The Greenbelt is an 800,000-hectare swath of farmland, forests and wetlands stretching from Niagara to Port Hope. It was created in 2005 by the Ontario Government to preserve farmland, protect environmentally sensitive areas and contain sprawl in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area1,2. The Greenbelt protects environmentally sensitive land in the province1.
The Greenbelt’s natural systems support ecological and human health. One of the most biologically rich areas in all of Canada, the Greenbelt includes the Niagara Escarpment and Oak Ridges Moraine — which filter and replenish groundwater, and feed into the many river systems that flow through Canada’s most developed region3.
It surrounds a significant portion of the Golden Horseshoe1 which is one of the fastest growing urban areas in North America1. The population increase has put development pressure on areas surrounding Greater Toronto and Hamilton1. Between 1996 and 2001, the amount of farmland decreased by 7% in the GTA, and by 6% in Hamilton1.
One of the current threats to the Greenbelt stems from this pressure to build more housing. A proposal aims to build at least 50,000 new homes on more than a dozen tracts of land now in the Greenbelt, while adding roughly 2,000 acres of land elsewhere5. Some experts say that this idea misses the point of a permanent swath of protected land and that when you start to take chunks of the Greenbelt out of the Greenbelt, you compromise the integrity of an ecosystem4. Placing residential development near natural land creates a “hard barrier” for some animals, interrupting corridors they use and will likely result in wildlife loss4. Environmental experts warn that proposal will cause a host of ecological problems4