Every Sunday from September 14th to October 17th we'll be publishing a Greenbelt-focused article by veteran Toronto Star journalist John Barber. The articles, which will first run in the Toronto Star on the Saturdays preceding our posts, cover a range of topics relevant to the Greenbelt as it exists today, and to the challenges it may face in the future. On the Wednesdays following each of Barber's articles, we'll be using his pieces as a conversation catalyst in an evening Twitter Party from 8pm to 9pm.
Ontario's vital watershed facing new risks
Limiting suburban sprawl is key to preserving crucial water supply
Photo Credit: David McCaig
By: John Barber
Standing amid wildflowers at the edge of a pond deep in Hamilton's Dundas Valley, skirted on three sides by the forested walls of the Niagara Escarpment – and with a curious young raccoon distracting his audience – Alan Hansell runs through a depressing litany of environmental insults. As leader of the Stewards of Cootes Watershed, a group dedicated to rehabilitating the 22 creeks that spill over the escarpment and drain into Cootes Paradise at the westernmost end of Lake Ontario, Hansell wants his small flock of litter-picking volunteers to know what they are really up against.
The day dawned grey and overcast on September 20th, 2014 for the 8th Annual Prairie Day at Alderville Black Oak Savanna Ecology Centre, a 30-minute drive north of Cobourg. Despite the ominous weather, the event started off well with a smudging ceremony from the Alderville First Nation, as well as speeches carrying messages of hope and regeneration.
The savanna landscape visible now is a testament to the incredible efforts and collaboration of many groups working as part of the Rice Lake Plains Joint Initiative: Alderville First Nation, Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), Oak Ridges Moraine Foundation, Environment Canada, and more.
In 2002, the tallgrass prairie ecosystem was a remnant of a formerly thriving, 100,000 hectare vegetation community throughout Southern Ontario. Today, just 3 percent of the original tallgrass prairie and black oak savanna remains, with Alderville a gem in this crucial network of endangered ecosystems. With diligence, care, and cooperative work, the tallgrass prairie here has grown by 150 hectares in the past decade, with an additional 536 hectares secured for future restoration.
This year the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation was proud to join the efforts of the Rice Lake Plains partners through a $52,000 grant to NCC and Alderville First Nation. This grant supports a year’s worth of activities to connect hundreds of Northumberland residents with the Greenbelt in their backyards, including workshops, field trips, trail launches, and landowner stewardship.
The banner event is Prairie Day.
*This article originally appeared in the Ontario Planning Journal. Vol. 29, No. 5, 2014. See PDF.
Ontario’s Greenbelt turns 10 next year.
While there are many gains to celebrate, it is also time for the province to begin its legislated review of the three plans that make up the Greenbelt. While any birthday is time for reflection, a 10th birthday is notable and an important time for review.
The Greenbelt Act and Greenbelt Plan were passed with much fanfare in 2005. While there was some loud opposition especially from affected landowners and some municipalities, the plan received significant support from conservationists, planning experts and the public.
Since then the Greenbelt has enjoyed huge public approval. It is consistently the government’s most popular environmental initiative garnering more than 90 per cent support.
Did the 2-million acre Greenbelt live up to its expectations? I suggest an unqualified “Yes.”Read more
Fostering Stewardship and Conservation within the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System
$156,405 (Two years)
The project addresses habitat fragmentation and promotes the long-term ecological viability of the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System by improving conservation on privately-owned lands mapped as part of the Park Vision. Royal Botanical Gardens will collaborate with the Hamilton Halton Watershed Stewardship Program to inform 200 property owners on opportunities for land stewardship and protection; and, connect directly with a smaller group of landowners to offer technical and fundraising support for conservation actions.
Roots of the Greenbelt Phase II
$39,000 (One year)
The project builds support among the public and municipal leaders for natural heritage systems planning in the Greenbelt. Ontario Nature will reach out to select municipalities to promote greater uptake of progressive municipal policies such as those highlighted in the Best Practices Guide to Natural Heritage Systems Planning developed in Phase I of the project.
Headwater Hikes in the Greenbelt
$22,550 (One year)
The Ontario Headwaters Institute will develop ten headwater hikes in the Greenbelt. The hikes will look to improve public understanding of the important role of these features in the health of the Greenbelt’s biodiversity and downstream watersheds.
Destination - Greenbelt East!
$52,000 (One year)
As a way of broadening awareness and deepening support for the Greenbelt in Northumberland County, the Nature Conservancy and Alderville First Nations will host workshops for conservationists, guided public tours, school outings, and a Greenbelt Prairie Day in the Rice Lake Plains area. With the First Nation’s Ecology Centre as the project “hub”, the partners will also connect with private landowners to encourage stewardship on their lands; and, with public landowners and community partners to help promote the Greenbelt.
Achieving Wetland Restoration Through an Environmental Benefits Index
$40,000 (18 months)
Wetlands are the most ecologically beneficial features on the Greenbelt and their restoration can greatly enhance its natural capital. This project will develop and test an Environmental Benefits Index for wetlands in the Greenbelt that will allow users to determine the environmental and social benefits of individual restoration projects. These scores can be used to prioritize restoration and land securement projects and to allocate funding for cost-share stewardship.
For Immediate Release
July 25, 2014
Countryside Stewardship Connection
Do you want to connect with the Credit River watershed’s rural community? Do you want to share success stories, discuss issues, and learn about countryside living and the environment? Are you looking for expert advice on caring for your land and water?
Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) and the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation introduce a brand new online discussion forum called the Countryside Stewardship Connection. The Connection allows rural landowners, community groups, environmental agencies and local businesses to network with each other and CVC in a new and exciting way.Read more
"My well isn't up to standard; is there any funding to help me upgrade it?"
"I think I have a problem with invasive species on my property, HELP!"
"Check out the grasslands in my backyard. I’ve seen a breeding pair of Bobolink hanging around!"
These are the types of things rural landowners in the Credit River watershed will be posting on Credit Valley Conservation's new online discussion forum.Read more