Urban sprawl, plans for an unnecessary mega-highway, a proposal for a redundant airport, and irresponsible industrial practices, such as the dumping of contaminated soil, are threatening Ontario’s Greenbelt, putting Ontario farmland and forests at risk and contributing to climate change.

The Solution

Throughout the Greater Golden Horseshoe region:


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Support efficient growth in cities and towns.

Prioritize investment in a coordinated transit network, bike lanes and sidewalks over building new mega-highways.

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Encourage the extraction and use of environmentally responsible aggregates.

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Stop The 413.

Ontario is planning Highway 413, a redundant and unnecessary toll highway that would pave over farms and forests and cost taxpayers billions.

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Timeline of our success


Stop the 413

The proposed 413 (GTA West) mega highway would cut through the Greenbelt, impact  multiple crossings of the Humber and Credit Rivers and destroy farmland, forests and wetlands. It would cost over $4 billion and make a mockery of plans to invest in transit and denser, transit friendly communities. Our campaign to stop it has caused the province to put the project on hold while its future is considered.


Greenbelt review

Ontario is reviewing its Greenbelt and Growth Plans. We called for halting infrastructure projects on protected Greenbelt lands, freezing urban boundary expansion and increasing incentives to ensure municipalities meet targets to increase the density and livability of existing settled areas.


The Greenbelt Grows Again - Mississauga Expands the Greenbelt

Mississauga city council voted unanimously to designate over 800 acres of land along the Credit River as an Urban River Valley, thus protecting this natural heritage area by joining it to Ontario’s Greenbelt.


Anti-SLAPP legislation - Protecting Public Participation

Victory! Ontario passed the Protection of Public Participation Act which helps to end Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPS). These frivolous lawsuits were used to silence groups working to protect the environment and put a chill on free speech.


Industry and NGOs launch the world’s first voluntary aggregate standard

We helped develop and launch the Cornerstone Standards Council, a not-for-profit organization that has created world-class voluntary certification standards for responsibly sourced sand,  stone and gravel, and help resolve conflicts between industry, First Nations and community and environmental groups.


Greenbelt townhalls

Hundreds of people from across the Greater Golden Horseshoe attended townhalls we hosted to raise awareness, support and facilitate important grassroots conversations about the future of the Greenbelt and how best to protect it in the context of the provincial review of the Greenbelt and Growth plans.


Toronto, Oakville and Mississauga take steps toward expanding the Greenbelt through Urban River Valleys

The creation of a new urban river valley designation as part of Ontario’s Greenbelt Act helps municipalities permanently protect river valley systems in their jurisdictions. Connecting these natural areas to larger ecosystems creates a healthier, stronger and more vibrant Greenbelt.


Exposing the Costs of Sprawl

Following the release of our report the High Costs of Sprawl, we hosted a #GreeningGTA tweet-up featuring respected author Shawn Micallef and urban planner Emily Reisman. The lively discussion explored how we can help the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area grow into a more sustainable place.


Downtown Farmers Market

Environmental Defence partnered with Ryerson University and Appletree Farmers' Market to bring healthy, local produce to campus at a farmer's market. The market raised awareness about the benefits of Ontario's Greenbelt and engaged hundreds of downtown residents in supporting local farmers, local food and food security.


Greenbelt grows - Glenorchy Conservation Area

Located in North Oakville, the Glenorchy Conservation Area protects 650 acres of environmentally sensitive lands and natural heritage systems including Sixteen Mile Creek. Becoming part of the Greenbelt protects its hills, forests, creeks, and wetlands from sprawl and development.


Establishment of Rouge National Park

Since 2012, Environmental Defence has been involved in advocating for a strongly protected Rouge Watershed and Rouge National Urban Park as part of Ontario's Greenbelt. In 2013, we led the legal team review of the proposed national park legislation and continue to be a strong voice advocating for the need to greatly improve the Rouge National Park Act and enlarge the size of the park.  


Helped to establish Ontario’s Greenbelt

Our efforts to protect farmland, natural heritage lands and vulnerable source waters resulted in the establishment of Ontario’s Greenbelt in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Since then, we’ve worked to strengthen and grow the Greenbelt, protect more at risk land and change the direction of city growth in the region.


 Founded the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance

Made up of over 100 groups, the Ontario Greenbelt  Alliance is the watchdog and protector of Ontario’s Greenbelt. Alliance members are united by the shared belief that a strong economy and a beautiful, well-protected Greenbelt go hand in hand.

Breaking News

Happy 12th Birthday Greenbelt! Here are 12 fun ways to celebrate

Today is Ontario’s Greenbelt 12th birthday and there are more than 1.8 million reasons to celebrate – literally!  The Greenbelt permanently protects more than 1.8...

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Ontario Municipal Board Review: Hearings De Novo Reasonable or Trojan Horse?

This is a guest post by David Donnelly and Anne Sabourin of Donnelly Law, Canada's leading environmental law firm.One of the most significant reforms to the...

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Can the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) be fixed?

Check out a video of the entire panel discussion on our YouTube channel. Can the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) be fixed? According to experts in urban...

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4 Real Facts About House Prices in the Greater Golden Horseshoe

//Some in the development industry would like you to believe that we live in a post-truth world where facts no longer matter. But 'alternative facts'...

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Big problems require big solutions, and all of us can help make the changes we want to see. By signing petitions and attending events, you can make your voice heard and help to affect change.

"Environmental Defence has been a strong ally and resource for us as we work to protect greenspace, remaining farmland and the Greenbelt in York Region, while advocating for an end to urban sprawl and reducing unbearable traffic gridlock."

-Sony Rai, Founder, Sustainable Vaughan, Ontario.


At Environmental Defence, we educate the public about a host of environmental issues, work with business and government leaders to advise on policy decisions and mobilize Canadians to create the cleaner, greener more prosperous country we’re striving for. Meet the team who works on Land.

Erin Shapero

Senior Program Manager, Greenbelt and Smart Growth

Susan Lloyd Swail

Smart Growth Consultant

Join The Community

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