Significant interest from citizen groups and municipalities to grow the Greenbelt a true mark of success as the Greenbelt celebrates its Fifth Anniversary
TORONTO - As the Greater Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt celebrates its Fifth Anniversary, its success is demonstrated by the number of municipalities and citizen groups looking to expand the Greenbelt into their communities, says a report released today by the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.
The report, "Green Among the Grey: Fifth Anniversary Progress Report on the Greater Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt," notes that since its creation in 2005 the Greenbelt has protected ecologically important green spaces, curbed urban sprawl and supported a vibrant agricultural community.
"The Greenbelt provides critically important habitat protection for the nearly 100 endangered and threatened species that call it home," said Caroline Schultz, Executive Director of Ontario Nature. "2010 is the International year of Biodiversity. We can celebrate that the Greenbelt has established precedent-setting protection that is key to preventing further declines in Ontario's biodiversity and to safeguarding many of its rare plants and animals."
The Greenbelt has been so successful in its first five years that citizen groups and municipalities are working to get it expanded to protect green space and agricultural lands in their communities. Active expansion efforts are happening in Markham, Toronto, Mississauga, Prince Edward County and the Town of Oakville.
"Oakville sees great value in permanently preserving our green spaces," Oakville Mayor Rob Burton said. "The Greenbelt is an invaluable policy tool that with our own 900 hectare Natural Heritage System will ensure our natural systems have a permanent place in the future of our town."
While the report applauds the Greenbelt for the protection of places such as Boyd Park, Rouge Park, and the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve, and for contributing an estimated $2.6 billion annually to the ecological services of the region, it also finds that there is room for some improvement, including expanding the Greenbelt's current borders.
"With a bigger and stronger Greenbelt, in another five years Ontario could be celebrating the permanent protection of entire ecosystems, the reduction of aggregate mining and damaging infrastructure on Greenbelt lands, and a robust farming community that is supported by favourable policies," said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence, a member of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance
The report also indentifies key threats to the Greenbelt, such as inappropriate infrastructure, aggregate mining and 'leapfrog' development, and recommends significant changes to aggregate and agricultural policies so that the Greenbelt remains great.
"Green Among the Grey: Fifth Anniversary Progress Report on the Greater Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt" can be downloaded at www.greenbeltalliance.ca
About the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance (www.greenbeltalliance.ca): The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is a diverse multi-stakeholder coalition of more than 80 organizations who share a common vision for protecting and expanding the Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt. Environmental Defence is the coordinator of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.
"With the fifth anniversary of the Greenbelt just around the corner, I can't think of a better way for Toronto Council to show its recognition and support for the Greenbelt," said Jamie Kirkpatrick, Campaigner with the Toronto Environmental Alliance. "By bringing the Greenbelt further into Toronto we are connecting the City's two and a half million residents with the farmers and farmland that provide Torontonians with local food and the green space that help clean our city's air and water."
Jamie Kirkpatrick, Campaigner
Toronto Environmental Alliance
"For five years the Greenbelt has protected significant land for Ontarians to enjoy. By preserving the Greenbelt, we have chosen to invest in local economies, natural heritage and preserving key ecological corridors. It is my hope that we can expand the Greenbelt further into Markham to ensure that Markham's prime agricultural land will be preserved in perpetuity. "
Councillor Erin Shapero, Town of Markham