On February 17th 2021, the Government of Ontario announced its commitment to what could be the largest expansion of the Greenbelt since its original creation, and that it would consult on expanding the Greenbelt to protect additional critical water systems, including the Paris-Galt Moraine.
Ontario's Greenbelt is the largest in the world, protecting more than two million acres of farmland, forests, wetlands, rivers, and lakes. At present, Ontario’s Greenbelt protects two iconic natural features that include the headwaters of the regions major rivers: the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges Moraine. The Greenbelt also protects 21 urban river valleys—including major water systems such as the Humber River, Grindstone and Duffins Creeks, Credit River, and Rouge River. These valley systems run through our growing communities, providing important greenspace, documented cooling effects, and increased protection from flooding for residents and businesses. By protecting new features like the Paris-Galt Moraine - a critical water resource system - and additional urban river valleys that pass through our densely populated areas, we have an opportunity to extend the Greenbelt’s important benefits.
Maintaining the integrity of the current Greenbelt boundaries during any expansion, including preserving important agricultural lands, is critical to its long-term vitality and the success of our near-urban food economy. The Government of Ontario made it clear that it would refuse any requests to change the current Greenbelt boundary, which is critical to long-term viability and success including ensuring the Greenbelt continues to deliver its unique social environmental and economic to Ontario.
We recommend the government seeks to optimize the benefits of Greenbelt expansion to the agricultural and natural heritage system in and around the Paris Gult Moraine."
Taking part in the public consultation, key recommendations from the Greenbelt Foundation's submission include:
- Multiple benefits exist from potential expansion of the Greenbelt in and around the Paris Galt Moraine (PGM). We recommend implementing the Greenbelt Plan’s stronger rehabilitation policies to help restore and enhance the natural heritage, water resource, and agricultural systems in and around the study area.
- We recommend the government seeks to optimize the benefits of Greenbelt expansion to the agricultural and natural heritage system in and around the PGM.
We support the application of Urban River Valley designation to the remaining Greater Golden Horseshoe urban river valleys and have suggested the following public lands and coastal wetlands could be added to the URV designation: the remaining portion of Fourteen Mile Creek Valley, Stoney and Battlefield Creek in the Hamilton and Niagara Watershed, the west side of the Credit River Valley, Rattray Marsh, Duffins and Carruthers Creek in the Toronto Region Watersheds and the coastal wetlands areas at the mouth of Montgomery Creek and the valley land systems north to Bloor Street in the City of Oshawa.
- We recommend that the province consider growing the Greenbelt to include more prime agricultural areas, especially where there are concentrations of lands most suitable for fruit and vegetable growing in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
- We have identified several areas that are contiguous and connected to the current Greenbelt with high ecological value and that overlap with important water resource systems, making them strong candidates for Greenbelt expansion.
Potential expansion areas include: Niagara Escarpment to Lake Simcoe, Headwater areas of the Humber and Rouge Rivers, and Carruthers Creek, The Lake Iroquois Shoreline/Lake Ontario Shoreline in the Northumberland to the Greenbelt, South Niagara to Lake Erie, Lake Simcoe Watershed and Waterloo Moraine to Long Point.
- We also recommend the province consider requiring staging land designation and infrastructure investments to ensure we do not unnecessarily fragment and erode the agricultural system.
The Provincial government's commitment to growing the quantity and quality of the current Greenbelt is much needed in light of growing evidence about the twin climate and biodiversity crises and continued fragmentation of the agricultural system in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
The Greenbelt is an invaluable tool for maintaining the region’s prosperity, but it is not sufficient on its own. The provincial government needs to consider how to support and fund the conservation and ecological restoration work that is needed in southern Ontario and in near urban areas.
- Maps and additional details can be found here.
- Greenbelt Foundation's full Growing the Greenbelt consultation submission.
- Read our full statement on the Growing the Greenbelt announcement here.
- For the Environment Registry of Ontario consultation page with the proposal details, click here.