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Celebrating 15 years of protection with the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan anniversary

Oak Ridges Moraine © Alison Clark

Toronto (Queen’s Park), Monday April 24, 2017 – Today Julia Munro, Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for York Simcoe will stand in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan. On Earth Day, April 22, 2002, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan was approved as a regulation under the Oak Ridges Moraine Act, which in December 2001 was passed with all-party, unanimous support. The plan is a key milestone of the smart growth movement that is helping to protect the water, nature and communities of the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH).

As a long-standing member of the legislature, Ms. Munro helped to bring forward important policies that protect the 160-kilometre long Oak Ridges Moraine. “This anniversary marks 15 years of protection for the moraine,” says Munro, ‘an ecological gem that protects the drinking water for over 250,000 people, including many within York-Simcoe”.

Fifteen years ago, the grassroots movement to protect the moraine and promote smart growth mobilized countless activists from across from the Oak Ridges Moraine and downstream throughout the Greater Toronto Area. “Back in the 1990s, those of us campaigning to protect the moraine were often viewed as whackos,” remarks Debbe Crandall, policy director for Save the Oak Ridges Moraine (STORM) Coalition, “thanks to a strong voice from civil society, we were able to ensure this ecological gem would not be paved over.”

The Greenbelt Plan and Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe were built off similar smart growth principles. The Greenbelt protects nearly two million acres, knitting together the Oak Ridges Moraine, Niagara Escarpment, and a protected countryside of natural and agricultural lands. However, a recent report by the Neptis Foundation highlights major loopholes that threaten the Greenbelt and Moraine. “Rural communities should not be the site of decades-old style of sprawl,” says Joyce Chau, executive director of EcoSpark, “as we mark 15-years of moraine protection, it is pivotal to close loopholes that threaten the forests, rivers, wetlands and farms of the Oak Ridges Moraine and GGH.”

Community groups from across the GGH have again raised the alarm as sprawl has continued beyond the current Greenbelt. Pressure from development has jumped over the Oak Ridges Moraine and Greenbelt to areas like Brant and Simcoe County. “The government has the opportunity to take bold steps to protect vulnerable water supplies and farmland,” says Joshua Wise, Ontario Nature’s Greenway Program manager. “To build off the smart growth principles pioneered a decade and a half ago we need the provincial government to grow the Greenbelt and protect areas like the Minesing Wetland and the moraines of the Grand River watershed.”

The decisions the government makes today will shape the livability of the region for decades in the future.

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Representatives from Ontario Nature, the STORM Coalition, EcoSpark and Earthroots will be available at Queen’s Park for in-person interviews. For media inquiries, please contact: John Hassell, Ontario Nature, 416-786-2171.

Ontario Nature protects wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement. Ontario Nature is a charitable organization representing more than 30,000 members and supporters, and 150 member groups across Ontario. For more information, visit www.ontarionature.org.

EcoSpark is an environmental charity whose mission is to empower communities to take an active role in protecting and sustaining their local environment. We do this by giving people the tools for education, monitoring and influencing positive change. We have directly worked with over 64,000 people in over 20 watersheds across Southern Ontario. For more information, visit www.ecospark.ca.

Save the Oak Ridges Moraine Coalition (STORM) is focused on protecting the ecological integrity of the Oak Ridges Moraine. Since 1989, STORM has been working at the local and regional levels to ensure that municipalities make good planning decisions to protect its ecological and hydrological functions. For more information, visit www.stormcoalition.org.

Earthroots is a grassroots conservation organization that works aggressively to protect wilderness, wildlife and watersheds in Ontario through research, education and action. We achieved effective protection of threatened ecosystems for over 20 years on behalf of our approximately 12,000 supporters in the province. For more information, visit www.earthroots.org.