History of the Greenbelt

On February 28, 2005, the Greenbelt Act was passed by the Ontario government, creating the world’s largest Greenbelt. Permanently protecting 2 million acres of remarkably productive farmland and environmentally sensitive areas is a hard-won victory and lasting shared legacy that will continue to deliver health, prosperity, and climate resilience to one of North America’s fastest growing regions – the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

1973

Niagara Escarpment Protected

The Niagara Escarpment s a 725-km ridge of fossil-rich rock that stretches from Niagara to Tobermory. Bill Davis’s government approved the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act in June 1973 “to provide for the maintenance of the Niagara Escarpment and land in its vicinity substantially as a continuous natural environment, and to ensure only such development occurs as is compatible with that natural environment.” It is now one of the ecological building blocks of Ontario’s Greenbelt.

1990

The Niagara Escarpment is designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognizes the global significance of the Niagara Escarpment, representing the largest contiguous stretch of primarily forested land in south-central Ontario. The biosphere reserve includes habitats ranging over more than 430 m in elevation and including Great Lakes coastlines, cliff edges, talus slopes, wetlands, woodlands, limestone alvar pavements, oak savannahs, conifer swamps and many others. These habitats collectively boast the highest level of species diversity among Canadian biosphere reserves, including more than 300 bird species, 55 mammals, 36 reptiles and amphibians, 90 fish and 100 varieties of special interest flora.

2001

Oak Ridges Moraine Protected

Following the lead of dedicated citizen groups across the landscape, the Mike Harris government helped set the stage for the creation of the Greenbelt by creating the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan in 2001, which protects 469,500 acres of land. Otherwise known as the ‘rain barrel’ of Ontario, the Moraine is a critical water resource for the province, filtering and recharging groundwater and feeding the headwaters of rivers and streams that ultimately provide drinking water for 6 million Ontarians. It is now one of the ecological building blocks of Ontario’s Greenbelt.

2005

Ontario Creates World’s Largest Greenbelt

In 2005, legislation is passed by Dalton McGuinty’s government to establish the world’s largest greenbelt, encompassing the Niagara Escarpment, the Oak Ridges Moraine, and nearly one million acres prime farmland. Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation was created to coordinate and fund ideas that bolster economic development and ecosystem services in Ontario’s Greenbelt.

2015

Ontario’s Greenbelt Marks 10th Anniversary

Ontario conducts an historic review of its four land use plans – the Growth Plan, Greenbelt Plan, Niagara Escarpment Plan, and Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan. The first decade of Ontario’s Greenbelt proves to be one of unqualified success. The tireless efforts of Foundation friends, partners and grantees over the last 10 years have proven to Ontarians that the Greenbelt is one of the most important contributions to the future of the province and has ensured that the Greenbelt is a great place to live, work, play and grow. The Advisory Panel conducting the review recommends further protection for natural heritage, investment in transit and infrastructure, creating livable communities, and growing the Greenbelt!

2017

Greenbelt Grows by 21 Urban River Valleys

Coming out of the land-use planning review, Greenbelt protection is extended to 21 major urban river valleys and 7 coastal wetlands across the Greater Golden Horseshoe! River valleys connect the suburban and rural lands of the Greenbelt to Lake Ontario, and provide our communities with greenspace to explore, they clean and filter our water and air, reduce our flood risks, and provide a home to wildlife. The addition of these waterways to the Greenbelt is an important recognition of the vital role the Greenbelt plays in protecting the hydrological features we rely on for clean drinking water, flood protection, and healthy ecosystems.

2020

Ontario’s Greenbelt Marks 15th Anniversary

As the Greenbelt enters its 15th year, public support for its continued protection has never been higher. There is widespread acknowledgement that the Greenbelt’s farmland, forests, wetlands and rivers, are all working together to provide us with clean air, fresh water and a reliable, local food source. Permanent protection of the Greenbelt continues to be crucial to preparing the Greater Golden Horseshoe for the impacts of climate change.

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