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Ontario's Greenbelt

Archived Backgrounder

Ontario's Greenbelt

About the Greenbelt

Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing

Ontario's Greenbelt is an area of permanently protected green space, vibrant rural and small communities, farmland, forests, wetlands and watersheds. The Greenbelt protects farmland, green space and clean water.

The Greenbelt Plan works with the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe to manage growth and protect environmentally sensitive land and agricultural lands. These lands will serve as a legacy for all Ontarians by preserving and enhancing our natural and cultural heritage.

The Greenbelt protects almost two million acres -- an area larger than Prince Edward Island. It contains more than 5,500 farms. The people who live and work in the over 200 rural and small communities on the Greenbelt help support the farms that provide a healthy and secure supply of locally grown food for local and international markets, producing everything from award-winning wines and tender fruits, to maple sugar and tofu.

The Greenbelt Act, 2005

The Greenbelt Act, 2005 provides the authority for the creation of the Greenbelt Area and the establishment of the Greenbelt Plan. The Greenbelt Plan contains policies for providing permanent agricultural and environmental protection as well as providing for a wide range of recreation, tourism and cultural opportunities in the area.

The Act requires that decisions made under the Ontario Planning and Development Act, 1994, the Planning Act and the Condominium Act, 1998 conform with the Greenbelt Plan.

Greenbelt area

The Greenbelt extends 325 km from the eastern end of the Oak Ridges Moraine, near Rice Lake, to the Niagara River in the west. The Greenbelt includes land protected by the Niagara Escarpment Plan and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, and one million protected acres known as Protected Countryside.

The policies of the Niagara Escarpment Plan and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan apply to their respective areas.

Detailed maps of the Greenbelt area.

What People are saying

"We are proud to have the world's largest greenbelt right here in Ontario. For 10 years, the Greenbelt has produced healthy, local food, protected natural areas, and kept our water clean and air fresh."

 Burkhard Mausberg, CEO, Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation

"We are strengthening urban-rural connections at markets, promoting the delicious fresh foods grown in our region, and celebrating the achievements and hard work of Ontario and Greenbelt farmers. With support from the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, we've helped farmers to develop new products to sell and invest in better growing opportunities so the season can be extended by a couple of weeks at each end."

Anne Freeman, Farmers' Market Network

 "The Greenbelt is a major economic contributor to the province and country providing a direct economic impact exceeding $3 billion annually. Continued protection of the Greenbelt, not only preserves natural resources, but also its substantial economic activity."

Dr. Atif Kubursi, Economist, Econometric Research Limited

 "As climate change continues to threaten our region's green infrastructure, the creation of the Greenbelt, and the protection of its nearly two million acres of green space, has been an invaluable tool for the Conservation Authority. The Greenbelt helps to shield natural heritage, agriculture, and recreational opportunities from impacts related to ongoing urbanization of the Greater Golden Horseshoe." 

Brian Denney, CEO, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority

"The natural landscapes protected under the Greenbelt legislation provide a continuous supply of benefits to residents and visitors within the Credit River Watershed; such as provision of clean water, protection from floods and recreational opportunities--these ecosystem services have a major influence on our quality of life!"

Mike Puddister, Credit Valley Conservation Authority

"As a connected natural heritage system, the Greenbelt is the ecological backbone of the region and protects critical habitat for countless plant and animal species, many of which are at risk."

Joshua Wise, Greenway Program Manager, Ontario Nature

"The Greenbelt is critical to managing growth in our region in a manner that is sustainable and liveable. When we pause to connect the dots, it becomes clear that as an urban growth boundary, the Greenbelt is essential to mitigating one of the biggest quality of life issues facing our region--traffic congestion. We know that policy--and that's what the Greenbelt is: strong, effective policy--has always shaped our growth and development. By focusing new development in existing, built up areas we move closer to creating complete communities where it is possible to undertake the activities of everyday life within walking distance of home."

Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner, City of Toronto

"To me, the Greenbelt is both a vision and reality, it is people, and it is inspiration. It inspires me to eat fresh, nutritious food grown by Greenbelt farmers and to work to protect natural spaces that clean Toronto's air and water. Most importantly, the Greenbelt shows me the incredible things that people working together can do."

Franz Hartmann, Toronto Environmental Alliance

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