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Hidden wealth revealed in Ontario's Greenbelt: The Lake Simcoe Watershed

Sara J. Wilson

Toronto, June 26, 2008
– The ecological benefits provided by the Lake Simcoe ecosystem, a vital part of the world’s largest and most diverse Greenbelt, are estimated at close to $1 billion a year, according to a study released today. Lake Simcoe Basin’s Natural Capital: The Value of the Watershed’s Ecosystem Services, examines the goods and services provided by the watershed’s ecosystem. These include carbon storage, water quality, supply and filtration, flood control, waste treatment and clean air—all of which are top-of-mind concerns for Ontarians.

Other activities relying on the health of this watershed are tourism and recreation, clean drinking water and local agriculture, including the Holland Marsh. At a minimum, the total value of these services to Ontario is $975 million annually; over $2,780.00 for each of the 350,000 plus residents in the area. “If the integrity of the watershed is not protected, what’s at stake is the additional cost of replacing the free benefits of these natural features,” said Mike Walters of the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority.

The study follows hot on the heels of the Lake Simcoe Protection Act (Bill 99/2008) introduced by the provincial government on June 17. Currently, parts of the Lake Simcoe shoreline and watershed are located inside the provincially designated Greenbelt. The Greenbelt Act and Plan in concert with the proposed Lake Simcoe Protection Act and Plan provide mutually reinforcing support: together they can help protect the entire watershed.

The analysis, undertaken by consultant, Sara Wilson, supported by the David Suzuki Foundation and Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority with funding from the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, found that services provided by the watershed’s forests and wetlands are the most highly valued assets with an estimated annual worth of $319 and $435 million respectively.

“By articulating environmental services in dollars and cents we begin to level the playing field between the economy and the environment, comparing “apples to apples” in order to make educated and balanced decisions,” said Burkhard Mausberg, President of the Greenbelt Foundation. “We all know nature is “good” but how much do we think it is “worth”?

Healthy growth means protecting key natural features given the value of the services they provide. The benefits of integrating the value of nature into decision-making are clear: sustainable urban growth, balanced communities and increased health and quality of life for Ontarians.

“There is an increasing sense of urgency around valuing ecosystem goods and services,” said Rachel Plotkin of the David Suzuki Foundation. “This study is an important contribution to measuring the value of these services. This information can be used to improve land use and growth management decisions.”

Ontario’s Greenbelt is putting its natural capital into action, leading to better, safer, more renewable ways to grow, power, eat, work and live. It is 1.8 million acres of protected land that wraps around the Golden Horseshoe and runs north to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. It encompasses the Niagara Escarpment, the Oak Ridges Moraine, Rouge Park, some 7,000 farms and hundreds of rural towns and villages. The Greenbelt is vital to the quality of life of Ontarians.

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Click here for an online copy of the report, Lake Simcoe Basin’s Natural Capital: The Value of the Watershed’s Ecosystem Services which includes an Executive Summary. It is also available online at www.davidsuzuki.org and www.lsrca.on.ca.

To request a hardcopy please contact the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation.

For further information please contact:

Burkhard Mausberg, Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation at (416) 960-0001, email: bmausberg -at- ourgreenbelt.ca.

Rachel Plotkin, David Suzuki Foundation at (613) 594-9026, email: rplotkin -at- davidsuzuki.org.

Mike Walters, Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority at (905) 895-1281 ext. 234, email: mike.walters -at- lsrca.on.ca.

Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority's mission is to provide leadership in the restoration and protection of the environmental health and quality of Lake Simcoe and its watershed with our Community, Municipal and other Government partners.

Since 1990, the David Suzuki Foundation has worked to find ways for society to live in balance with the natural world that sustains us. Focusing on four program areas – oceans and sustainable fishing, climate change and clean energy, sustainability, and the Nature Challenge – the Foundation uses science and education to promote solutions that conserve nature and help achieve sustainability within a generation.

The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation began its work in June 2005 as an independent, charitable foundation with a mandate to promote and sustain our Greenbelt as a beneficial, valuable, and permanent feature, enhancing the quality of life for all residents of Ontario.

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