By Amber Cowie

In recognition of the fifth anniversary of Ontario’s Greenbelt, the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance – which is comprised of more than 90 farming, community and environmental groups, including Ontario Nature – released a report titled “Green Among the Grey: Fifth Anniversary Progress Report on the Greater Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt.”

A comprehensive review of the Greenbelt’s first five years of existence, the report highlights the importance of the Greenbelt in combating urban sprawl, the threats to the integrity of the Greenbelt and the development pressures on its periphery, and the opportunities to expand the Greenbelt.

Ontario’s Greenbelt, a 728,000-hectare swath surrounding the Greater Golden Horseshoe that protects wildlife habitat, important natural areas and farmlands, was legislated into existence in 2005 to limit unchecked development initiatives. The passage of the Greenbelt Act set a precedent in landscape protection and for effective smartgrowth strategies for urban areas.

“The Greenbelt has had a significant impact on the lives of Ontarians, particularly in the way it has protected significant agricultural lands and key ecological areas,” says Heather Harding, Greenbelt coordinator for Environmental Defence and co-author of the report. “The report illustrates that although there is still work to be done, Greenbelt legislation is essential to preserving the natural features of Canada’s most densely populated region.”

Ontario’s Greenbelt protects ecologically important places in the Greater Toronto Area, such as Boyd Park, Rouge Park and Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve. More than 50 endangered and threatened plants and animals can be found in the Greenbelt, as well as numerous thriving farmers’ markets. Moreover, Toronto, Oakville, Guelph, Markham and Brant County have all expressed interest in increasing the size of the Greenbelt.

The report is available at www.ontarionature.org/protect/habitat/greenway_initiative.php.