climate change and ensure proactive stewardship of our land. We would not be able to accomplish this without the dedicated support of our funders and partners. Thank you for your continued support.