What is near-urban nature? And why must we protect it?
Near-urban nature is comprised of the forests, river valleys, wetlands, savannahs, and other ecological features that surround and intersect our communities. This nature is critical to the health and well-being of all life in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, and is one of our greatest resources for adapting to climate change. While we often look to protect wilderness areas farther afield, southern Ontario is one of the most biodiverse regions in Canada—providing direct and irreplaceable ‘ecosystem services’ – like flood protection and water/air filtration - to the country’s largest concentration of communities and people.
This proximity puts near-urban nature at high risk of being degraded and lost, making increased conservation critical.
While we often look to protect wilderness areas farther afield, southern Ontario is one of the most biodiverse regions in Canada—providing direct and irreplaceable eco-services to the country’s largest concentration of communities and people."
Rising to Meet the Challenge
Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Government of Ontario have supported the Greenbelt Foundation in convening the Southern Ontario Nature Coalition (SONC) to outline actions needed to create a Near-Urban Nature Network in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The network will consist of multiple, cores of natural areas protected and connected within broader ecological and hydrological corridors.
Building on the Greenbelt and addressing the need for multi-faceted outcomes in urban areas, SONC identified the following opportunities:
- Opportunities for Increasing Protection of Natural Cores and Corridors
- Opportunities for Restoring Natural Infrastructure for Climate Resilience and Greenspace
- Opportunities for Stewardship and Public Engagement
- Opportunities for Meaningful Indigenous Collaboration and Leadership
Read the Final and Technical project reports that provides key recommendations for federal and provincial governments and community-oriented calls-to-action, which will help all levels of government to protect near-urban nature across the country:
Read the full summary report to explore the opportunities and discover the path forward:
Canada’s federal and provincial governments support the protection of ecosystems, landscapes and biodiversity. As a member of the global High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, Canada has committed to protecting 25 per cent of its lands and waters by 2025 to set the stage for 30 per cent of by 2030.
Urbanizing regions requires actions beyond traditional protection measures. A Near-Urban Nature Network Strategy will:
- Address threats to biodiversity in southern Ontario.
- Identify solutions to protect near-urban nature at an increased rate.
- Help realize nature’s full public contributions to community health, prosperity, and climate resilience.
- Respect Indigenous communities as land right’s holders and amplify Indigenous Knowledge Systems and leadership.
- Enable greater action by municipal governments and private landowners, including agricultural landowners.
- Promote voluntary innovative community action.
- Initiate a pan-Canadian conversation about protecting near urban biodiversity.
On July 27, 2021 SONC hosted an Information Session about the Near-Urban Nature Network.
The Information Session provided an opportunity for interested stakeholders, members of government, and others to learn more about SONC’s landmark reports. It unpacked the many ways the Near-Urban Nature Network will benefit Ontario and be a source of learning for similar regions across Canada. Representatives from Greenbelt Foundation, Wildlands League, Ontario Nature, and Cambium Indigenous Professional Services spoke.
To learn more about the Information Session, please read our Summary Report HERE.
To see a replay of the full information session, click HERE.
The Southern Ontario Nature Coalition (SONC) is a group of experienced provincial, regional, and community-based conservation organizations, land-based policy experts, and Indigenous consultants. SONC is releasing a full report in the spring of 2021, outlining details on developing a Near-Urban Nature Network for the GGH, and the Coalition is committed to engaging Indigenous communities in accordance with community protocols and the development of ethical space for all to contribute meaningfully.
What we learn here and in similar geographies will be instrumental in informing work being done across the country, including the predominantly urban landscapes of southern Canada.
Ultimately, our work today is critical to the resilience and prosperity of communities tomorrow.