by Amber Cowie

Established in 2005, the Ontario Greenbelt that surrounds the province’s Golden Horseshoe is 728, 400 hectares of protected lands, watersheds and communities. The environmental benefits of the Greenbelt are many and, as recent studies confirm, so are the economic and social benefits.

In September 2008, the David Suzuki Foundation released a detailed report, Ontario’s Wealth, Canada’s Future: Appreciating the Value of the Greenbelt’s Eco-Services. The report states that the Greenbelt contributes $2.6 billion worth of nonmarket ecological services, such as clean water, arable land and species habitat, to the province each year, an average value of $3,487 per hectare.

“The Greenbelt is a world-class feature of Ontario’s landscape that offers economic and environmental benefits to communities,” says Sarah Dopp, Ontario Greenbelt Alliance Coordinator. “It is the Government of Ontario’s ecological footprint.”

The Greenbelt’s value goes well beyond the bottom line. Ontario Nature’s new booklet series – developed in partnership with the Ontario College of Family Physicians – showcases the positive social and recreational aspects of the area. The series includes Greenbelt Naturally, a review of ecological services provided by the Greenbelt (e.g., water runoff, trapping of air pollution, keeping soils healthy); Getting Active in the Greenbelt, a guide to the many trails, parks and bike paths in the Greenbelt that help people keep active; Good Things Grow Here, a detailed description of fresh local foods grown within the Greenbelt and a resource guide to purchase these goods; and Healthy Perspectives, a report on how green spaces within the Greenbelt play a key role in promoting positive mental health for southern Ontarians.

To learn more, read Ontario’s Wealth on the David Suzuki Foundation website (www.davidsuzuki.org) and the Greenbelt for Health series on Ontario Nature’s Your Greenbelt Your Health website (www.greenbeltforhealth.ca).