Protecting Greenbelt Wetlands - How Effective is Policy?

Feb 26, 2021   •   Research , Natural Systems

Protecting Greenbelt Wetlands - How Effective is Policy? presents the findings of a two-year study that investigated the extent to which new legislation, policy and stronger legal standards are serving to protect and restore wetlands in Ontario’s Greenbelt. 

Wetlands benefit all of us in many ways, including the role they play in flood control, water filtration, erosion control, sediment retention and enhanced landscape resilience in the face of climate change. "

Undertaken by Ducks Unlimited Canada, Earthroots, Ecojustice and Ontario Nature, the study is comprised of four components: a comprehensive analysis of the legal and policy framework, a planners survey, nine case studies, and an analysis of the cumulative impact of water takings. The report examines the strengths and weaknesses of the three provincial land-use plans in effect across the Greenbelt — the Niagara Escarpment Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the Greenbelt Plan.

Findings show that land-use policy across the Greenbelt is protecting wetlands from most forms of development. There is more legal protection for wetlands here than most other parts of Ontario due to a higher legal standard applying to land use decisions and a broader category of wetlands being protected from direct impacts.Where municipalities are adequately resourced, they are able to plan for natural heritage systems, ensuring more comprehensive protection of water features generally and wetlands specifically.

However, threats posed by infrastructure development, aggregate extraction, some existing land uses, peat extraction, and water takings still continue to impact wetlands. The need to strengthen policy to protect and restore the Greenbelt’s wetlands is urgent.

Wetlands benefit all of us in many ways, including the role they play in flood control, water filtration, erosion control, sediment retention and enhanced landscape resilience in the face of climate change. Despite these benefits, half of the Greenbelt’s wetlands and nearly three-quarters of southern Ontario’s original wetlands have been lost since European settlement. Minimizing on-going threats by improving policy effectiveness is vital to protect and restore Greenbelt wetlands and sustain their benefits.

Read the full report here: