Check out the latest blog written by one of our awesome volunteers, Heather, who has an interest in land use planning!

In Canada, there are several methods of protecting agricultural land. These can include farmland easement agreements, agricultural zoning, and urban growth boundaries, among others1. The provinces which maintain some of Canada’s more established legislative frameworks for agricultural land protection include British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec1.

In my most recent blog for the OFT, my thoughts on leapfrog development had led me to a brief discussion on the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) in British Columbia. The ALR is one of a few different land protection models which have been put into place across the country. In this blog, I will be exploring some of these models.

There are approximately 4.6 million hectares of agriculturally suitable land that are protected within the ALR2. British Columbia’s Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), an organization which helps determine claims and disputes relating to land use, helps to ensure that the ALR is safeguarded long-term by following the Agricultural Land Commission Act2. The ALR is a region of land that is provincially designated, where agriculture is recognized as being the priority use for the region. In the ALR, non-agricultural uses are limited, and farming is encouraged.

In Quebec, the equivalent to British Columbia’s ALR is what can be referred to as Montreal’s Greenbelt. The Nature Conservatory of Canada (NCC) has helped protect significant land areas and bodies of water in Quebec over the past number of years, including Montreal’s Greenbelt3. While most of these 1,700 hectares of protected natural land in Montreal’s Greenbelt isn’t for agricultural purposes, it has helped limit urban sprawl, as well as protect the region’s biodiversity3. One of the goals of Montreal’s Greenbelt is to promote sustainable development that maintains biodiversity and mitigates the impacts of climate change4.

Similarly, the Greenbelt in Ontario was established in 2005 in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, with the goal to “prevent further loss of farmland and natural heritage, restrict urban sprawl, [and] work with the Growth Plan to develop vibrant communities where people can live, work, and play.”5 The Greenbelt is especially significant for the protection of farmland, as the region itself holds some of the highest quality soils in Canada, with advantageous climate conditions and good proximity to one of Canada’s largest markets5. With ongoing threat of farmland loss every day, it is essential that the protections which Greenbelt provides remain in tact. Learn more about agriculture in Ontario’s Greenbelt here.

Large scale protections for farmland and natural habitat are critical to include in land use planning, as without these land protection models there would be a significant loss of farm and environmental land across the country. These models provide protections stronger than what is provided in typical land use planning policy, and are able to protect land across municipal boundaries. That is why I think it is so important that these protections remain in place for generations to come!


  1. MacRae, R.J. 2020. Agricultural Land Protection. Food Policy for Canada: joined up food policy to create a just, health promoting and sustainable food system.
  2. Government of British Columbia. 2021. Agricultural Land Reserve.
  3. Nature Conservatory of Canada. 2020. Montreal’s Greenbelt.
  4. Montreal Metropolitan Community. 2021. Metropolitan Land Use and Development Plan.
  5. Greenbelt Foundation. 2021. Learn about the Greenbelt.