November 8, 2004

Study provides inventory of south-central Ontario greenlands

A new study prepared for the Toronto-based Neptis Foundation provides an inventory of the extent and distribution of all identified greenlands in south-central Ontario from Lake Erie to Georgian Bay and from the Carolinian Life Zone of southern Ontario north to the Precambrian (Canadian) Shield. Written by Don Fraser and Bernie Neary of the environmental consulting firm Garter Lee, the report, titled The State of Greenlands Protection in South-Central Ontario, also assesses the degree of protection afforded these areas and the likelihood that they will continue to be protected n the future.

"Greenlands" considered in the report include all natural heritage features listed as significant by a public body, such as woodlands, wetlands, valleys and environmentally sensitive areas, as well as area designations such as Crown land, conservation areas, and some agricultural preserves.

The study area encompassed 31,285 square kilometres, from Lake Erie to Georgian Bay and from the Carolinian Life Zone of southern Ontario north to the Precambrian (Canadian) Shield. Included within this central Ontario area are 14 upper-tier municipalities, including: County of Dufferin, Regional Municipality of Durham, Regional Municipality of Halton, City of Hamilton, City of Kawartha Lakes, Regional Municipality of Niagara, County of Northumberland, Regional Municipality of Peel, County of Peterborough, County of Simcoe, City of Toronto, Regional Municipality of Waterloo, County of Wellington, and the Regional Municipality of York.

"There seemed to be a tremendous lack of information about which green spaces were protected and which were not," said Tony Coombes, executive director of the Neptis Foundation. "People were telling us of lands in their locality suddenly being built on that they had thought were protected. We soon recognized how complex a matter it was, so we found a consulting firm that could thoroughly assess the situation." He added that Gartner Lee had both scientific expertise and considerable experience with the development process, and that the report reflects this dual perspective.

The study groups south-central Ontario greenlands into four categories, ranging from "full protection" to "no protection." It found that only 19% of the greenlands reviewed can be considered "fully protected" under current municipal and provincial policy and practice. (This 19% amounts to only 7.5% of the region's entire land area.) The remaining 81% of the region's greenlands is subject to varying degrees of insecurity.

The report contends that there is currently no overall provincial vision of a protected greenlands system and that current protection is fragmented among jurisdictions. As a result, it says, similar greenlands are treated differently from one municipality to the next.

South-central Ontario is the fastest growing area in Canada, its population projected to rise to about 3.5 million by 2035. This growth is fueling demand for developable land and exerting pressure on the natural heritage resources of the region.

More information, including county-specific analyses, is available on the Neptis Foundation Web site, www.neptis.org. By conducting and publishing nonpartisan research on the past, present and futures of urban regions, the Foundation aims to contributed to informed decision-making on regional urban development.

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