Ontario’s Natural Resource and Economic Powerhouse: The Greenbelt.

So, you may be asking yourself, “what exactly is the Greenbelt?”

Created by legislation known as The Greenbelt Act, passed by the Government of Ontario in 2005, Ontario’s Greenbelt is a 2 million acre stretch of land in southern Ontario which encompasses farmland, forests, wetlands, and watersheds; it extends as far north as Tobermory, and stretches 325 kilometres from Rice Lake in Northumberland County to the Niagara River. The primary objective of this The Greenbelt Act was to prevent urban development and sprawl on agricultural and environmentally-sensitive land in one of North America’s fastest growing regions – the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH). In fact, the population of the GGH is anticipated to increase from 9 million people to 13.5 million by 2041! This puts increasing pressure on the resources that provide us with clean air, drinking water, and healthy local food. 

The Greenbelt includes two very recognizable and prominent landforms – the Niagara Escarpment and Oak Ridges Moraine. These ecological features provide much more than just a beautiful view. They provide habitat for a diverse range of plant and animal species, and are the source of drinking water for more than 7 million Ontarians! Headwaters located in the Escarpment and the Moraine filter and replenish groundwater resources, and feed into the many river systems that flow through our cities and into Lake Ontario. The forested area of the Greenbelt alone can offset the equivalent of 56.5 million cars driven over one year. This is one of the many reasons that the Greenbelt is a critical asset for Ontario in mitigating and adapting to climate change.  

Beyond conservation, the Ontario Greenbelt is an economic powerhouse. It is home to 750,000 acres of some of the most productive agricultural land in Canada, including 53% of Ontario’s fruit acreage. It is also a major contributor of wine, poultry, beef, pork, and vegetables. Despite being smaller, Greenbelt farms are 68% more productive than the average Ontario farm. This means that proportionately more food is being produced in the Greenbelt than anywhere else in Ontario and on less land. The Greenbelt is also home to a wide-ranging recreation and tourism industry that includes watersports, hiking, camping, an extensive system of bike trails, a brewery discovery route, hotels, restaurants, spas, and more. When considering the local agriculture, recreation and tourism industries combined, the Greenbelt contributes $9.1 billion and 161,000 jobs to the Canadian economy.

What is it that Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation does?

We are stewards of the Ontario Greenbelt, vying for its permanent protection, while championing restoration and preservation efforts that ensure its prosperity. At Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, we invest in interconnected natural, agricultural and economic systems, and facilitate in-depth research partnerships that help us educate industry, government and the public on best practices for protecting the Greenbelt.

Some fun facts on Ontario’s Greenbelt:

  • The world’s largest protected greenbelt
  • Bigger than the province of Prince Edward Island (PEI)
  • 4,782 farms across its landscape
  • More than 10,000 kilometres of trails—the largest network in Canada!
  • Provides clean drinking water for 7 million people
  • 9 million people live within a 20 minute drive of the Greenbelt.
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