Today is the eighth anniversary of Ontario’s Greenbelt, the world’s largest permanent greenbelt. The Greenbelt is 1.8 million acres of protected green space, including farmland, wetlands and watersheds, in southern Ontario. It extends from the Niagara River in the west to Rice Lake in the east, as well as north to Tobermory. The Greenbelt Plan, combined with the Niagara Escarpment Plan and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, provides legal protection for environmentally sensitive lands, waters and farmlands. Protecting the Greenbelt helps address the impacts of urban sprawl in the Greater Toronto Area. The Greenbelt, and other green spaces within our communities, also provide opportunities for recreation and health benefits, especially for kids.

Click here to learn about the David Suzuki Foundation’s Connecting With Nature campaign
I’m delighted to work for an organization that is highly engaged in using the law to protect area like the Greenbelt for future generations. Ecojustice investigated wetlands protection across the Greenbelt last year, Protecting Greenbelt Wetlands, and issued a series of infographics (Click here to view Moraine Drain) about water use across the Oak Ridges Moraine. According to one study, the wetlands provide $1.3 billion per year in economic value across the greenbelt. Other wetland benefits are just too valuable to put a price tag on.

Our investigations show that we can do more to protect our environment and water. And, as we prepare for the 2015 review of the Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation and Niagara Escarpment plans, Ecojustice will continue to promote enhanced protection of our natural heritage systems and our drinking water sources.

When I think about the Greenbelt’s eighth anniversary today, I’m also reminded of my own experience of having daily access to nature. When I was in high school, our physical education teachers required that we complete an outdoor, cross-country run. Our run began at the back of our school and took us to the Stouffville dam, around the reservoir, and back to the school. Running was never my thing; running outdoors through woodlands and wetlands didn’t offer any more excitement … only dread.

When I think back on that experience, I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to have gym class in nature. The area around Stouffville Reservoir was largely undeveloped when I was in school. Now there are new roads and developments. But thanks to protections afforded by the Greenbelt and other conservation plans, development has been balanced. I look forward to using the the law to keep those protections, and those trails I used to run, in place for future generations.

Visit The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation to learn more about the Greenbelt’s eighth anniversary.