The Oak Ridges Moraine was formed over 12,000 years ago by advancing and retreating glaciers; the Moraine currently forms the watershed divide between Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe, and is the headwaters to more than 30 rivers. Due to its location and formation, the aquifer located below the Moraine contributes to both local and regional ground water flows; making it an essential asset for Ontarians.
Beyond being both a natural and essential resource for ground water flows, the Moraine is also home to a variety of diverse vegetation and wildlife species. In fact, the Moraine is home to over 1,000 plant species; 30 species of reptiles and amphibians; 51 mammal species; 73 fish species; and 74 species of butterfly—just to name a few!
Did you know, the Oak Ridges Moraine:
- Contains 32 municipalities, and 9 conservation authorities.
- Has over 40 non-government environmental organizations conducting work relating to the Moraine.
- Contains 125 distinct species of moss.
- Is home to over 70 dragonfly/damselfly species.
- Is home to 88 provincial/national at-risk species.
Also part of the Oak Ridges Moraine is Holland Marsh, which is referred to as 'Ontario's Vegetable Basket' because it produces not only a large volume of fresh vegetables for Ontarians to eat, but a wide variety of them as well.
Perhaps most importantly, the Oak Ridges Moraine represents the collaborative spirt of Ontario. While an ancient glacial relic itself, decades of various community-organized conservation efforts around the Oak Ridges Moraine date back to the 1940s, making the Moraine every bit a successful "social innovation" as much as an environmental initiative based on a 2014 study (https://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol19/iss1/art48/#discussion14). Protecting the Oak Ridges Moraine from development has become a proud Ontario tradition for generations!
The reason for this continued pressure is due to the rapid population growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. As Canada's fastest growing region, nearly 9 million Ontarians (slightly less than 1/4 of Canada's population) reside within a 20 minute drive of some part of the Greenbelt - and that number is set to explode to 13.5 million people by 2041. As the Greater Toronto Area continues to grow and expand, the calls for access to more land will grow, but the Oak Ridges Moraine is so much more valuable to the Greater Golden Horseshoe than simple buildable land.
It feeds our families fresh locally-grown vegetables, it provides us with clean drinking water (over 20% of earth's fresh water is located in the Great Lakes water system, and over 6 million Ontarians depend on the Oak Ridges Moraine for clean water), it keeps farmers and food producers in business powering Ontario's economy, and it provides us with idyllic natural space which connects us to the timeless wonders of a living and breathing ecosystem as complex as the Oak Ridges Moraine.