One of our awesome volunteers, Heather, is super interested in land use planning and the roles that it can play in conservation. Below is the blog that she has prepared about land use planning and farmland preservation. Thank you Heather!


Land use planning, and specifically the role that land use planning plays in conservation, has always been of interest to me. When I learned that the Ontario Farmland Trust regularly provides feedback on provincial land use planning policy issues to strengthen the protections for farmland in Ontario, I knew that I had wanted to get involved.

I have grown up in a town that over the years, has become a central location for residential development as a result urban sprawl. I have seen first-hand how quickly farmland can disappear. Our community often points out the significant decrease in agricultural land in the region.

The rate of residential development dramatically increased while I was at university. It seems as though each time I came home for a weekend or a holiday, there was a brand-new apartment complex or subdivision. The areas of farmland which I had become accustomed to have now disappeared. Where there was once a farmer’s field there are now dozens of condominium complexes.

These observations have inspired me to pursue a career in land use planning. I want to be able to protect the farmland we have left. This is where current land use planning policy comes into play.

Some of the key land use planning policies that highlight farmland protection are the Growth Plan, the Greenbelt Plan, the Niagara Escarpment Plan, and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan. The Provincial Policy Statement also outlines these policies in the form of a formal statement by the government.

All four of these plans, in addition to the Provincial Policy Statement, clearly outline ways to conserve prime agricultural land, along with other significant environmental lands which surround this farmland.

One way Ontario land use planning policies promote the conservation of farmland in the Greater Golden Horseshoe is through an understanding of the significant implications of residential development on the agricultural lands in this region. The Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan (or ORMCP) in particular outlines its policies which push for the safeguard of prime agricultural areas when residential development is proposed in that region1. The ORMCP also protects around 470,000 acres of land, and its sister plan, the Niagara Escarpment Plan protects around 480,000 acres of land. Both of these plans, in addition to their sister plan, the Greenbelt Plan, have a vision which is oriented towards conservation.

Despite these protections put into place, we still lose a significant amount of farmland, particularly in regions outside of the Greenbelt. However, even farmland located within the Greenbelt remains at risk. With this in consideration, opportunities to strengthen farmland protection in land use planning policy must be considered.

The strengthening of farmland conservation in land use planning policy will benefit many aspects of our daily lives, and protecting farmland now, for the sake of future generations, is crucial. We need strong protections for farmland in our provincial land use policy, as without them our farmland, our local food, and our farm ecosystems are put at risk.


References

  1. Government of Ontario. (2017). Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan. Retrieved from https://files.ontario.ca/oak-ridges-moraine-conservation-plan-2017.pdf?_ga=2.37620256.1624248854.1628650777-981857631.1600637702.